There is a screaming kerfuffle building up in Belfast now over the scheduled appearance of comedian Frankie Boyle at Féile an Phobail (which, for the unreconstructed amongst us, comes out as ‘Festival of the People’. Why the clowns who organised the thing chose to use a dead language for the title is beyond me; but, there again, its their Festival, not mine.) However, those same organisers decided, in order to get a little more ‘oomph’ into their marketing strategy, to invite a ‘big name’ from the mainland as a draw to increase ticket sales and publicity.
Now, I would ask you to pause, for just a second, and consider the huge amount of talent at their disposal. Should they choose a singer, or a dancer? Would they fill the hall if they chose a winner from the Eisteddfod? If the choice would be from England or Scotland: whose name would be an instant draw to bring the crowds queuing to buy the tickets? It was a bit like the EuroMillions draw, with the added bite of knowing that the odds are clearly against you making the right choice; because one person’s draw is definitely another’s turn-off.
So, in the end, they plumped for a Scottish comedian: and about five milli-seconds after the contract had been signed for Frankie Boyle to front the Féile an Phobail, the protests commenced resounding round their pathetic heads. Why the protests? Simples: they had forgotten: FORGOTTEN, that the one thing Frankie Boyle is famous, or rather infamous, for is his ‘edgy’ humour and tasteless jokes. especially jokes about disabled people, people or kids with Down’s Syndrome, spastics: those disabilities. Now I am no great fan of the modern strain of comedians’ ‘edgy’ humour, with their sexual and twisted undertones; but I know that many people who do not hold to my own beliefs find that sort of ‘humour’ to be uproariously funny. I will admit that, in my youth, one of the jokes I used to tell had a young woman in a wheelchair as the main target, but as one grows older, and in my case, grows in companion with a wife crippled by a mental illness, and also confined to either a wheelchair or her bed, the jokes seem to lose their appeal.
But, I digress, this post isn’t about me; it is about the possibly-disastrous choice of a comedian with a reputation for jokes about disabled people. We now come to the best bit, where ‘celebrities’ cast their names down as part of the condemnatory process; and what finer and more well-known, if not exactly appreciated, name to use is that of Gerry Adams? Mr. Adams, casually turning away from the basin where he had been washing his hands, stated “The comedian was the right type of act for the festival. I didn’t know myself that he had made whatever offensive remark he made about people with Down’s Syndrome and of course, that’s reprehensible,” he said. “I understand exactly why the family members of citizens with Down’s Syndrome have been annoyed about that, but, you know, Féile an Phobail has a very, very, very good record of inclusivity.” What ‘inclusivity’ has to do with a comedian’s tasteless jokes, or the fact that the speaker’s past murderous activities and actions, as a prime leader of the terrorist IRA, were themselves ever-so-slightly reprehensible, was never explained.
The reason of course why the organisers of the Féile an Phobail could not cancel Mr. Boyle’s appearance was the unfortunate fact that his name was already inextricably linked with the Féile an Phobail, and the cancellation would also have cost the organisers a Gaelic arm and leg, what with the cost of cancelling Frankie’s appearance as well!
So the People’s Festival will be going ahead tonight, with the loud and forecasted dreary moans and calls from, mainly, the parents and families of those unfortunate enough to be unlucky in the draw of life as to be gifted with this particular disability, as to ‘the shame of it all’ resounding from every wall in the neighbourhood. The protesters, and of course the protest, are themselves never quite clear on the simple fact that they the protesters, are trying to deny a man the right to earn a living in the manner best known to him as being succesful, they wish to silence Mr. Boyle for being ‘funny’, and that last statement is, in the end, what all the noise is about!
Not too many sensible statements will be heard on the trumpeted tv and radio reports about the simple truth that, if you or your loved ones dislike the jokes and the slanted patter of Frankie Boyle, you don’t have to either buy a ticket, or indeed attend this dreadful circus.