Mock the Week: why I miss Frankie Boyle

One RT writer says it just isn't the same without the risqué comedian

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I never thought I’d be writing about how much I miss Frankie Boyle. Until a few months ago, I’d never even seen an episode of Mock the Week. Then a friend recommended it, and now I’m hooked.

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On the Frankie-filled repeats on Dave, that is. Any dark circles under my eyes aren’t the result of stressful days at work or even crazy nights out on the tiles. Those late-night Mock the Week slots are to blame.

To start with, I couldn’t stand Frankie Boyle. I hated how he always seemed to be first off the mark on “Scenes We’d Like to See” and how he crowded other comedians at the microphone; the way he tended to take over the inter-panel banter; his occasional aggressive and distasteful jibes at people who couldn’t answer back and who didn’t deserve such cruel remarks in the first place.

But it turned out I was being a bit unfair to Frankie. Watching episodes out of order had given me a slightly cockeyed impression of the man. I caught some earlier editions of the show where he was nowhere near as confident or full of himself, and gradually I found myself warming to him.

Now I’m a convert. Sure, I still find some of his material offensive. But I’m also able to spot the glint in his eye as he winds up Dara O Briain, the man with the unenviable task of trying to keep Frankie under control. I’ve come to appreciate his lightning-fast comic brain, the way he usually hits the nail right bang on the head.

You can’t argue with the fact that his jokes frequently leave the other panellists in stitches (the only other person to score such a consistent hit rate with his Mock the Week peers is Milton Jones, a very different performer). And truth be told, there’s just something irresistible about a man who’ll shrug his shoulders and say the unsayable, pulling off that remarkable feat of making an audience simultaneously gasp and laugh – then rewarding their guilt with a conspiratorial grin.

And it’s that blatant class-clown cheek I miss when I tune in to Mock the Week on BBC2 now. Of course the show’s still funny, but the pace has flagged and it’s definitely lost a lot of its bite. The recent batch of presumably “up-and-coming” guest comedians has been distinctly underwhelming and I live for the weeks I see Milton Jones’s name in the line-up (aside from his brilliant one-liners, there’s a cute father-son thing developing between him and Russell Howard).

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It would be great to see Frankie back in his old seat for a week or two. But even if he could find the time in his no doubt packed schedule, it doesn’t seem likely the BBC would invite him on, does it? After all, it would just show up what a pale shadow of its former self Mock the Week becomes when he’s not there.