Comedian Frankie Boyle's controversial tweets make TV return "difficult"

The BBC insists that it will not censor the comedian, who has been dubbed an "offense machine"

By Prachi Gupta
Published July 9, 2013 7:44PM (EDT)
  (Rusty Sheriff/Flickr)
(Rusty Sheriff/Flickr)

The BBC has said that it welcomes Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle back to the network, despite concerns over his dark and sometimes offensive humor. Boyle's controversial jokes, which have gotten him branded as an "offense machine," include mocking a woman's disabled son, comparing Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington's face to that of a dolphin and likening the Queen of England to "Lord of the Rings" beast Gollum. While the BBC can control what jokes are aired on the program, however, the network argues that asking Boyle to tone down comments made on Twitter would be overstepping its bounds.

The sentiment comes as celebrities are being held more accountable for things they write on social media, which can have very real consequences for their careers (or at least, they should), but the BBC argues that getting involved in a star's personal social media account would be a form of censorship. BBC comedy controller Shane Allen explains to the Guardian:

"There was stuff in [Boyle's show on BBC] Tramadol Nights that got taken out that to me was too difficult to justify. But we don't have any control and nor should we have any control over what people do in their social media life. That's caused a bit of repression in terms of what people do."

Allen said another Twitter furore involving the comic would immediately be characterised as "the BBC's Frankie Boyle says something horrific on Twitter".

He added: "We don't and nor should we say to Frankie Boyle: 'Do you know what, could you stop tweeting in case you do a programme for the BBC and it reflects badly on the programme because the story will be the BBC's Frankie Boyle says something horrible about the Queen?' That's censorship."

Ultimately, Allen believes that, though risky, Boyle's comedy serves a purpose. "If it is nasty comedy which is not done with intelligence and a purpose then I think you can't defend it. But I do think Frankie has something to say."

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Bbc Comedy Dark Humor Frankie Boyle Social Media Twitter