Joe’s Crow Country

PUBLISHED: 15:52 14 December 2010

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COMEDIANS make jokes. They get paid to make us laugh, and some of them are rather good at it.

The concept of the stand-up comedy show as entertainment is an odd one. Shows are often simple to the extreme – one person on stage, motionless, trying to make people laugh, with only a microphone for company.

In turn, the audience pays a price to laugh. We hope we will be entertained by quips and anecdotes, and spend the best part of the show with smiles on our faces.

Sometimes though, the atmosphere at a comedy gig can change. Audience reaction to some comedy subjects can provoke offence, rather than amusement.

Last week, during a show broadcast on Channel 4, Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle made a joke about Harvey Price, the son of glamour-girl Katie Price and former footballer Dwight Yorke.

The joke can’t be repeated on the pages of The Crow, but it poked fun at Harvey, who suffers from septo-optic dysplasia which makes him blind, is autistic, and also gains weight easily. It also included a sexual element.

None of his disabilities were specifically mentioned, but Katie Price has since criticised Boyle and Channel 4, and is vowing to take legal action.

I can honestly say I have never been personally offended by a comedian’s joke, but I can see why, initially, Price was. No-one wants to see a loved one discredited or embarrassed, especially if they are not in a position to defend themselves.

Katie Price’s statement read: “Mr Boyle clearly has serious issues, and those that give him a TV platform to say such disgusting things need to look at themselves very honestly.” She also stated that Boyle should know that what was said in the joke wouldn’t be true.

However, anyone that heard the joke will realise it would be preposterous to suggest Boyle actually believes what he is saying, and this is where Price’s argument finds flaw.

It was a joke. It’s not true, and everyone knows it, so should offence be taken?

Boyle has made a name for himself as a comedian that tackles taboos. His style constantly pokes fun people, and he takes little regard for disability, ethnicity or sexuality. This is his approach to comedy, and it should be treated like anyone else’s. I’m not particularly a fan of Boyle’s but his jokes should always come with a sizable pinch of salt.

If anyone else said, in all seriousness, the same thing Boyle said in his joke, then it would be offensive.

But if it is said on stage, in context, is fundamentally untrue, and is not the true opinion of the comedian, it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

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