Belfast Telegraph

Ruby Wax slams Frankie Boyle over Down's syndrome jibes

By Joanne Sweeney

Ruby Wax has claimed Frankie Boyle should be "burnt at the stake" over his comments about children with Down's syndrome.

The American-born comedian, who suffered from mental illness, described Boyle's tasteless remarks as "savage".

She spoke out as radio presenter Ivan Martin criticised the Feile an Phobail organisers as being "ill-advised" for booking Boyle for the West Belfast Festival.

Mr Martin's 23-year-old James has Down's syndrome.

Wax said there was no distinction between offending someone in comedy and offending them in real life.

"It is the same as someone offending you in real life - what's the difference?" she told the BBC's Nolan Show.

"I don't know if you are coming close to the fact that I talked about people with mental illness.

"First of all, if you're Jewish you can make jokes about Jews. If you're black you can make jokes about black people.

"I have mental illness, I could do it.

"If this guy is laughing at Down's syndrome, he is not considering the agony of a parent who has to do it.

"If he's got Down's syndrome, take the p*** as long as you want. What he's doing is savage and he's perpetuating looking at them and us.

"He should be burnt at the stake actually for that one, forget the cancelling of the show."

Wax is best-known for fronting TV documentaries and interviews.

She also script-edited the hugely successful Absolutely Fabulous.

She questioned what drives people to want to listen to someone who makes grossly offensive jokes.

"There are people, they went to the Colosseum to watch people being eaten by lions. Those people would probably like his show," she added.

"That's part of, again, the human condition. There is tribalism, there's competition, there's bigotry, but hopefully at this point in civilisation we can kind of recognise it, we are carrying that animal but we don't have to feed into it.

"Sometimes I do want to murder somebody, luckily I've another part of the brain which says don't go there. But there will be people who are salacious, they wouldn't mind watching an accident or, you know, joining the Ku Klux Klan."

After it was suggested being burnt at the stake was a bit strong, Wax pulled back.

"He shouldn't be burnt at the stake, just singed slightly. Just a light simmer," she added.

Mr Martin said if Boyle returned to Belfast for another show, it should be run by a commercial organisation.

The U105 star was among the many parents who were disgusted at Boyle's jokes in the past about young people with Down's syndrome - particularly poking fun at how they speak.

He spoke out against the comedian being booked as an act for a community festival which is funded by public money coming from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Last night he told the Belfast Telegraph: "If Frankie Boyle is coming back to Belfast and being brought by a commercial promoter, I have no problem with that.

"It doesn't mean that I find what he said any less distasteful than I do.

"I have never asked at any time for his Feile performance to be banned, but if Feile sells itself as a community festival, it shouldn't be booking acts like Frankie Boyle as they are excluding people with Down's syndrome.

"It obviously isn't a festival for all.

"When you have someone like Tom Hartley, a former Lord Mayor of the city who was involved in the festival in the early days, coming out and saying that the booking was ill-advised, then the organisers need to ask themselves some questions."

Mr Martin said that even though the specific comments Boyle made were some years ago, he still hadn't apologised for it.

He personally was more annoyed at the comments that Boyle made about how people with Down's syndrome speak, particularly as he is proud of the fact that James has spoken as a young ambassador for Mencap at the Northern Ireland Assembly and European Parliament on what it is like to have Down's.

He added: "If Frankie Boyle is booked by a commercial promoter, then people know what they are getting and can vote with their feet.

"His humour is certainly not for me, and I found his remarks to be pretty offensive."



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