So Frankie Boyle has done it again. He’s gone and upset someone. This time it happens to be Jordan. On his new show Tramadol nights he made a joke that Jordan deemed too far, a joke about her and her family.
I watched the show on Wednesday night and even though I am a big Frankie Boyle fan, a lot of it was pretty close to the bone. I laughed at some jokes and I didn’t laugh at others (even though I wanted to).
But it raises the question. How far is too far? How far is a comedian allowed to go in the name of comedy? Should there be some sort of comedy regulation, the comedy cops if you will? And this raises a wider question about free speech in general.
Jordan’s reaction to the joke was hurt and to make a complaint to Ofcom and even get her lawyers involved. Frankie Boyle’s was to stay silent. The publics’ was a mix of disgust and a desire to see his show banned all the way to …well to be honest I haven’t seen many people (except Channel 4) come out publicly to support Frankie Boyle, most notably including himself.
But that isn’t really the point.
When it comes to what people are allowed to say or not say I am firmly in the ‘you are free to say whatever you like’ camp. So Frankie Boyle is free to make jokes about whoever he likes, religious nuts are allowed to condemn and picket whoever they like and right wing groups are allowed to say whatever they like about other groups of people.
I’ve heard and seen a lot of people say that Frankie Boyle’s show should be cancelled. But why?
If we take away free speach then where does that leave us? A lot of the time we focus on the negative stuff that would be wiped out. No free speech and we don’t have to worry about groups like Westboro Baptist (I intentionally left out the Church part) because they are suddenly breaking the law and we can do something about it. People wouldn’t be hurt because a comedian isn’t allowed to say something mean about them.
But what does no free speech mean for the good stuff? It would be arrogant for Christians to assume that they could still go on evangelising for example. That could be offensive to Atheists and to people of other religions.
If free speech is stopped then we can’t just assume that we can go on preaching about God’s love or tell people about Jesus. We will inevitably offend somebody.
But a lot of the time as Christians we can’t see this. We can’t allow ourselves to seem weak so we fight it. We fight the right of others to free speech, others we see as ‘wrong’ and champion our own right to free speech because we see it as ‘right’.
Sometimes there is clear wrong or right. Sometimes there are groups who are racist and prejudice (unfortunately some ‘Christians’), there are people who just want to cause hurt and pain and who want to see a world where some people are seen as inferior (mmm, some Christians again?) and sometimes we just don’t want to face up to people who are different than us (I think you can see where I am going with this).
But our job is not to take their right away to say what they like. Our job is to highlight injustice and to act differently. Our job is to not attack but love. Our job is to highlight the absurdity of some people and listen with love to others with whom we differ.
So Frankie Boyle should be free to make as many ‘offensive’ jokes as he like.
Because if he isn’t then we better keep our mouths shut too.