Frankie Boyle: The Scottish comedian’s most controversial jokes

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Frankie Boyle: The Scottish comedian’s most controversial jokes
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Frankie Boyle has never been scared of a little controversy.

The Scottish comic, who currently hosts Frankie Boyle’s New World Order on the BBC, has long been renowned for his dark, sometimes offensive material.

Boyle’s image has softened over the years – from bullish Mock the Week shock comic to erudite left-wing satirist and now novelist.

However, he’s still capable of stirring controversy with some of his routines and button-pushing gags.

From crude remarks about the queen to quips that faced condemnation from disability charities, here is a breakdown of Boyle’s most scandalous jokes...

The following may contain material that some readers find offensive.

The Queen

In 2008, Boyle was investigated by the BBC Trust following complaints over a joke he made about Queen Elizabeth II on Mock the Week.

Impersonating the royal’s voice, he joked: “I’ve had a few medical problems this year. I’m now so old, that my p***y is haunted.”

The BBC Trust comittee ruled that the joke was sexist and ageist, but ultimately cleared the comedian of misconduct.

Boyle stars in the comedy series ‘Frankie Boyle’s New World Order’ for the BBC (BBC/Zeppotron/Endemol Shine UK/Brian J Ritchie)
Boyle stars in the comedy series ‘Frankie Boyle’s New World Order’ for the BBC (BBC/Zeppotron/Endemol Shine UK/Brian J Ritchie)

Harvey Price

Perhaps the most widely criticised material of Boyle’s career concerned then eight-year-old Harvey Price – the son of TV personality Katie Price – who has partial blindness, autism and Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic condition that can cause physical issues and behavioural difficulties.

During a December 2010 episode of Boyle’s Channel 4 series Tramodol Nights, the comedian said: “Apparently Jordan [Katie Price] and Peter Andre are fighting each other over custody of Harvey. Well, eventually one of them’ll lose and have to keep him.

“I have a theory that Jordan married a cage fighter cause she needed someone strong enough to stop Harvey from f***ing her.”

The joke was condemned by viewers, activists and organisations including the learning disability charity Mencap, who branded Boyle’s comment “disgusting”.

In a statement, Price said: “If Mr Boyle had a 10th of his courage and decency he would know that to suggest, let alone think funny, that Harvey may sexually attack me is vile and deeply unfair. To bully this unbelievably brave child is despicable, to broadcast it on television is to show a complete and utter lack of judgment.”

Ofcom later upheld complaints about the episode, deeming the comments ruling that the comments had considerable potential to be highly offensive.

Frankie Boyle in ‘Excited for You to See and Hate This' (BBC)
Frankie Boyle in ‘Excited for You to See and Hate This' (BBC)

Rebecca Adlington

In 2008, the comedian was criticised for jokes he made about swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington.

In the material, which followed the Beijing Olympics, Boyle joked: “The thing that nobody really said about Rebecca Adlington is that she looks pretty weird. She looks like someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon.

“And then, when she arrived back on the flight she met her boyfriend. Did you see her boyfriend? He was really attractive. He was like a male model. So from that I have deduced that Rebecca Adlington is very dirty – I mean if you just take into account how long she can hold her breath…”

Boyle’s jokes were accused of being sexist and derogatory, with the BBC Trust condemning him for them.

Covid death tolls

A series of joke tweets Boyle made in 2020 concerning the UK’s Covid death toll provoked outrage among some Twitter users.

“Campaign to get Big Ben to bong when we reach a million dead,” he wrote in one tweet.

However, others claimed that Boyle’s tweets were in fact simply targeting the Conservative government’s much-criticised handling of the pandemic, rather than the victims.

Boyle himself suggested that the outrage was minimal, joking: “Perhaps Twitter should introduce some system that let us know whether a tweet was popular or not.”

Have I Got News for You

During Boyle’s first stint hosting BBC panel show Have I Got News For You in 2016, a number of jokes had to be excised from the final broadcast.

Among these were multiple jokes about the Queen, and one which made reference to the Eagles of Death Metal, the band whose 2015 gig at the Bataclan in Paris became the site of a terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 89 people.

Discussing accusations that London Mayor Sadiq Khan had associations with Islamist fundamentalists, Boyle stated: “If sharing a stage with extremists made you an extremist, the Eagles of Death Metal would be the most wanted men in the world.”

Frankie Boyle rose to fame on the hit panel series ‘Mock the Week’ (BBC)
Frankie Boyle rose to fame on the hit panel series ‘Mock the Week’ (BBC)

Holly Willoughby

This year, a joke delivered by Boyle during his Latitude Festival set caused some degree of controversy.

The joke in question made reference to raping and murdering TV presenter Holly Willoughby.

However, when quizzed about the material during a Q&A, Boyle argued that the context of the joke had to be taken into account.

On Twitter, he also disputed the way the routine had been reported in the media, claiming that it had been mistranscribed as “garbled nonsense” with “a concept and wording no comic would ever use”.

“There is a very long routine in my current show which concludes that certain jokes are probably a product of toxic masculinity. You’d struggle to be offended,” he said.

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