Monday 16 June 2014


I think I might be one of life's tiptoers. In fact I'm sure of it.

That may sound a little self-insulting but I've always felt warmly towards a couple of lines from Yeats' The Second Coming:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.  
I could take that as my motto. 

Still, sometimes even a tiptoer must place his foot down firmly and say what he really, really thinks - even if he's about to walk on fire...

I read all the outrage at the Telegraph and Biased BBC about Frankie Boyle's Radio 4 pilot comedy Blocked with great interest (tiptoe, tiptoe). I could understand where they were coming from (tiptoe, tiptoe). As a deep-dyed royalist, I too was initially a bit shocked by the jokes that seemed to insult the memory of Lord Mountbatten - the day before the D-Day commemorations began (tiptoe, tiptoe).

Still, I found the show funny overall, laughing more often than I tend to do at Radio 4 comedies. It felt to me like a hyper-charged re-make of Fawlty Towers. Frankie Boyle's writing was full of brilliant touches, and as for that initial concern that Lord Mountbatten's memory was being insulted, that soon passed as it dawned on me that, despite the all bad taste, it wasn't...

Yes, I know I should hate Frankie Boyle, denounce him as the devil and renounce all his works, but I won't. So burn me!


Remember the recent ‘Blocked’ programme by Radio 4? Humour exploiting the murder by the IRA with a bomb of Lord Mountbatten and a 14 year old child in a fishing boat in 1979?
I complained to the BBC.
This is the wording of my complaint:
Complaint Summary: It had a left-wing agenda in being anti-royalty.
Full Complaint: Why has such comedy not been directed by the BBC against Nelson Mandela and his wife, Bobby Sands and other such icons? Mandela was a terrorist. Bobby Sands was a terrorist. Mountbatten was not. And a 14 year old child was murdered when Mountbatten’s fishing boat was blown up by the IRA. Humour has to push boundaries and sometimes in the process inadvertently cause offence. ‘Blocked’ was a vehicle of left wing hate against the innocent victims of terrorists.
Reply from the BBC:
Thanks for contacting us. We’re sorry to learn that you didn’t enjoy BBC Radio 4′s situation comedy programme ‘Blocked’ and that you found some of the content offensive.
‘Blocked’ was commissioned as a one-off pilot programme, written by the comedian Frankie Boyle. As part of a wide range of comedy programmes, Radio 4 seeks to devote a little time to experimental projects. Although his act has undoubtedly been controversial at times, Frankie Boyle has also been celebrated as a smart and educated performer and so, when we were offered the opportunity to produce the first situation comedy he had written, we commissioned it in that spirit of experimentalism and development.
The programme was set within a struggling provincial theatre run by Felix, an author with writer’s block, who lacks social skills. Much of the humour derives from his incompetence and social failings when dealing with delicate matters – and, far from laughing with him about the people and situations he talks about, the audience is invited to laugh at him for the lack of self-awareness he exhibits.
Nevertheless, while there is a long comic tradition of deriving humour from bad taste, we do recognise that it can be very sensitive and challenging – particularly when dealing with difficult subjects for a comedy programme, such as the death of Lord Mountbatten and child abuse. Consequently, Radio 4 invested a great amount of time reviewing the script at a senior editorial level.
In the case of Lord Mountbatten, the team took great care to ensure that none of Felix’s comments about injuries actually referred to Lord Mountbatten himself or made jokes about him as a victim. So, while there’s an absurd comedy scenario that begins with confusion about whether or not Felix killed Lord Mountbatten, it is established within just a few lines of dialogue that there had been a mix up and in actual fact Felix had been accused of unintentionally killing an entirely fictional character – Lord Mintbutton, a member of the House of Lords with a similar name. As a result, any provocative comments Felix goes on to make in relation to supposed injuries are actually entirely concerning that fictional character.
Thank you again for getting in touch; we value your feedback about ‘Blocked’. All complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and we’ve included your points in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure that your complaint has been seen quickly and by the right people. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.
Kind Regards
NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

Here's where I come off the fence and leap onto the path of fire: I agree with the BBC here.

I was astonished to find the Telegraph pushing the programme in the direction of Lord Tebbit, whose wife was permanently disabled by the IRA's terrorist attack on the Brighton Hotel. Lord Tebbit was, understandably, not happy at what the Telegraph were telling him about Blocked. It was hard, reading Lord Tebbit's response, not to feel why he was angry, but....

....I once quoted Frankie Boyle before and I'll quote him again here:
"Do you want to pass along your apologies for this terrible joke?"

It's been a fair while since I've listened to Radio 4's Chain Reaction but as ChrisH at Biased BBC said there were some funny things in it I thought I'd give it a go. 
I won't re-mount my 'left-wing Radio 4 comedians' hobby horse - despite the interview's political turn with interviewee Frankie Boyle discussing his hunger strike in support of Shaker Aamer, the Saudi last British resident in Guantanamo Bay, and (with interviewer Kevin Bishop's help) and his mockery of Alex Salmond and other pro-independence Scots. After all, it wouldn't be a Radio 4 6.30pm comedy programme if left-wing opinions weren't voiced and, to be honest, it was a very short (and funny) part of the show. So, no, I won't re-mount that hobby horse here. (Oh, I've just done so though, haven't I? Drat!)
Instead, I'll try my best to transcribe Frankie Boyle's account of why he doesn't miss stand-up comedy - as it's funny and I can sort of see his point:
When I got into comedy, when I started, it was kind of the sort of job you did because it didn't have any everything you do seems to be observed, then said to other people who don't like it, and to me that's a strange thing.
I had a thing that was like, "Remember the guy who did the Speaking Clock?...the guy who did the Speaking Clock had just died that week now and hopefully died on the third stroke", and my agent got an e-mail from this journalist...She goes, "So and so did in fact die from a series of small strokes and I'm going to get in touch with his family. Do you want to pass along your apologies for this terrible joke?" and I'm thinking, "I've not told his family the joke .You're telling his family the joke!" 
And there's a concept that is called 'author by relocation', right. Now the idea is that if I screened a porn movie onto the wall of a local primary school they wouldn't go and arrest Ron Jeremy for it, right. Someone else's code they think {I think that's what Frankie said. Can't be sure though.
And for me that happens. You know, the papers are telling these jokes to the only people who won't laugh, who aren't at the front know, that's terrible, to you it is, you know. 
That's what I felt the Telegraph was doing here - telling Norman Tebbit that joke. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the tribute!
    Frankie goes right to the edge, and can be very funny-he can also be a Braveheart lefty prat as well...but at least his journey can be worth the watching.
    Stewart Lee, Jimmy Carr likewise-don`t have to like all they do, to appreciate the fact that they can be brave in telling truths that the rest of the BBC won`t like.
    Like Nick Cohen-if there`s truth there, cherish it...for most of the left don`t dare go near truth as we see(Jeremy Hardy, Sandi Toksvig...QED, m`lud!)


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