In Defence Of A ‘Sellout’

So Frankie Boyle has used Twitter to lash out at fellow comic Mark Watson. It relates to a blog Watson wrote last year regarding a fan who took Frankie Boyle to task for joking about people with Down’s syndrome. Boyle’s 140 character putdown read:  ‘Amused to be sent an attack on my work by Mark Watson. A sellout who takes money to advertise booze to his teenage fans. A cunt.’

Having read Watson’s article at the time my initial reaction was that Watson had actually been very even-handed in his writing. But it turns out even Frankie Boyle can get offended.

I’m sure this could have been dealt with between the two of them in private. Trying to call out another comic over Twitter smacks of desperate attention seeking. Perhaps Boyle has a right to be slightly aggrieved – after all, Watson did not see the offending joke. But it’s the nature of Boyle’s dig, and in particular the description of Watson as ‘a sellout’ which is where my main issue with this attack comes in. Watson explained his decision to take the Magners deal in this piece for Chortle – back in 2009. Watson clearly stated it was done, amongst other reasons, to ‘support his family’. Is that no longer a valid reason to take a job? Boyle has two children himself, if he’d ever read Mark Watson’s defence of the Magners ads maybe he’d have understood this.

I’m afraid the ‘sellout’ argument doesn’t hold much water these days. Of course we’d love to believe our comedy heroes are all Bill Hicks like anti-capitalist, money shunning firebrands but unfortunately life isn’t that simple. Mark Watson’s certainly never made any grand statements proclaiming himself to be such a thing so why should he be ashamed?

If you’re going to brand every comic who did an advert then half the acts on the comedy circuit would be sellouts. Let’s look at a few current circuit comics – Nick Helm has appeared in an ad for an online betting site, Jarred Christmas has become the near synonymous face of Pot Noodle and Mike Wozniak popped up in an advert for Virgin Atlantic Airlines. So with that in mind they’ll all have to scrap their respective material related to online gambling, instant noodles and luxury air travel, yes? Even the man many herald as the next Hicks, David Cross, has appeared in TWO Alvin and The Chipmunks movies. Hardly seems in keeping with his stand-up does it?

Maybe Mark Watson was badly advised. Maybe he regrets it. Maybe he doesn’t. Who knows? If doing an advertising campaign allows a comic like Mark Watson the career establishment and freedom to produce interesting and unique work – be it his novels, television (take his sweet rendition of A Child’s Christmas in Wales for instance or the plain nutty We Need Answers) or his stage comedy (be it his stand-up, his old 24-hour gigs or his site specific projects like The Hotel) then where does the problem lie? And hey, if we’re going to list ‘commercial’ misdemeanours Boyle’s a man who for all his attacks on celeb culture still wrote an autobiography aged 37, writes a column for Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun and has spent much of his time since leaving Mock The Week criticising the BBC, despite them ultimately being the organisation that gave him his commercial break and even recently having him back to present Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Funny what people will do for money isn’t it? Those in glass houses Frankie…

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One response to “In Defence Of A ‘Sellout’

  1. Bry

    I couldn’t agree more! Very well said.
    It seems Frankie isn’t as good at taking abuse as he is at giving it.
    But more and more comics do adverts every day and as you (and Mark) quite rightly says, it’s to allow them the freedom to do the work they dearly want to do, whilst still supporting their family.
    I know that my opinions of both Mark and Frankie are just the same after this news story as they were before!

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