Frankie Boyle: Lap of Shame, review: like Oscar Wilde in the gutter at closing time

·2-min read
‘They’re just jokes’: standup comic Frankie Boyle - Getty
‘They’re just jokes’: standup comic Frankie Boyle - Getty

Frankie Boyle’s in town, having recently made a controversial joke about TV presenter Holly Willoughby, and is now bringing in tow a freshly populated leper colony of gags. “They’re just jokes,” he says repeatedly, stressing that they’re fictions. There are no real-world consequences to his tactically repellent shtick, unless you feel it’s so noxiously offensive it plunges mankind lower into the cesspit.

Having laughed an indecent amount during Lap of Honour, I feel compelled to restate the case for his defence, which is that Boyle valuably confronts us with our moral putrefaction, his darkness descriptive of our age’s turpitude. As his debut novel, the best-selling crime thriller Meantime confirms, he combines immaculate turns of phrase with the grubbiest trains of thought. His parents were Irish, he grew up in Glasgow; at his finest, you get a glimpse of Wilde, lying in the gutter at pub closing time.

“This show is mainly about politics,” he announces at the start. “Our real problem is capitalism.” That may be far too sweeping, even wrong-headed, but he swiftly strikes a chord by zeroing in on the one per cent, lambasting the billionaires hell-bent on going into space, while our planet lies ravaged. Richard Branson and his space travel ambitions warrant the killer one-liner: “The only way anyone wants to see you achieve weightlessness is through a particularly aggressive form of cancer.” He detects audience upset: “You’ll be looking back fondly on the cancer material in 10 minutes.”

Actually, it doesn’t get much worse than that. Threading through the set is palpable indignation – about working-class lives and appalling failures of the system: for instance, there’s a brutal rape joke that alludes to the Sarah Everard case, but the target is unequivocally the government and police. Few escape his contempt – be it high-profile Tories, Keir Starmer (“‘My dad was a tool-maker’ – of course he was, he made you”) or Nicola Sturgeon (“who can squint with her whole face”). He doesn’t spare himself – dismally dating at 49 and past his spunky prime, which he enlarges on in unprintable terms; equally unrepeatable are his barbs about Prince Andrew.

Testing stuff. Walk-outs? There were a fair few but mainly, you sensed, because his audience drink hard without always considering bladder capacity. And bladders will be tested by involuntary guffaws, too – “I actually think Joe Biden has done pretty well for someone who doesn’t know he’s President” is at the lighter end of the spectrum, but it hits the spot even so.

Until Aug 28. Sold out; assemblyfestival.com

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