Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 18:36 UK

Frankie Boyle criticised for Down's syndrome joke

Frankie Boyle
Comedian Frankie Boyle made the comments during his sell out tour

The mother of a five-year-old girl with Down's syndrome has criticised comedian Frankie Boyle for poking fun at people with the condition during a live show.

Sharon and Keiron Smith, of Hampshire, were sitting in the front row of the star's sold-out gig in Reading's Hexagon theatre when he made the jokes.

Mrs Smith said she told the comic she was upset but he told her she should have known what to expect at his show.

The former Mock The Week panellist refused to comment.

Mrs Smith, who has a daughter called Tanzie, said she was a fan of the comedian's "dry, cutting, sense of humour" during his appearances on the BBC2 show.

'Heart racing'

She told BBC Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire she had been enjoying the live show before Boyle joked about people with Down's syndrome.

She said: "He made fun of their parents being old and out of touch, he made fun of the way people with Down's syndrome speak.

"He made a number of references to people with Down's syndrome dying early."

He tried to laugh it off - 'Ah, but it's all true isn't it? Everything I have said is true isn't it?' To which I replied 'No, it wasn't'
Sharon Smith

She added: "I have to say I had never heard him on Mock the Week poking fun of people with disabilities, it was not something I was aware of he did.

"We had obviously heard him making fun of other people, but quite often his humour appears to be clever humour or making a point about something.

"OK, he can be cutting, but he will often be using his humour to make a point, whereas the type of jokes he was making about people with Down's syndrome I don't see there was any point being made."

'So nasty'

Mrs Smith said that during the whole segment her heart was racing and she wanted to cry but that most of the audience were laughing as far as she was aware.

She said Boyle noticed her talking to her husband and asked them what they were saying.

She wrote on her blog: "I told him that my five-year-old daughter has Downs syndrome and that I was simply upset at some of his jokes.

"He tried to laugh it off - 'Ah, but it's all true isn't it? Everything I have said is true isn't it?' To which I replied 'No, it wasn't'.

"He then went on to say that it was the most excruciating moment of his career but then tried to claw the humour back by saying we had paid to come and see him and what should we expect?

"To which I replied that I understood that and that it was my personal problem/upset."

She said Boyle then embarked on an explanation to the audience of his background and why he was "so nasty".

Change in attitude

Sheila Heslam, from the Down's Syndrome Association, said: "Clever comedy should challenge the stereotypes and preconceptions that people hold of minority groups.

"Sadly Frankie Boyle's recent routine about people with Down's syndrome was neither clever nor intellectually challenging.

"In the year that the Down's Syndrome Association is marking its 40th anniversary we have had cause to reflect on the remarkable achievements of people with Down's syndrome and the positive societal shift in attitudes towards them.

"In 1985 we had a very successful nationwide poster campaign, with the strap line 'You say Mongo - We say Down's syndrome - His mates call him David'.

"It is a shame that Frankie Boyle, 25 years later, has not understood this message."

Last year Mock The Week's producers were criticised by the BBC Trust over comments Boyle made on the show about swimmer Rebecca Adlington's appearance.

Another complaint against Mock The Week, relating to a comment Boyle made about the Queen, was not upheld as a breach of editorial standards by the trust.



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