(source: Wiki Commons)
In contrast, Boyle’s jokes sometimes go too far and, instead of making the audience laugh through shock factor, Boyle can be too blunt and seem as though he’s just trying to say the most outrageous thing he can think of. An example of this could be his comments towards Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey; Boyle’s joke was seen as crass and offensive because the subject of his joke was a helpless child, whereas in Gervais’s instance he uses a controversial topic to direct the joke on his own character, thus highlighting his idiocies for comic effect; this I believe is the difference between making a successful joke on a controversial subject or making an offensive comment on a sensitive issue. The emphasis has to be not making the sensitive issue the butt of the joke but instead to steer it in a more self-deprecating form of humour, an example of this could be Reginald D. Hunter’s routine on the topic of Josef Fritzl’s crimes.Despite comics such as Boyle sometimes attracting negative attention for their comedic material, it must be noted that it is the job of these comedians to point out what normally we would be too inhibited to say. That is the nature of observational comedy and there are different levels to it.
Comedians such as Michael McIntyre have achieved great success in pointing out the subversive quirks in everyday life, however comics like Boyle or Louis CK take observational comedy a step further and move into the risky territory of pointing out to an audience not only what they don’t notice, but what they are too polite to notice. However, Boyle can go too far in the way of making controversial jokes that only serve to shock audiences. Nevertheless people shouldn’t read too much into what a comedian says, especially one that has built their act around being controversial.
So, ultimately, if you see a joke centred upon a sensitive issue, which I imagine will be common-place this week, if it is tasteful and genuinely humorous, don’t feel guilty to laugh. On the other hand if you do see an offensive and spiteful quip, don’t take too much heed, as statements from such blithe figures are unlikely to be meant to be taken seriously.