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Let's see him tackle a few sacred cows

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 27/06/2015

Frankie Boyle is funny. He specialises in transgression; that is the humour of saying what you never should. He gets away with stuff that Bernard Manning would have shrunk back from, like his jokes about older women giving birth. If they aren't sexist and ageist they are nothing.

His jokes about Scotland and the Scottish present them as bigoted, alcoholic redheads.

It doesn't do to point the finger when you want to preserve a little latitude for yourself, but Boyle will have proven his courage if he can make as free with the dignity and self-respect of his audience in Belfast as he has with others.

As a brash and solid Glaswegian, he might think he is well able for a west Belfast gathering, but let's see if he is up to it.

Let's see if the man who can make jokes about Down's syndrome can violate a few sacred cows in Sinn Fein country.

There is as much material as he could want.

Bombings have worked for him before.

When al-Qaida attacked Glasgow Airport, Boyle scoffed at the fear of what would have happened if they had hit a fuel tank. Nothing to the explosion there'd have been, he said, if the crowd coming out of duty free had gone up.

Let's hope he is not too outrageous in a region where sensitivities are raw, but you have to wonder if he is the right comic for this gig.

For he will either be as gloriously disgraceful as he has been before and get run out of town, or he will button his lip and tell us a few gags about pregnant women and Glaswegians. In Belfast, that's what would be called playing it safe.

To be blunt, if Frankie can't get a joke out of clerical child abuse or half the IRA working for the Brits, or Gerry Adams's prostrate surgery, we'll know he isn't really trying.

Maybe here is where he'll find his limits.

Maybe not.

One of Feile's limits this year is Disappeared mother-of-10 Jean McConville. The festival which can afford to bring Boyle the big draw comedian has decided that it can't afford a play by Jane McNulty about the murdered mother.

Our Lady Of The Goldfinches had softened the heart of Danny Morrison, a writer himself and one of the creative drivers of the festival in the past.

He says now that there was no political pressure to drop the play. It was only the money.

It's harder to believe that from a festival that can afford Frankie Boyle.

But it will be harder to claim the Feile is censoring critics of the republican movement if they really let Boyle himself off his leash.

We'll see.

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