Frankie Boyle: If I Could Reach Through Your TV And Strangle You, I Would

Frankie Boyle: If I Could Reach Through Your TV And Strangle You, I Would


Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

None of the stand-up comedians on the circuit divides opinion quite like Frankie Boyle.

To some - at both ends of the political spectrum - he’s the emblem of all that’s worst in modern comedy: deliberately offensive, picking easy targets for cheap laughs and deploying stereotypes in a way that even Bernard Manning might have considered a bit off-colour.

To others he’s a breath of fresh (if slightly bile-scented) air, saying what most people secretly think and mocking an unspoken political/media consensus on what our reactions should be to a barrage of news and information on everything from the Afghan war to the ‘plight’ of a Britain’s Got Talent contestant.

It’s sometimes hard to step back from the white noise of the various controversies and objectively judge how well his material and his performance skills actually work. So this DVD offers as good a chance as any. Particularly if the tour was, as he claims, his last foray into stand-up.

Clearly the media attention hasn’t prompted any change of heart about his approach. As soon as the cheering’s died down and he’s said "hello" it’s straight into picking out audience members and telling them how weird/gay/perverted they look. Then he really gets going, taking a pop at everything from Jordan’s baby to the banking crisis.

It’s rapid-fire, sweary and unashamedly contentious, particularly when it comes to celebrities and other public figures. His stuff on the Madeleine McCann appeal and Susan Boyle gets some of the biggest uncertain gasps from the audience – but does that really mean he has no sympathy for the McCanns or is indifferent to the negative aspects of the SuBo phenomenon? I don’t think so, and I suspect the crowd don’t either.

But is it funny? Personally, I find some of his material a bit too concerned with what’s the nastiest thing I can say next? without there being much in the way of wit or insight. At other times, particularly when he moves on to more political topics, he hits the nail squarely on the head – to such an extent that I wish he’d tackle them more often instead of defaulting to another rape/paedophilia joke. And some of the riffs do have an obscenely surreal flair to them that get you laughing despite yourself.

I suspect that like a lot of comic writers and performers – Charlie Brooker and Robin Ince spring to mind – the ‘cynicism’ and ‘misanthropy’ arise because he actually cares about the way the world’s going. Whether the audience are thinking quite so hard about why exactly they find his routines funny, or simply getting a guilty pleasure from the "what IS he going to say next" frisson and patting themselves on the back for being so broad-minded is perhaps more debatable.

But there’s no doubt that as a show it’s expertly done. His timing’s impeccable and he knows how to work an enormodrome like the Apollo as well as the most intimate upstairs room. The staging and production values are excellent, as in all the high-profile comedy DVD releases. In fact, the only difference between this and the latest from Michael Macintyre or any of the other big venue comics is the material – and it is quite a difference. Clearly, if anyone’s asked him to make his act a bit more prime-time telly friendly he’s taken no notice.

It’s all so expertly done, however, that you do wonder where he goes from here. Perhaps the decision to abandon stand-up makes sense in that context - the trouble with setting your controls so firmly to ‘shock’ is the risk that you simply end up saying more and more offensive stuff just for the sake of it. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next – his new Channel 4 show is no doubt eagerly anticipated by both the ‘love him’ and ‘hate him’ factions. And he makes intriguing references on the DVD extras to doing a documentary on the American tradition of ‘writers’ room’ comedy.

If you’re not a fan there’s no way this will convert you and you should avoid it like the plague. If you are, you might experience a slight sense of ‘formula fatigue’. And if you’re a neutral, curious as to what the fuss is about, you’ll undoubtedly get a natural stand-up at pretty much the top of his game – but brace yourself.

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2010
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Frankie Boyle: If I Could Reach Through Your TV And Strangle You, I Would packshot
Frankie Boyle’s latest (and, he says, last) stand-up tour, filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo.
Amazon link

Director: Brian Klein

Writer: Frankie Boyle

Starring: Frankie Boyle

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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