Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Oh Robin, My Robin

In Comedy on August 17, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Robin Williams was my first love. I never met the man, nor saw him perform live, but he is the first person I ever had a proper crush on. I always used to describe how I stood out from other kids in my class because while their walls were adorned with posters of Bros and A-Ha, I had Robin Williams. Not a poster, because you don’t really get pin-ups of comedians even today, so I’d cut a picture or an article out of a magazine and blu-tack it up there.

You never forget your first love. He set the template for all that followed and, looking back, I had damn good taste in men to choose him as the ideal. Over the last traumatic week we’ve heard tale after tale of how kind, generous, sweet and giving Robin Williams was. I sensed it all from just those interviews where I first saw him.

That open-mouthed giggle that would erupt from the back of his throat when he found something genuinely funny. The way when talking about himself seriously his voice became so soft and quiet, his sparkling blue eyes darting around the room to anywhere except the interviewer’s gaze. With the characters and manic voices, he’d look you in the eyes then. His response of ‘Yessir’ or ‘Yes Ma’am’ to questions. And hell, to this day I find hairy forearms sexy.

For decades, even recently, I had this recurring thought I’d love to win a lunch with Robin Williams as part of some competition. He’d come in, start doing his usual manic shtick until I assured him he didn’t need to. I wanted to talk to him, not get a performance. That’s why I gave this blog that title, because for all the great movies he made, I was always happier seeing Robin as himself. I wore down video tapes of his stand-up and interviews, but not so much the films. To this day I’ll always prefer a rehearsal to a finished performance, out-takes to the perfectly-edited scene.

When I heard in a recent round of interviews he was chugging Red Bull, I got worried. He was forcing it out of himself. It must’ve been exhausting to keep that level of intensity up around interviewers and complete strangers, but he clearly thought that was what people expected of him and he seemed to have a terror of letting people down.

I also suffer from depression, so I know it can make you feel horrifically guilty for just about anything, even the most irrational situations. Hearing he had died, not by illness or even accidentally blowing himself up, but by suicide, was like a stab to my heart. I keep feeling guilty, like I or anyone could’ve done something, could’ve made him feel less… lost.

I have the desperate urge to hug people who need it, even if they don’t want my hugs. I sent a tweet cuddling Jim Carrey, who always reminded me of Robin Williams a great deal. They had that same desperate desire to please, fear of letting people down and let through only glimpses of that oh so vulnerable person inside behind the mania. Now I’m more worried for him than ever.

Robin Williams was my first love. Funny, sweet, kind, thoroughly mischievous, but above all a genuinely good man. Yeah, 12-year-old me was right, that’s the definition of an ideal man.


Twitter: Be excellent to each other

In Comedy, Uncategorized on September 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The term cyberbullying is a powerful one, and it should be, because it is every bit as vicious and painful as bullying face to face. This is also why the word should not be bandied about to represent anyone who disagrees with you. If you say something stupid and people pull you up on it via Twitter, that is NOT cyberbullying. Over the last few days Twitter has become increasingly tense and I see factions being drawn up between ‘celebrities’ and ‘plebs.’ Everyone needs to learn from this and change their behaviour.

My philosophy in life is pretty simple: ‘How is that helping?’ When using social media or indeed talking to anybody, it’s an important question to keep in mind.

Obviously it’s not nice to just send abuse to somebody and there are trolls out there who set out purely to be mean. If you did not enjoy a piece of work performed by a famous Twitter user, do not @ their name into your conversation unless it is something you would say to their face. It’s rude and entirely unnecessary. You’d be surprised how many performers receive tweets out of the blue reading: “Why are you so shit/fat/ugly?” It’s not easy to just shake that off, nor should anyone have to. I don’t care if they are famous or not, there’s no need to go around purposefully upsetting someone.

At the same time, celebrities have to acknowledge they are in a very different position of power and use it responsibly. Charlie Brooker is wise to reveal troll messages without including their usernames, therefore avoiding a flame war while getting his point across. Ricky Gervais does the exact opposite, actively encouraging his millions of followers – who we already know just LOVE to shout ‘mong’ at his request – to send insults to specific people. Surely nobody can say this is responsible behaviour? It’s not ‘fighting back’ because it is completely out of proportion. It’s revenge, pure and simple.

This brings us on to the problem that has sprung up over the last few days. It is delicate territory and very emotionally charged, so please try to read and only then form a response. Debate is important and Twitter has created a fantastic global conversation that was simply never possible before now. As I’ve already said, it can be abused, but we must protect the sense that everyone can contribute in a civil, reasonable manner. This now feels at risk.

Dissent is not bullying. It might feel like it when there are numerous voices piling in to criticise your position, but if there are so many over a long period of time, you might want to ask yourself why they are all saying roughly the same thing. Don’t dismiss them all out of hand as an organised mob. When you tweet that something has upset you, your friends and followers send sympathetic messages, right? Similarly, if someone is upsetting your friend, you rush to defend them and try to help vouch for their good intentions. In the recent case with Nicky Clark and cookdandbombd, watching this spiral out of control was horrific for everyone. Friends and supporters from both sides piled in to contribute and it felt like the individuals were being swamped with comments, some less well phrased than others. I am sad it made BOTH of these individuals feel afraid to use Twitter, but the more it escalated with blogs, counter-blogs and newspaper articles, the more people joined the conversation and the more shouty it all became. Imagine all these people in a room, talking to each other with a conversation that goes on for a week. Of course it’d drive anyone up the wall.

Ultimately, I don’t think Nicky Clark and cookdandbombd are all that far apart in their positions on cyberbullying. They have both shown us the strong emotional impact Twitter can have and just how carefully we must use it. I’m sure both will agree celebrities are not expected to just put up with insults, but on Twitter should learn to differentiate trolls from people with genuine points to be made. Today I saw a doctor accused of cyberbullying and reported to the POLICE for taking her up on a passage written in her book. That way madness lies. If you cannot find common ground in a debate, then someone has to take the initiative to say ‘let’s agree to disagree’ and leave it there.

I have been in this situation, which could’ve been so much worse. I wrote this blog: and sent it to Emma Kennedy via DM (she was following me at the time) because there had been a debate around a particular joke Frankie Boyle had made. I thought it reasonable enough and wanted her opinion on it, potentially keeping the discussion private, as it was clear this issue meant a lot to her. She immediately blocked me and complained that someone had “told me I should be laughing at breast cancer jokes.” She received multiple messages of sympathy about how I – thankfully unnamed! – was a “monster,” a “troll” and trying to upset her. I had intended the complete opposite and was astonished, truly hurt that my blog had caused her pain or prompted me to be considered in such a way. I then received numerous messages from celebrities, many of them her friends and colleagues, who assured me she had been “out of order” and totally unreasonable. They insisted I had nothing to apologise or feel bad for. They did it via DM, mind you…

I know it’s hard when two people you follow start to fight on Twitter, but sometimes we need the guts to stand up and say ‘listen, you over-reacted there and their intention was not to be cruel. Don’t make this turn ugly.’ Or, if it’s too late, sit back and write a really long blog.

In defence of rape jokes

In Comedy, Uncategorized on August 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I realise the title alone has already got people furious with me, but please hear me out on this. I will not accuse anyone of lacking a sense of humour, nor will I say all rape jokes are defensible. Like all jokes about painful subjects, they need to be treated with great care and intelligence. With the current fashion in stand-up, that care seems to be sorely lacking. This is the real problem.

They say Comedy = Tragedy + Time, but in the case of rape victims even a million years would not be enough. I am aware of that and, yes, I do know at least a couple of victims of rape. Nobody is genuinely suggesting victims laugh at these jokes. Hopefully, a well-crafted joke should be understandable, though, the same way Holocaust sketches (or even entire films) can be things of beauty.

The problem we are facing in comedy clubs and on television now is the proliferation of mainly male comics using ‘rape’ as a go-to punchline when they can’t think of anything genuinely funny to say (looking at you, Mr Boyle). In the 1960s merely swearing was edgy and breaking boundaries. Once everyone swore in their sets, they had to go beyond that to press buttons and prove their rebellious comedic chops. Now what hacks consider to be short-cuts to edgy chic have become in reality the safest subjects of all. How many comics have we seen in a show start a sentence with: “So, I’m an atheist” and wait for the response? They act all high and mighty as if anyone in a comedy club is really going to complain about that stance. It’s the easiest round of applause/whoop they’ll get all night, yet they think it’s what stands them out for their bravery. Bollocks.

The same goes for rape jokes. What ought to be treated with kid gloves is now thrown into the audience like a stinkbomb. Worse still, as this is ‘fashionable,’ it means going to one of those Best of the Fest type nights will see the young, male comics in their jeans and t-shirts (The Russells, as Stewart Lee puts it) lining up to throw the stinkbombs again and again and again, each without context, or time to build up a persona. It also makes it very difficult for a woman to go to a comedy club and avoid hearing this subject discussed in the most flippant and insulting of manners.

Persona is crucial in comedy and more than ever in rape jokes. I have written before about how Boyle and Gervais personas on stage make their routines seem more like bullying, as they always punch down on to the weaker elements. The best rape jokes are performed by those who are clearly comic monsters, who always end up being ‘the bad guy’ – like Sadowitz, Stanhope or Roy Chubby Brown. Where it becomes a huge problem is when the t-shirt and jeans brigade decide to throw in the odd rape joke along with a generally likeable persona who talks about visiting IKEA and other such ground-breaking comedy subjects. This is where it loses all sense of context and may contribute to what many claim is the ‘normalising’ of rape.

I am told there are studies showing that jokes about rape normalise the subject among men, but I find that rather strange. Nobody would say the same about dead baby or Holocaust jokes, would they? The thing that really irks me about the debate on these jokes is the underlying assumption that all men are potential rapists and have to almost prove themselves different from the rest. It fundamentally changes the way you view jokes. Comedy works on absurdity and incongruity. The audience and comic have to start from the shared knowledge that rape is horrific and nobody in their right mind would actually do that to someone. If we cannot agree on that, then we may as well never leave the house or speak to anyone ever again.

I conclude with the magnificent Louis C.K, who gets to the heart of comedy like nobody else: “I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that have made me enlightened to things I didn’t know. This woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor. They can’t go out late, they can’t go to certain neighborhoods, they can’t get a certain way, because they might get—That’s part of me now that wasn’t before – and I can still enjoy a good rape joke.”

Derek: Gervais the manipulator

In Comedy on April 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I expected Derek to be a total car crash of a project, all from a man who spent weeks on Twitter insisting ‘mong’ does not refer to the disabled. Ricky Gervais did not deliver an offensive show, but it did confirm all the absolute worst aspects of his post-Office career. (SPOILERS BELOW)

Watching the final scenes of Derek made me suddenly realise why Gervais is so massively popular in America. He takes emotional manipulation of an audience to new unheard of levels. At the death of care home resident Joan, we had the full barrage of heavy-handed clichés – tinkly sad piano music, our ‘hero’ weeping and going back over and over again on all the wonderful, moving moments they had shared, while the edit kept cutting to him speaking to the corpse and placing her now lifeless hand upon his head. All of it so desperately wanted to bring a tear to your eye I expected the scent of freshly-chopped onions to start wafting from the television.

Compare, if you will, to the magnificent Rev. There the death of a care home resident was treated with total class and respect for its audience. They were not spoon-fed the expected responses. Reverend Adam Smallbone instead accepted the news in rather stunned silence, both in character and in soundtrack for those of us at home. He soldiered on with the work at hand until at the most inappropriate moment the grief, regret and guilt at not saying goodbye leaked out in a genuinely moving breakdown. Again, no tinkly piano required and only a few words spent on what he was feeling, because the performance said it all. The audience was allowed to fill in the gaps without everything being dictated to us.

This brings us to another point: Gervais can’t act. He can a bit and he’s shown more than enough times (The Office, Extras, Derek, The Invention of Lying) that he squeezes out the tears at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to playing anyone remotely different to himself, it falls apart. His attempts at slapstick in Derek were embarrassing, as the slips were so clearly sign-posted even Derek himself would’ve seen them coming a mile away.

But why was he afflicted with learning difficulties anyway? Does one need to have a disability to be kind and gentle? The nurse character played with great emotional fragility by Kerry Godliman was far more empathetic without requiring exaggerated tics or a jutting out jaw. Gervais compared Derek’s ‘stupidity’ to Baldrick (Blackadder) and Father Dougal (Father Ted), but completely misses the point that these were never meant to be realistic characters. Their ignorance was so ludicrous that it could only exist in a sitcom world. Derek tries to place us in a real world and it cannot be the same.

Of course, everyone expected it to be a totally offensive portrayal of a man with at best learning difficulties and at worst Down syndrome. This was his own fault after Gervais posted a series of pictures on Twitter of him pulling what he called “a mong face.” He insisted the word no longer meant DS and the new generation did not associate it with disability, instead referring to ‘an idiot.’ So when the teenage girls in the pub loudly mocked Derek, why did they use terms like ‘granddad,’ ‘paedophile’ and point out his coat and plastic bag? We all know full well what word these girls really would’ve used when seeing Derek: ‘Mong.’

It would’ve shown great intelligence and class to include that term in this scene, where Gervais could show once and for all that the term is deeply hurtful and offensive, something his many Twitter followers really don’t seem to have grasped. It would have been a fitting conclusion to the ‘mong-gate’ saga and a reason for Derek to exist. As things stand, I can’t see the point in this show at all.

The secret Secret Policeman’s Ball

In Comedy on March 10, 2012 at 1:53 am

There was a show in New York called The Secret Policeman’s Ball. It was to raise funds and awareness for Amnesty International. You probably wouldn’t know that by watching the version that aired on Channel 4, which was reduced to the usual showcase of their standard roster of comedians delivering old material about sex, technology and swearing that made zero mention of the reason they were there. It’s as if Channel 4 wanted to keep the reason for The Secret Policeman’s Ball a bit of a secret.

This used to be a night for Peter Cook’s savage satirical take-down of the Jeremy Thorpe trial. Now it’s Micky Flanagan talking about fingering.

Only by reading reports from those who were at the show at Radio City Music Hall did I discover there really was a sense of the old Amnesty fundraisers about it. Jon Stewart (who was featured heavily in the C4 trails and in fact appeared only to present a band, but let’s not go there for fear of my rage smashing through the computer screen) did a sketch about Kim Jong Un. A group of SNL regulars did a routine on dictatorships. Desmond Tutu provided a filmed message.

What did we read in The Independent? “In the end, the evening belonged to neither Britain nor America. Introduced by Liam Neeson, it was Zarganar, the Burmese stand-up comedian who has been jailed four times, for a total of 11 years since 1988, who drew the night’s only spontaneous ovation. On stage, he eschewed jokes and satire for a dignified reminder of the serious stories behind the evening’s laughs.”

What did we see of this moving, crucial moment that sums up The Secret Policeman’s Ball on Channel 4? Nothing. Not a mention, not even the slightest clue he exists. Evidently he had to make way for all three Coldplay songs and Jack Whitehall talking about the frustration of using an iPhone. You know, the real reason for the Amnesty show.

Daniel Kitson, the Proustian-one-man-play-stand-up

In Comedy on October 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Going to see stand-up at the National Theatre is an odd thing indeed, but then Daniel Kitson is really not a stand-up. He is best described as a writer and performer of Proustian one-man plays with the sparsest scenery seen since a Samuel Beckett production.

The only things on stage in It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later are him, a chair, a stepladder and tiny lights hanging down from the ceiling at various points. Each light would shine brighter as he introduced it, a moment in time of a person’s life that can seem totally insignificant, but strung together make up our very existence.

It was the tale of two lives lived concurrently, William and Caroline, but he told one from death to birth and the other from birth to death. Their paths crossed somewhere in the middle, but they never knew it. A comedic play, yes, but one that made me cry. Me and many others in the audience, as I stepped outside to see people gathering their thoughts and wiping away tears in the foyer.

My friend @darklonelywater said it was like a novella being read out loud and there is truth in that. Kitson really ought to write a novel. He has a wonderful sense of character, place, time and tiny moments that are plucked from obscurity and elevated to the status of precious. He does rattle through the material, occasionally stumbling and covering with the wit of a stand-up, but you get the feeling it would work every bit as well in written form.

Kitson brings elements of his background in stand-up to enrich a one-man play. The comedic use of call-backs here mixed with the complex time-line allow him to introduce what had seemed like passing jokes, but instead let us see that life develops very rarely in the way we expect it to.

The rich appreciation of language and keen observation of social situations that you find in stand-up here makes you laugh, but also highlights that no moment is meaningless. The whole point of the piece is that a person’s life is a series of seemingly insignificant moments that all contribute to who you were, are and will be.

I’d like to suggest Kitson attempt the unthinkable – he’d be the perfect man to adapt A la recherche du temps perdu for the stage or even film. After all, no dramatist can ever capture the essence of the human experience as accurately as a comedian. Nor is he the only one engaging in this sort of approach, as I consider Richard Herring’s recent work to be one-man plays rather than stand-up too. Maybe we ought to define a whole new genre.

And really, who doesn’t enjoy the word ‘toboggan’?

Fixing 10 O’Clock Live

In Comedy on March 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

When it first started, 10 O’Clock Live was bloody terrible. Admittedly, many of us were expecting the worst and had more than a large chunk of ill will towards it, knowing More4 had scrapped the legendary Daily Show at the same time. Parts have since improved, others got even worse, so I have a few suggestions on how this show can get the best out of its talent.

While the idea of interviewing politicians and having serious debates in a comedy context is hardly new, the live format really does not help in this situation. There is a damn good reason TDS is pre-recorded the same day and they are taking full advantage of the internet by regularly putting uncut and extended interviews on the Comedy Central website. If there is a particularly fascinating guest, these extras can be longer than the show itself.

Any time David Mitchell even approaches an interesting point in the 10 O’Clock Live interview segments, he slams them shut like a piano lid on fingers in full flight. I realise this is partly because he has zero experience as an interviewer, let alone in the live television environment with people barking in your ear about cutting to commercials. The one and only member of the cast with these skills is Lauren Laverne and it shows when moderating the final round-table discussions. She can move seamlessly into a break rather than just barking ‘We’re out of time!’

Since the beginning people have asked if Laverne can be given something to do other than read out a satirical monologue clearly written by someone else. Solve two issues in one fell swoop – put Laverne in charge of the debate and maybe even the political interview, so she can play to her strengths and hide Mitchell’s understandable weakness. In turn, it frees Mitchell up to do what he does best: monologues and sketches.

Here is where my next suggestion comes in. Jimmy Carr can’t act. At all. And he most certainly can’t do voices or characters. The only joke in the current sketches is the fact they are obviously rubbish, therefore we are meant to laugh along with Carr at his inability to get through it. He is becoming the Jimmy Fallon of Channel 4 and nobody wants that. For those who don’t watch Saturday Night Live, Fallon famously giggled through every sketch and spent more time looking at the audience than his co-stars. So either give Mitchell the sketches or, even better, lend his expertise to it so Carr can play straight man. Or mute. A mute character would be good.

This leaves Carr primarily with the opening newsround, or noos round as he would have it. For anyone who is on Twitter, this is just a recap of the week’s most well-worn memes. Only usually not as funny. This seriously needs more work and my suggestion would be…. make it better? Some of the jokes are so obvious that the audience is tittering way before the punchline.

The audience is my final point. I have this issue with The Daily Show as well, so not just 10 O’Clock Live, but the whooping and cheering at EVERYTHING is infuriating. At the beginning they put Charlie Brooker – unaccustomed to an audience during his pieces to camera – right off his timing. He has steadily got used to their presence and I was very pleased to note they kept fairly schtum during the excellent piece on Sky’s Japan coverage. However, applauding every time a Tory is insulted or someone swears is just childish and not helping the performers at all. I still feel Brooker is at his best with these written segments in a pre-recorded environment, but he’s on a learning curve and doing much better already. Here’s hoping the whole show does, too.

Frankie Boyle: The only taboo must be crap comedy

In Comedy on December 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I already expressed my disappointment in Frankie Boyle’s approach to comedy. As I explained, his jokes have more of the school bully about them than the self-destructive genius of Jerry Sadowitz. However, the debate over Tramadol Nights has gone, in my view, horribly wrong with people suggesting he shouldn’t be allowed to joke about cancer or disability. Comedians should make jokes about any painful subject. That’s what jokes are for. The real question is handling it with skill.

Boyle’s joke about breast cancer (telling his friend “you shouldn’t be walking the Great Wall of China! You should be in bed playing with your tits before they drop off”) caused outrage. This is one of the only lines in Tramadol Nights I didn’t have a problem with.

Firstly, it was constructed with a patently ludicrous image of breasts dropping off like papier-mâché in the rain. It’s clearly nonsense. Secondly, the delivery was totally different to his usual aggressive stance. He seemed to be showing genuine concern for his friend’s well-being, albeit amusingly misguided and with a very poor grasp of anatomy. The jokes that followed were the kind people do exchange with their friends in times of great worry. It’s what jokes are for, to alleviate tension and allow us to broach painful subjects.

I was in the ambulance during my Mum’s third heart attack in two years and told her: “Really Mother, you’re just being repetitive now. Can you not do a bit of variation?” She replied with a muffled “sorry, I’ll remember next time” through the oxygen mask.

Jimmy Carr’s infamous joke (“Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re going to have a fucking good Paralympic team in 2012”) was fantastic. If anyone’s going to find that especially funny, it’s people in the military or their doctors, those who need gallows humour to get through life. As is often the case, outrage was co-opted by well-meaning outsiders who always seem to get offended on behalf of others. Even worse is when those who defend free speech suddenly forget the principle when their own pet taboo is touched upon.

There is also something extremely important that gets ignored in the age of so-called offensive comedy. If it’s taken as given that you are on stage with a comic persona and therefore don’t mean anything you say, then no subject can be off limits. “I won’t say anything I think can be taken the wrong way, as racist, or homophobic,” Boyle told the Sunday Herald in November 2008. This is where he and many people get it woefully wrong. If the foundation of the act is ironic, then that goes for everything, or is he suggesting that the sexist, ageist, disablist material can happily be ‘taken the wrong way’? Or that his audience is so thick that they do take some of his jokes seriously?

Sadowitz explained it perfectly when he noted: “Every joke is a target. I take it to its logical conclusion so everything is a target. That automatically negates any idea I’m a bigot or genuinely anti-this, it just makes it outrageous.”

As an aside, judging by the sketches in Tramadol Nights, Frankie seems to have abandoned that stance on non-racist and homophobic jokes. Sadly, he included them in his ‘offensive first, funny is optional’ scattergun approach. It takes skill to make dark comedy work and in this case Boyle blundered into a minefield wearing extra-wide skis. The cowboy and AIDS sketches seem to consider homosexuality amusing in and of itself, while I have yet to see a black man in the entire series who isn’t fucking someone/something.

This brings me to the Harvey Price issue. Mentioning the disabled child was not the problem. People say the joke was aimed at his mother and her media persona, but I fail to see what point it was supposed to make. It seemed more like the old school bully mentality that a rather large child with learning difficulties must automatically be some kind of super-strong out-of-control freak that ‘normal’ people should be protected from. It was misjudged and futile, like so many of his brutal put-downs of minor celebrities, but this is a totally separate issue from the cancer jokes.

So I will defend Boyle’s right to joke about painful subjects and I will continue to call him out when he does it badly. If that’s too nuanced a view for your stance on this issue, then tough drop-offable titties.

P.S. Don’t forget Jerry Sadowitz ison tour! Go see if you want to find out how it’s meant to be done!  Book here NOW!





The trouble with Tramadol Nights

In Comedy on December 2, 2010 at 1:04 am

The sad thing is, I used to be a fan of Frankie Boyle. Him piping up with something completely inappropriate was what made Mock the Week worth watching. He delighted in telling anyone who’d listen that the BBC were holding him back, preventing him from discussing topics like war and real political bombshells, to be like his hero Bill Hicks. He is now popular and famous enough to get away with just about anything. This is why I am so bitterly disappointed in the direction his career has taken.

There is a gaping chasm between what Boyle thinks he’s doing and what he is actually putting out there. What is edgy or telling truth to power about calling some random – usually female – celebrity ugly/a slapper/stupid? Chris Morris’ Brass-Eye skewered the media’s almost porn-like obsession with paedophilia, but Boyle just thinks ‘paedophile’ is a punchline that is inherently shocking and therefore funny. It’s now just dull and repetitive, like a Little Britain catchphrase.

There was a moment in his book which explained why Boyle’s dark humour is less tearing down sacred cows and more reaffirming the status quo. He recounts a story about a game where they’d knock kids in the head with their bags as they walked through the school corridor. His friend would get really good hits, often sending them to the floor, and revealed it was because he had a spanner in the front pocket.

He was a bully. He still is, whether he realises it or not. The Comedy of Hate going back to Sam Kinison, Jerry Sadowitz, Dennis Leary and of course Hicks was fuelled by frustration at a stupid world, screaming out the anger and turning it into hilarity. It was the old ‘if you don’t laugh, you cry’ maxim. Boyle is the comedy of complacency, of finding the weak and knocking them to the ground, inviting the audience to stand in that corridor and laugh at their flailing bodies. It’s not tearing down sacred cows. It’s kicking people who are already on the floor. It’s easy. Not offensive, just futile.

People sometimes say that Boyle stole Sadowitz’s act, but that is immensely insulting to Sadowitz. Stewart Lee summed it up perfectly when he said Jerry is “one of society’s eternal outsiders, thus given comic licence to denigrate everyone, from the bottom up.” Sadowitz is merciless to everybody including genuine sacred cows that might make you gasp, but he always reserves the most vicious jabs at himself. When have you ever heard Boyle do a joke that makes him look really bad? Nope, his tactic is to belittle the target and take the audience with him, punching down and down and down, never making you think about anything of import. Going to see Jerry live is an experience. Frankie live is literally watching any of his tame, repetitive television appearances in an uncomfortable and expensive seat. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?

I am most disheartened because I think Frankie could be a really great comedian. He has the guts and the way with words, but he is the laziest comic out there – way more than even Michael ‘Have you ever noticed an incredibly obvious thing’ McIntyre. How dare he take money from Channel 4 and the live audiences and the people who buy his DVD with exactly the same material? The jokes that weren’t in the DVD were from MtW or You Have Been Watching. His book had entire chunks recycled from his appearances on Argumental – or the other way round, it’s difficult to tell who got the sloppy seconds.

Really, Frankie? You complain that you’re not allowed to discuss truly controversial topics, then carry on with exactly the same Kerry Katona/Jade Goody/Susan Boyle/Katie Price jokes that made up 90 per cent of your MtW output. You moaned in several interviews that the BBC ‘forced’ you to talk about such boring things as the Olympics, so in your first show on Channel 4 do material on the Winter Olympics, rugby and tennis. By the looks of the audience, most of them are too young to remember Knight Rider or The Green Mile. I’ll be lenient on the appallingly awful sketches, as even Stewart Lee suffered from the sketch that went on for ever and a day, though with him it was mainly to wind up the audience.

So please, don’t even try to tell me Boyle speaks truth to power, or says the unsayable. He won’t go near half the subjects Sadowitz covered 20 years ago and still does with astounding relish today. As Stewart Lee says, “he mocks the weak” and that includes those gullible enough to pay for the same dull crap in different packaging. It’s not offensive, just the comedy of complacency.

P.S. Don’t forget Jerry Sadowitz is on tour!! Go see if you want to find out how it’s meant to be done! You won’t find him on DVD or YouTube, because Sadowitz is an experience… Book now!