Category: ComedyTag: , , , , , , , , , ,

1 PM Wednesday 17 October 2012 Nunhead Heights

The funniest review I’ve gotten was from an Edinburgh festival magazine a few years back for my second Edinburgh show ‘Lewis Schaffer is Bigger and Blacker’. I was called ‘mildly racist’ and given only One Star.

If someone thinks I’m a racist, even a ‘mild’ one, it means one of three things:

A) I’ve failed in my job as a comic to make the jokes work. B) The people who think I’m a racist are too stupid to get the jokes and I’ve wasted my life trying to make stupid people laugh. Or C) I really am a racist and need to reevaluate my act and myself.

Frankie Boyle told some jokes on his TV programme Tramadol Nights that some viewers found racist, including people at the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was printed in the Daily Mirror that Frankie Boyle is ‘racist’. Frankie Boyle is suing the paper for libel claiming he is not a racist.

I don’t think Frankie Boyle is a racist. He mocks racists. One has to assume that he’s smart enough not to use the n-word anywhere close to a hateful way. Even real racists aren’t that stupid.

But that’s just my opinion.

When I first moved to London I was booed off stage at Battersea Jongleurs comedy club. I had said: ‘I hate Jews. Not all Jews. Just two Jews: My parents.’ The booing started after ‘I hate Jews’. The audience did hate me from the beginning of my set but they had stopped listening at that point.

When a comic uses the N-word many people turn off and assume that anything the comic is saying will be derogatory to black people. Most Brits don’t want to hear anything even ‘mildly racist’ – I’ve learned that the hard way.

Like at Battersea, the Daily Mirror people didn’t like Frankie Boyle from the start. It could be because of his unkind jokes about the swimmer Rebecca Adlington nose or Harvey, the sad son of Katie Price. The Daily Mirror editors had probably just turned off Frankie Boyle and didn’t hear his other jokes.

Frankie Boyle wants to prove the Mirror wrong. His method is madness.

He wants his jokes heard by another audience – this time a jury of 12 of his peers in an English court. He is trying to make this into one of those Hollywood movies where they replay the big high school football game twenty years later and his team wins.

He must know from Lenny Bruce’s court appearances that jokes meant for hearing after the watershed in a darkened club or living room are rarely as funny at 10 in the morning in a brightly lit courtroom.

I bet that most of those 12 jurors aren’t natural Frankie Boyle fans, either. Even the warm and cuddly Michael McIntyre has detractors.

This trial can end very badly for Frankie Boyle.

If he loses he will be a court-certified racist. ‘Frankie Boyle is a racist says Court!’ The tv channels will think twice about giving someone controversial a shot. And then he’ll be saddled with massive legal debts. Who knows what else. His outcome may not be as bad as Justin Lee Collins’ outcome, where Collins’ career is ruined, and he may not go the route of Oscar Wilde after Wilde’s ill-conceived libel trial, which killed Wilde, but I have a very bad feeling about this.

Alternatively, if the jury finds him to have been libeled it will have one more chilling affect on the freedom of the press in Britain which is already being frozen from every side.

I don’t agree with the Mirror but we need to let the press be free to print what it believes. Even if those stupid, stupid people call us racists.

What do you think about this?

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio

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6 thoughts on “Frankie Boyle has made a mistake in suing for libel.

  1. This is the best summing up of the situation that I’ve seen, Lewis. No-one informed thinks Boyle is a racist, even the Mirror Newspaper, but it’s readers may well do from now on. Libel laws exist for either the rich and powerful to crush dissent, or for the little guy who is being crushed, and has no other form of reply (if he can get legal aid). Frankie Boyle has plenty of channels to get his reply out there, and could easily mock the newspaper and sway public opinion. Taking it to the court means that he has no home advantage, and has to win the dry legal argument in a place totally foreign to comedy. The newspaper simply takes money spent on Barristers from their marketing budget (as that’s what it is).

    Whatever the result, The Mirror will sell more newspapers, and more people will think Frankie Boyle is a racist.

    PS. Frankie went to my local school, and his brand of humour is fairly run of the mill around here.

  2. From facebook:
    Colin Harris wrote 17 October 2012

    It’s a bit like when William Roache (Ken from Coronation Street) tried to sue a paper because they said he was boring…. the defence of “I’m not boring, honest…” and I stopped listening after that. Lewis Schaffer makes a great point – if he loses he gets the racist tag appended for life. And having the prosecutor reading out your set on a Monday morning and you trying to explain why that word is funny, honest, it is, everybody laughed… and then the prosecutor saying “so, you made some racists laugh then?” well, sounds like a car crash to me…..

    I used to do a routine that started off “If I said all black people were thieves……… I’d be being racist” and you could feel the tension in the room – and quite often people would just hear “all black people are thieves” so I’ve stopped doing it. It was very funny though – had a bit about bananas in it that still makes me laugh…

    1. Great article Louie and you are right I don’t think he is a racist but his ego has got the better of him and he will probably lose a million £ in the court case as you say look at Oscar Wilde and Boyle is nowhere near the genius of Wilde so watch this space ?

  3. From facebook 17 October 2012

    Arnold Wilson: Frankie Boyle has invalidated his own position which I understand to be “everything is fair game” – except HIM. He is, in effect, suing a newspaper for not getting his joke. He can only lose.

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