Wassup Rockers



Why So Serious?

“Somewhere deep down is a decent human being in me—it just can’t be found”
– Eminem (1)

Oh man. I must explain myself a bit. Recently I’ve been obsessing over British comedy, and in particular I’ve been very puzzled with myself as to what makes me laugh. This has been a question I’ve wrestled with a lot since a lot of the comedians I like can be quite offensive. In fact, I love it when comedians can offend me and make me laugh all at the same time.

Take Frankie Boyle.

It really pains me to read all this press he’s gotten recently for some jokes he made about people with Down Syndrome (2). In particular, a woman wrote about her experience seeing him live, and how, as a mother of a child with DS, she felt his jokes were unduly cruel. Of course the whole situation blew up when she called him out on it.

I want to state a few things in his defense. First, the woman knew of his comedy style, she enjoyed him on Mock the Week. She paid for a ticket to this show, which is part of a tour called I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face. I’m assuming she was laughing along just fine until it got to a subject too close to home. It’s like he routinely does jokes about pedophilia, rape, etc. So no surprises, you know?

Second, I have no doubt he felt real shit about it, especially to the point that he felt he had to explain himself. Usually he handles heckles well, but she definitely had enough of an effect for him to admit it was the most excruciating experience he’s had on stage.

I’ve read interviews he’s done and he definitely has an “off” switch. Even though I personally don’t think he has the best command of the stage, at the end of the day, what he does is a performance (3). His onstage persona is not who he is as a whole. If it’s unfair for him to view people with DS in such a two-dimensional way, it’s pretty unfair for us to see him that way, too. If he was as despicable as he makes himself to be onstage, I’d demand that his children be removed from his home. There’s plenty of lines he spews out that don’t seem to have any function other than to offend, but he’s shown just as many flashes of decency and understanding (4). When I first encountered him just a short while ago, I didn’t know what to make of his humor, but reading these interviews really made me appreciate him and understand his thought process.

That said, the nature of the jokes seemed particularly nasty, at least from this woman’s account, and apparently he didn’t do a particularly good job at defending himself (would love to hear an official statement, but apparently Bigmouth Boyle ain’t talking). I don’t mind controversial subjects, but the way they are approached is key. For me, the cardinal rule is: don’t make fun of those who have less power than you (5). It’s unnecessary, cruel, and worst of all, it’s too easy. That’s one of the more annoying things about this whole hullabaloo. Boyle is really funny and really smart, and in the past he’s made exactly that point about his own work, that it targets people worth targeting. I don’t know what happened on the evening this woman attended; because of that Herald Scotland interview I want to say he was just improvising and unfortunately relying on really broad punchlines because he couldn’t think of something better at the moment. Sigh. Regardless, I don’t expect every joke (inappropriate or otherwise) to reveal some fundamental truth about the human condition, but at the very least it shouldn’t be based on such empty stereotypes.

I do see the need to tackle taboo topics. Somebody has to fill the court jester role, and I think it’s more than honorable for an individual to say what others are too afraid to say. But from this woman’s account, Frankie’s jokes weren’t the result of the buffoon speaking truth.

I do want to raise some complaints about the complainers, though. Please don’t act all sanctimonious about Frankie’s sense of humor, tutting away saying crap like “What an outrage! IS THAT ANY WAY TO BEHAVE?!” It’s like some people want a fucking medal for feeling offended. Newsflash, you dipshits, you should feel offended! Calm the fuck down  and stop huffing and puffing about how you want him to be brought down. If anything, I’d be deeply worried about the state of humanity if people weren’t offended by his humor.

Let’s just hope that the people who laughed along weren’t doing it out of malice and that they were laughing nervously. There’s nothing worse than someone who laughs at offensive shit like this because they prescribe to that world view. (For example: the difference between people who loved Archie Bunker because he was bigoted, as opposed to those who loved him in spite of his faults.) Or at the risk of sounding like I’m dripping in schadenfreude, let’s hope they were laughing at Frankie—I seriously wish I’d been at the show just to see the woman cut him down. I mean I love him, I love his sense of humor, but he knows better!

I leave you with the words of another ex-alcoholic Scotsman:


Footnotes:
(1) One of the very few hip-hop albums I actually own. Obviously I was one of the millions who bought The Marshall Mathers LP when it first came out. For some reason that line has never left my mind, even though I couldn’t even remember the title of the song. I just re-listened to the track for the first time in like eight or nine years, and it was really fucking good! Too bad Eminem is so irrelevant because the talent was so there.

(2) I was speaking to some of my friends about this situation and someone brought up the whole hoopla about Family Guy recently.

(3) Fuck, the clip from Alan Carr: Chatty Man got taken down, but he literally says “the act is an act.” By the way, he hates doing live shows, which he also mentioned on Chatty Man; this may explain his weird stage presence. From what I’ve seen, he’s not particularly brilliant at doing long-format stand-up. Shouldn’t we commend him for having the sense of retiring in the near future?

(4) See this appearance on You Have Been Watching.

(5) Here’s a great example of this, on the subject of rape.

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