Comedy: How Far Is Too Far?

Film, Observatory

38 year-old Scottish comic Frankie Boyle’s new show ‘I Would Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face’ is getting criticism for making jokes about abused and missing children like Madeline McCann and Baby P. This is no real surprise – his last DVD was called ‘If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV And Strangle You, I Would’. His website has a porn comic on it. It’s what he does. In the words of Stewart Lee ‘If you’d like a milder comic, please ask for one.’

Is cruelty cathartic? Few could really deny that jokes about Madeline McCann are fair game because the story has been made so openly and virulently public for so long, not least by the McCanns themselves. But the case of an abused baby, where the reporting has mainly surrounded the trial and not been generated by the participants, is bound to cause upset.

Yet it’s hard to imagine now how much anger and censorship resulted from Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, even though the film is surprisingly respectful of faith. The film was absurdly banned in Ireland, proving that humour has as much power as direct accusation – we all remember what happened after The Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons controversy.

Strong sexual references are, it seems, accepted by all now, but religion, even in a 21st century world where few slavishly adhere to the text of the bible, is still the Big Problem. Surely a benchmark of civilisation is one’s ability to understand the beliefs of others?

4 comments on “Comedy: How Far Is Too Far?”

  1. Colin says:

    I can see the point with the McCanns, but baby p seems a bit different. This poor 2 year old was raped, had his back and neck broken, top of his fingers sliced off and had a tooth in his stomach which he had swollowed when hit. Boyle must, at some point thought, i want to shock with a joke, now where is the funny side to a baby that has been………..

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I keep repeating “freedom of expression” over and over and reminding myself “you don’t have to watch/read it” but taking a case like that baby and making a “joke” out of it… How could anyone laugh? Where does humour end and shock/horror begin? Perhaps we need a new category, a horrorist, or shockian.

  3. Jim Tulloh says:

    What’s funny is funny. It makes you laugh. What’s offensive is offensive. But it won’t actually do you any harm.

  4. I’d like to know what the joke actually is. Some black humour jokes do look offensive when taken at face value or out of context, but are anything but.

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