Most helpful critical review
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Boyle's more genuine and heart-felt views about issues like wars overseas
on 19 October 2014
Boyle's writing seems to have two modes: Mask On, and Mask Off. Mask On mode is stand up mode: Boyle's jokes and routines. Stripped of the delivery, the formula becomes much more apparent. Most of his jokes have a two part structure, first, the set-up: a fact ("The man who voiced the speaking clock has died"); then the pay-off, an interpretation ("I heard he died on the third stroke.") - Boyle's book contains of thousands of jokes that follow this same formula. He's a master at both constructing and telling this type of joke, but in a book the lack of variety becomes too clear.
Mask Off mode, maybe 10-20% of the book, reveals Boyle the concerned citizen: seething, slightly paranoid, hyperbolic, conspiratorial but deeply politically engaged and genuine. The writing becomes less staccato and more variable. Boyle's more genuine and heart-felt views about issues like wars overseas, welfare, and the Westminster elites come to the fore in these sections. As he recognises, however, this more serious writing doesn't have the same kind of pace and energy as his Mask On material.
My hope is that in a few years Boyle's comedy and his more serious writing will blend together better: the Mask will exaggerate rather than simply cover the face. Currently that blending hasn't been realised, and the result, though entertaining, is also uneven and jarring.