“Listen, you – for want of a better term – English c*nt”, Frankie Boyle bellows in the direction of the RP-inflected trolling of a tipsy heckler. “I hope that when the rapist enters you is the same time you realise that the cancer has come back”.
This bout of invective comes when Boyle is in full flow, and the attention seeking hollering from the back of the auditorium is ostensibly imploring him to get onto the subject of Brexit. It’s an impromptu twofer of a section, as it comes in the midst of the newer, more intellectual Boyle material, allowing the Guardianistas – no doubt here on account of Boyle’s occasional column – to see him play the early stuff: the perma-crude comic teetering on the edge of a misanthropic breakdown and screaming his way to oblivion.
The heckler is dispatched by the house staff – though to be honest, the sheer force of the backlash from the stage probably did for him – and the show continues, as if the momentarily flustered Boyle had merely closed a window to shut out a wee draft.
This is top drawer comedy, if at times a little unrefined; on several occasions, the excuse that “this bit probably won’t stay in” is used, most fittingly around an odd gynaecological section involving Melania Trump and a reference to Alien that left the bemused audience waiting for the next laugh. They didn’t have to sit still for long, as the comic timing that’s spent the best part of the last fifteen years laying waste to the more absurd points of the social contract was as precise and as knowing as ever.
It helps that Boyle has restyled himself as the absurdist voice of reason. Gone are the days when he would spit out bits that did nothing but gain sympathy for Katie Price, and in their place are targets that, once he’s done and the sounds of incredulous intakes of breath give way to penny-dropping laughter, you can say are deserving of the precision strikes. It takes a keen intellect to build a critique of celebrity and the ignorance of the Western elite around a section about Prince William imagining Afghan villagers to be avatars of Dodi Al Fayed – never mind to make it funny – and over the course of an hour Boyle takes aim at this and other modern hypocrisies. He’s one of the best, standing apart from the faux-chummy likes of Michael McIntyre, and isn’t afraid to hit out at that world. The mystery around James Corden’s popularity is pondered, and the observation that nobody needs Ricky Gervais to tell them that God doesn’t exist “when they watched Derek get recommissioned twice” reinforces the impression Boyle doesn’t want or need to be liked by the mainstream.
The finale is a bravura stream-of-consciousness about a world where tax loopholes only exist so the elite can run a paedophile ring in international waters, one that of course teeters close to the edge in terms of taste, but brings the point home that all that those of us who aren’t oligarchs can do is laugh as the world burns.
And if that sounds too cerebral, there’s always his take on nostalgia: “For me, the point my childhood was lost was when I realised Santa’s sperm tasted exactly like my father’s”.
Frankie Boyle’s Prometheus Volume 1 runs until 24th August at Venue 150 at EICC, 21:20.