Frankie Boyle greets me with a smile and hug in the foyer of One Aldwych hotel. He holds the door open as we enter the lift. When we reach the room for the interview he politely asks me what I’d like to drink, orders coffee with full fat milk - ‘let’s go crazy!’ – then cozies himself in an armchair.
There are no pointy digs or distasteful remarks, it’s just Frankie, speaking politely, plainly, and being very funny - occasionally twisting and tugging at his formidable beard – which now resembles a burning bush. His voice is quiet - just a notch above a whisper, and I’m a little discombobulated by this gentle kindness because the Daily Rags would have me believe he’s some kind of evil word-wizard with a tongue that could slice bacon; but in person he’s really more of a ginger Dumbledore.
On-stage, he’s not for everybody. To watch one of Frankie’s gigs is to see freedom of speech at its most extreme. He rebels against convention and societal ‘rules’ of acceptability. He’s crude, rude, he swears, and he goes to the most forbidden places to find his material. Here is a man that dares to talk about the British ‘untouchables’ in a way that the media, and some of the polarized public believe is in scandalously bad taste. No-one has escaped the wrath of Frankie - politicians, celebrities, sportsmen, pedophiles, the catholic church and Royals in particular - have all fueled his furnace: ‘I’m just trying to be funny!’ he shrugs, laughing like a siren.
But millions of people in the UK who watch the shows of black-hearted Frankie find it to be a hilarious and freeing experience. They love his brutally honest comedy and the damning way in which it’s delivered. They attend his sold out gigs, watch his DVDs and read his bestsellers, welcoming his refreshing stance as one who makes jokes about typically forbidden territory that’s normally only sniggered about in the pub behind a cupped hand.
Frankie will joke about whatever or whomever he likes because he is primarily driven by an advocacy of free speech – that it should be truly free without constraint or judgment and not determined by mainstream media: ‘It can’t just be at nuclear crisis point, or at climatic crisis point where you’re allowed to say anything! People need to throw off the shackles of conformity and what’s acceptable because they are living on a dying rock.’
He explains that his jokes are a proposition, a way to provoke thought: ‘If I tell a joke, it’s not my position on something, it’s just a way of discussing serious things, and saying ‘what about this, what about that’ under camouflage.’ In this controversial regard, I can’t help but compare him to Morrissey. Both are language provocateurs that use shock tactics to slam home a point; whether it’s the abuse of animals - or in Frankie’s case - the hypocrisy of the British press.
I met him the day before his last gig ever – a gig for Comic Relief about addiction hosted by Russell Brand - where Frankie’s final five minutes of damnation were due to be delivered: ‘I’m going to implode - really badly.’
We talked about comedy, family, his teenage years, and the bands he was into: ‘I was most into The Smiths at around fifteen, sixteen, especially Hatful of Hollow. They were on an arc ahead of their fans.’
His favourite biscuit is the dainty pink wafer and he plans to spend his retirement ‘fighting off the zombie hoards from the apocalypse in three years time… or possibly this summer if it’s hot enough’.
J: Please say your full name.
F: I’m Frankie Boyle. I’m actually Francis Martin Boyle.
J: Does your mum call you Francis?
F: No, my mum calls me Proinsias. It’s my name in Irish.
J: Oh I’ll have to get the spelling of that.
F: (laughs) Well I had better get it as well.
J: Does she still call you Proinsias? [The Irish form of Francis, originating from St Francis of Assisi. Means “little French man”].
F: No. She calls me Frankie now. Everybody calls me Frankie. My granddad was Frank, so I’m Frankie. My parents are from Donegal. They came over when they were teenagers. It was a migration in those days.
J: Can you describe yourself in a sentence?
F: No. (Laughs) I’m such a complex, many-faceted jewel. Maybe that’s the sentence. I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle lowered from a window onto a horse, ridden by a child.
J: What brings you to London?
F: I’m doing a gig at Wembley tomorrow for charity, which is about addiction, but it turned out to be also part of Comic Relief. So I am going to implode… really badly.
J: Are you going to slag off Comic Relief?
F: Yeah. That’s the first thing I’m going to do [laughs].
J: You studied to become a teacher?
F: Yeah. I did English at Brighton then I went up to Edinburgh to do teacher training. I was working in mental health. I worked in an asylum for a year and then community care homes with schizophrenics. I wanted to work with people with learning disabilities, but in mental health you can’t be promoted without a mental health nursing qualification before going into social work or teaching. So that was the plan, until I started doing comedy.
J: So if you hadn’t ended up in comedy you could have been in mental health?
F: Something like that. I applied to Learning Disability Associations and also The School for the Blind.
J: Do you look back at that time and pluck material from it?
F: I did a joke on the first DVD. It was pretty funny. But there’s patient confidentiality and privacy around that job.
J: How did you end up in comedy?
F: I started as a schoolboy at sixteen. Doing open spots here and there, like a party piece almost. On average, it went quite well. Then when I was twenty-three and doing my teacher training I started doing stand up and open spots in comedy clubs and I was compering within a couple of months for one of the nights.
J: Do you like being the compere?
F: No, but it’s something you can do to get a lot of stage time. When you’re starting out the average spot might be five minutes but as a compere you can maybe get forty minutes.
J: Are most of your pals comedians? I sometimes see you on Twitter chatting to other Scottish comedians - Limmy, Greg, Kevin…
F: No not really, it’s weird, they are friends but I know them much more on Twitter than I would socially. It’s sort of like that now isn’t it? Life has got a bit like that.
J: When you were growing up, who were the comedians that you enjoyed?
F: Billy Connolly was one. I just got an album again that I love called: ‘Bing Hitler live at the Tron’ by Craig Ferguson. I liked the English 1950s/60s thing too – Round the Horne, The Goon Show, Monty Python, P. G. Wodehouse and Oscar Wilde. That was before I knew of The Smiths at all.
J: My mum and dad used to listen to comedy albums.
F: There were no grooves on those!
J: There’s no other comedian like you – how would you describe your brand of comedy?
F: I hate the word ‘brand’ though. I think it’s a big part of what’s wrong with the world. There are many things I think are wrong with the world [laughs]. Everybody thinks about himself or herself as something to market. Even Stewart Lee saying ‘oh Michael McIntyre is like ‘this’ and John Bishop is like ‘that’, it’s kind of like a weird way of saying ‘they’re not like me’ and trying to market himself. People in their forties are probably the first generation who grew up with an ‘advertised’ life. I remember looking through those little catalogues and obsessing over objects which probably my parents never had. Before I was on Twitter - some young student at a gig said to me: ‘oh you should be on Twitter, it’s a great way to market yourself’. I said to him: ‘what do you do?’ and he said: ‘nothing. I’m a student’. So he’s thinking of himself as an idea. I think that’s dangerous to think as yourself as a brand, what is a brand?
J: In this instance, it’s just a way of distinguishing your comedy from other types of comedy.
F: Sure. I just think it’s a way of selling things without a salesman.
J: On the spectrum of all comedians… you’re, well, you’re way off that spectrum into shocking/what shouldn’t be said territory… aren’t you?
F: Yes but not on a spectrum of people. There are things that people would hear down the pub that wouldn’t shock. What society has said is that there’s a public order of what can be said, and there’s a private order of what can be said. So there’s this idea in Britain that ‘oh you can’t say that!’ You wouldn’t do a joke about a disabled celebrity child in public, right? But the reason that that idea is tolerated is because what can be said in public isn’t controlled by the public. This is what’s allowed: you can write a letter of complaint because of something that has been said, or you can tweet to your two hundred followers or whatever, but ultimately what’s in the public domain is decided by Rupert Murdoch and by people who have a lot of power.
J: Are you trying to represent the private ‘stuff’ that’s not allowed to be said?
F: No, I’m just trying to be funny! [Laughs]. But what I’m also trying to do is say that you’ve got to be allowed to talk about anything, as a culture, intellectually or in any way. It can’t just be at nuclear crisis point, or at climatic crisis point where you’re allowed to say anything! People need to throw off the shackles of conformity and what’s acceptable because they are living on a dying rock. That’s the first place that I come from.
J: A few days ago Morrissey said that the rhino is now more or less extinct because of Beyoncé’s handbags. I think that there’s a similar approach to your comedy, to say something controversial in order to provoke thought. Do you agree?
F: Yes. But do people look for that or do they not? One of the reasons they don’t is to do with class. If I was an Oxbridge comedian from a certain set, people would say ‘oh I can see what he’s doing there’, but I’m not, I’m a Scot, an ‘ethnic’, and you don’t get that, and it’s an advantage not to have it because you can surprise people more. Morrissey is such a great quote machine, and the papers have so much space to fill, people like him are used in that way.
J: Is anyone safe from your stand up routines? Is Morrissey safe?
F: He’s certainly safe from my routines, yeah. I’d pass. I don’t know enough about him now.
J: You’ve got quite a lot in common. You both hate the monarchy, some politicians… you might end up quite good pals.
J: Aside from Morrissey, is there anyone you wouldn’t talk about?
F: Not really. I just want to be honest. I think people fail to understand the idea that jokes are a proposition, they are not a positioning. If I tell a joke, it’s not my position on something, it’s just a way of discussing serious things, and saying ‘what about this, what about that’ under camouflage really. Everything is a proposition, and under that you can talk about anything. There isn’t a line really.
I don’t think you’re ever really funny unless there’s something else in there. I never really find anything funny if it’s just ‘ba-boom’.
J: What does your mum think about your jokes?
F: Almost nothing. Completely disengaged.
J: She never phones you up and says ‘Frankie, you went a bit too far there’?
F: The only time she has ever really talked to me about it was when I was a club comic and Michael Barrymore was on telly with ‘My Kind of People’. She went: ‘Is this kinda…. what you do?’ and I went: ‘Yeah. It’s pretty similar!’ [Laughs]
J: Do her friends must come up to her and say things?
F: Yeah. I think that does her head in. But also you must remember I was an alcoholic until I was twenty-six, so this is brilliant for them [laughs]. I’m sure they thought I’d be dead at thirty. Everything is gravy for them now.
J: Well done for not having a drink during all this time.
F: oh… how long is it… since 1999. It’s good.
J: Do you worry about your kids seeing you on TV or picking up one of your books?
F: Not really. They literally couldn’t care less.
J: They don’t know that their daddy is on the telly?
F: They do a wee bit, but they just don’t care. They’re not interested. It’s a different class of life; a middle class life for kids. It’s so stimulated. They go to horse riding, karate, it’s just like, I’m the the guy that takes them places (laughs).
J: Do you play tricks on them?
F: No. They’re too delicate. I jumped out at my son the other night in the dark. He started to cry.
J: Do you think that a Scottish accent allows you to get away with more mischief in comedy?
F: No, less. It’s the way Britain works, quite a patrician system. Forexample, a lot of the things that Jimmy Carr says are a lot less acceptable than what I say, with a lot less point behind them, so he gets less flack probably because he’s posh. There’s a whole idea of comedy about the cultural voice and versions of it. Chris Morris says stupid things in the patrician voice, but that’s been about since The Goons. It’s kind of important, accent. You can imagine what the character in the sitcom with my accent is going to be. It’s not going to be the boss [laughs].
J: He might be - the scary boss!
J: In Tramadol Nights the Scottish children swear in the sketch for ‘The Magic Wee Hing’ do you think if the kids had different accents it might have been different?
F: Well ‘The Magic wee hing’ had a posh accent. I wrote that and did the voice. The puppet terrified my boy. I had showed him a wee bit of the video, the posh voice doing ‘Hello children!’ and he had been down the park and seen it sitting on a tree stump talking. Then he saw it in the house and he was like: ‘get that thing out ma house!’ so I took it down and left it at the bottom of the stairs to put out. It was the first thing he encountered in the morning and he had a fit. So the Magic Wee Hing is in the shed.
J: You were brought up a catholic, do you believe in God?
F: No, not really. Not in the sense that people mean ‘God’. I think that the universe might be conscious; so the closest I’ve ever got to that is in Hinduism, Vedanta. I guess that’s even a scientific point of view [laughs].
J: Do you experience catholic guilt?
J: So do you look back at stuff you’ve done on stage and think ‘I shouldn’t have said that’?
F: No. I’m not guilty about my work, no, not at all. If you’re going to feel guilty about something then don’t say it. I’ve definitely had that in the past, for jokes and thought, oh, that’s not really on, so I’ve not done them. There’s very few I’ve regretted because I think so carefully about everything before I do it.
J: How do you prepare?
F: I write all the time. Then I start to pull it together and do short shows. I start to do open spots, maybe twenty or thirty of those, then I try to do longer spots, like gigs.
J: Is that when you just ‘pop up’ in places?
F: Well I do the Stand but I’ll also do a theatre or a mixed bill when I’m not announced. Or charity gigs. If you’re looking for a tough gig – i.e. does this work outside of the fans or the people that come to see you – the charity gigs are good for that. I’m just really checking if the words work. All in all I may do 100+ gigs before I start doing a tour.
J: Do you have a group of hardcore fans that wait for you at the stage door?
F: They’d have trouble catching me! [Laughs]. Not really. If you advertise yourself you’ll get a bunch of people that are into you. If you’re going to tour it you’re looking for jokes that will work in Hull on a Wednesday night. I don’t really see the faces, I’m in 2000-seaters or something like that.
J: What were you into as a teenager?
F: Joy Division, The Smiths… I was really into Lord Of the Rings. I was quite sort of bookish. Nowadays if you’re into something it brings you together with a lot of people, so you can’t really be something like a Smiths fan anymore, because that hooks you into lots of others. It could even hook you into sex! This big social group! When I was a kid it was quite isolating being a Smiths fan. You were one of four people in the whole school… and then that thing became really important. I was into the Smiths, Talking Heads, The Fall and Joy Division. I was really f*****g depressing! It was also the eighties, and I hated the eighties, despite never knowing anything else. I hated Stock Aitken and Waterman, the whole style of the thing. Everything about it appalled me. I hated The News of The World, Thatcher, everything about the eighties was appalling.
J: What was life like at school?
F: It was pretty non-descript really. I was quite an outsider but I had a really big pal, so I didn’t really get bullied. My buddy was six foot five. I was also quite verbally aggressive, even as a little kid [laughs]. I listen to a lot of comedy and read a lot of funny things, I had a good sense of humour. In our school people were bullied into a nervous breakdown. It was brutal, like a zoo. There were two, maybe three guys that I look back on now and think: ‘they were gay guys’. I think I was in my thirties when I realised that wee guy that everybody picked on and spat on… he was an outsider because he was a non self-confident gay guy, and those guys were absolutely brutalised. People used get covered in spittle in the classes. I got taken off their wall of fame. If you ever want to know if you’ve made it, get taken down off your school’s wall of fame [laughs].
J: So if somebody came up to you in the playground and tried to be your pal, you’d just use a put down to get rid of them?
F: Yeah. It’s more of a protective thing. It’s hard to explain to people now. School isn’t like that now. I was at a school with two thousand kids, some of them educated in an annex. There was a portacabin… a playing field. It was like a prison yard. Some of the bullies like, died, got killed. This wee guy – his dad chopped his head off. I remember his dad, he was a drunk and somebody inked his son’s jumper. He went up to the kid at the train station with his butcher knife and cut this kid’s jumper open. Years later he chopped his kid’s head off.
J: He chopped his own kid’s head off?
F: Aye. Cut the one wee guy’s jumper in two that inked his jumper, then ended up - cut his own kid’s head off.
J: That’s awful.
F: There are loads of people who are dead from that time. Loads more who are dead from heroin addiction, alcoholism. I’m only forty!
J: Why did the school take you off their wall of fame?
F: I did some jokes about one of the teachers in one of my books.
J: Oh… I won’t ask. How did you get into The Smiths?
F: My brother’s pal. I remember him playing it on cassette.
J: Is that your older brother?
F: Yeah. He’s forty-three now. I remember I liked it, but I wouldn’t say that [laughs]. Then I saw Heaven knows I’m miserable now on Top of the Pops and sort of got into it then. I was most into The Smiths at around fifteen, sixteen, especially ‘Hatful of Hollow’. I didn’t get ‘The Smiths’ album until the end, so I had missed out on that, but The Queen Is Dead, Louder Than Bombs – I taped that at the library. I loved them all. The Smiths were on an arc ahead of their fans. I remember listening to The Queen Is Dead at the time, and thinking ‘well that’s not quite what I hoped it would be’ and then I came back to them because they were all a development each time. It’s almost like all art is the wrong way round. People start out doing real crisp things to prove themselves, like the Beatles, in Hamburg and James Joyce’s Dubliners. It’s only towards the end that they start to experiment. We should have a culture that supports that! James Joyce’s first book should have been Finnegan’s Wake! [Laughs]
J: What was it about The Smiths that appealed to you?
F: For me it was a time I was alone in my life, a time of isolation. I just imagined that The Smiths were about this poetry of aloneness… but it’s not at all! I listen to it now and it’s about disappointment and being taken advantage of! It’s very funny. But I translated it into what it meant for my virgin self at that time. It’s isolation when you’re surrounded by people: how alone you could be when in a relationship, how alone you could be in a social situation. I think I also see the beauty of stuff like that. [sings I don’t owe you anything] ‘Drunk on stolen wine…’ that’s a really beautiful song but it’s things he can’t say to that girl or boy, it’s his internal monologue. Maybe he knows that they’re going to go out with someone else [laughs].
J: Did you ever see The Smiths live?
F: No. I don’t like live music. I prefer the records. The things I like best live are the things that sound most like the records. That’s probably no way to appreciate music, but then I’ve not no musical ability. I’m really into rap now. I like word-pictures and how it all works together. A comedian called Phil Kay got me into rap. He’s into improvisation. He’s a genius. Half the time it doesn’t go well because he literally improvises about what’s in the room, every time. He got me thinking of it in terms of how words work together.
J: Have you seen any band live?
F: Yeah, The Fall, they were great. About seven/eight years ago at The Renfrew Ferry. Loads of heckling, people throwing stuff. They just played through it really loudly. At the same time you could see that Mark E Smith was able to keep writing great stuff because of adversity. It’s hard to survive being rich and loved. With Mark E Smith there is this completely unappreciated side that keeps him in that bubble where he can keep writing.
J: He has just finished another album. Supposed to be their best album ever.
F: If you’d said that about any other band I wouldn’t believe you, but the fact that it’s the Fall that might well be true because he’s still ‘out there’. I think you need to be culturally isolated to write well. It comes from the shamanic, on the edge of the village, no place in society.
J: I’m sure I’ve seen a picture of you with quiff. Did you used to try to look like Morrissey?
F: Definitely. That’s what I looked like anyway. I had a load of Smiths t-shirts.
J: Were you more into Morrissey or Johnny?
F: I was into Morrissey. I like words.
J: Was there a Smiths song that you liked in particular?
F: Too many to mention but probably Suffer Little Children was a real… well horrible… but at the same time great piece of art. For some guys in their early twenties to write something like that! Everything off Hatful of Hollow resonates too, particularly How soon is now.
Photograph: Rex Features/SIPA
J: I thought you were going to say Still Ill because of the iron bridge.
F: Ha! I wasn’t even in that ranking at that age. That seemed like an exotic dream me to going under an iron bridge to kiss a girl! [laughs].
J: When did you meet your first girlfriend?
F: At Uni. I think it was that way at that time in Glasgow. If you wanted to be around girls you had to go to parties and be in the socialization of f*****g morons! You had to expose yourself to risk. I did do that, by getting drunk. You couldn’t really be as drunk at home, but by being away you could solve your social phobias by being three drinks in when you arrive somewhere. Drinking did a lot for me! I could never go to AA but drinking definitely helped for a few years.
J: Do you ever get the urge to drink again?
J: What was your drink of choice?
F: Beer. Just beer. It’s an interesting way to get hooked on alcohol because you can’t really keep going unless you’re going to be thirty stones. Spirits are the big killer. Connoisseur-ship, in general. I lived in a flat with another guy who was a dry alcoholic and he had been into fine wines and whiskies and stuff like that. I just thought, this is never going to last because you’re addicted to luxury chocolates and I’m addicted to… chocolate tools! [laughs]
J: [laughs] Chocolate tools! We used to get them off the van for the dog!
F: For the dog? Ha ha! I love that cheap crappy chocolate!
J: The van was great. The chocolate tools were always in a box at the front.
F: Single fags! Only 10p!
J: Consulate and you won’t get caught!
J: What other bands were you into?
F: I was into Talking Heads too. I think that the fact that things have enough gaps in the meaning for you to make your own meaning appealed to me. ‘Stop Making Sense’ was like a huge thing, because nothing could ever mean to me what they had created. We actually had Talking Heads on in the house all the time.
J: Do you follow Morrissey’s solo work?
F: I followed Viva Hate, Bona Drag and Kill Uncle. I started to check out after that. There’s the odd flourish but I think it’s impossible to do what he did again. There’s that thing in comedy, where people think audiences want Bill Hicks. But they don’t really, they don’t have the capacity to sit and listen to Bill Hicks. You wonder how much it would work now. Not only can anyone else be Bill Hicks but even Bill Hicks can’t be Bill Hicks again. If he was about now, he wouldn’t be doing Bill Hicks, he’d be doing something else, more relevant. Morrissey can’t be eighties Morrissey again.
J: Why not? Because he needs eighties popular culture to rebel against?
F: Well, that’s a point, but I think that belittles what it was. It’s just hard to survive success. It’s all about being in a bubble, not being integrated, being on your own, listening to it on headphones, behind the sofa, in your room on vinyl. It’s not that long ago that people listened to full albums but people don’t do that anymore. We had this on Tramadol Nights, sketches that were such a big fight to get on, like four minutes long. They were like: ‘people don’t watch sketches at four minutes long’ and we were like: ‘they will!’ The sketch that got the most complaints was actually about the length of time. They f*****g hated it. It lasted three minutes fifty. I did an album recently with Glenn Wool. I deliberately didn’t put it on Sound Cloud or even iTunes because I don’t want people to listen to it for three minutes then give up. I want folk to download it then go listen to it on a long car journey or on their earphones, or sit in the bath, where you’ve got them and they can get into it.
J: I downloaded it yesterday and have it saved for a long journey. I did listen to a bit, it sounds like you two had a great laugh making it.
F: We’re not stoned, honest [laughs]. I’d rather five hundred or a thousand people listened to it than it got podcast status. I’m a bit like that with The Smiths as well. You have to take the time to listen to it.
J: Who do you think should play Morrissey in a film of his life?
F: That’s a good question. Michael Fassbender [laughs]. I don’t think you could do a film of his life.
Photograph Gerhard Kassner/Berlinale
J: Really? I think it would be great.
F: A film of his real life would be good. I’m sure that his real life would be interesting! I heard that Morrissey was about at the time of the Moors Murderers and he was scared.
J: He was born in 1959. The kids were only a few years older than him. I would imagine being quite scared too, if I lived there at that time.
F: There’s a good book about it: ‘One of Your own’ [Carol Ann Lee]. It’s like ‘In Cold Blood’. Brilliant. All about their past before they met. And it goes along, and you have a lot of sympathy for Hindley, and then the murders start and you just lose it all, and then see it from both points again. You do a flip a few times in the book. It’s quite an interesting story when you read her book. But it’s sad. Psychopathic. I mean, Ian Brady had a motorbike, and he used to disappear for days at a time, and you think, what the f*** was he doing then? There’s a mad Genesis P-Orridge song about it Ian Brady Very Friendly. Its basically testimony read out in a weird voice over some throbbing guitar. It’s horrible.
J: If Morrissey was to walk in here right now and say ‘alright Frankie?’ what would you say?
F: [Laughs] I’d leave you to him. I can’t imagine he’d be anything other than appalled at me. I can’t imagine we’d have anything in common. I’ve always found it weird that people want to meet that they admire. There’s something a bit Catcher In the Rye about that. I’ve never felt that urge. Someone I really love – Gene Wolfe – an American Tolkien, brilliant, a real genius. Anyway I met someone who said ‘I know Gene Wolfe, come over to Chicago and you can meet him’. I just think, that would be totally intimidating. Their work is what it means to you.
J: So your interpretation of their work might change if you meet them?F: Totally. I know Grant Morrison, best comic book writer ever. I asked him maybe one thing, about his comics, once. That was enough for me [laughs]. Mark Millar said to me: ‘How do you choose comics? Are you going for a new comic?’ and I said: ‘If I know the writer, I’ll buy the comic. If the comic doesn’t have the writer on the front, it must be s*** so I won’t buy it. If they’ve not bothered to credit the writer on the front page, f*** it.’ He said: ‘that’s because most people don’t buy it for the writer, they buy it for the artist!’
J: Have you met Billy Connolly?
F: No, not at all. I’d quite like to meet him. I’d imagine he’d be socially a lot easier than Morrissey!
J: So what would you say to Morrissey if he walked in here now?
F: I’d say ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ and I’d order some tea.
J: What if he was coming to your house. What snacks would you put out?
F: Vegetarian. Maybe some veggie sushi. I went vegetarian for a year, on the back of Morrissey, but I couldn’t handle it. I can’t cook. My mate that I toured with, he just ate egg sandwiches. In our lifestyle you have to live off Service Stations and it’s a nightmare. But even if you’re at home you have to cook, and I can’t.
J: You twist your beard a lot.
F: I want to shave it off at the minute, that’s why. I do that [twist it] when I’m thinking. I don’t read enough, but it means that I think more. There’s a great book by Alan Watts, ‘The Book’. It’s all about how to think about death and life, and he starts off by going: ‘If you want to think about what life is about, it’s not about reading’ [laughs]. It struck me when I read it, I just thought, that’s a great point, there were whole civilisations that existed before reading came along. I’ve found that by concentrating more on thinking as a general concept, the downside is that I arrive at things and then read Nietzsche had thought of something five times better and managed to boil it down to a sentence before me.
J: You’re quite well read and philosophical aren’t you?
F: I think I’m philosophical but I’m not well read.
J: While we’re on Nietzsche, what’s your favourite biscuit?
F: Those pink wafers. My great aunt used to have tins of those and nobody else liked them except me.
J: Did you eat them a wafer layer at a time?
J: As you get older you’re not allowed to eat biscuits that way. Society has determined that an adult with a Jammie Dodger can’t eat the top bit then the jam then the bottom bit, you have to eat it ‘normally’.
F: Depends if anybody’s watching or not. Imagine sitting watching The Wire aged forty eating your biscuits funny [laughs].
J: What’s your favourite album?
F: It’s probably this collection of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits that I have on CD. I thought the CD was great because you had to carry them so you could listen to three in a row on a train. Great if you’re an artist. I’d listen to this Bob Dylan album and it would skip in so many places because I’d had it for so long. One of the places it skipped in was in the middle of the crescendo of Rolling Stone. I’m writing a new book so I might actually put some new theories in about songs l like.
J: Have you had any strongly worded letters: ‘Dear Mr Boyle … I was appalled…’
F: I did a routine about Downs Syndrome that got a lot of flack. The point was that having Downs Syndrome isn’t a big deal, it’s probably worse if you have much older parents, than if you have Downs. In a weird way, it was supposed to be an empowering routine. But this woman at a show got upset about it, partly because she wasn’t listening, she and her husband were checking their phones and I’m like ‘what are you doing?’. I guess they were just not listening. The routine was about older parents buying their Down Syndrome kids out of date presents, and they thought I was saying Down Syndrome kids all have out of date clothes or something. And a whole load other people who didn’t hear that routine have to relate to it by its status: ‘I’ve heard that you said a bad thing’ which is sort of like ‘I’ve heard that this record isn’t that good, but I’ve not listened to it’. That’s how we relate to the world; through a web of status. It’s increasingly ill informed because there’s so much information now and so little time to process it.
J: Do you think that people need to experience something like that in order to make a joke or write about it?
F: Have you heard it? [Downs syndrome joke]
J: I’ve read about it but I haven’t heard it. I am a prime example of what you just said.
F: You’ve read a quote from the blog of a heckler. It’s a joke about having older parents and them being nightmare.
J: So everything that’s written in the papers is wrong?
F: Not just about this [laughs] about much more important stuff than this… weapons of mass destruction…
J: I know, but I think it’s interesting because you’re in the paper a lot for what you say and people speculate…
F: Well… that’s just the starting point. Don’t believe what you read in the papers. Everything is partial.
J: You’re retiring after tomorrow’s gig. How are you planning on spending your days?
F: Fighting off the zombie hoards from the apocalypse in three years time… or possibly this summer if it’s hot enough.
J: What’s your favourite crisp flavour?
F: Cheese and onion probably, but I can’t eat crisps anymore, past that point in age. I’m too old for crisps.
J: Favourite drink?
J: TV programme?
F: I don’t watch TV anymore.
J: Pizza topping?
J: Thing your mum says?
F: I don’t think we can print any of that [laughs].
J: Childhood toy?
F: A bear. He was called ‘wee bear’.
J: Comic book?
F: The Filth by Grant Morrison. I just bought some comics today. I bought Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison.
J: Smiths song?
F: The whole of Strangeways.
J: Thing to do on a Friday night?
F: Go to bed.
J: Would you host our Mozarmy quiz one week? [@mozarmyquiz]
F: Fine! Yeah. No problem.
J: Could you write a note to my mum?
F: Yes, sure.
J: I’m off to buy your DVD.
F: Oh I wouldn’t do that now [laughs].
Download Frankie’s album with Glenn Wool here. This week Frankie retired from stand up for good, but you can still tweet him @frankieboyle.
Alternatively you can block him. It’s a free country.
© All content is copyright Julie Hamill 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without consent from Julie Hamill is strictly prohibited.
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