Boyle was born and raised in Glasgow to Irish parents from the Crolly area of County Donegal. He attended Holyrood Secondary School in Glasgow. After leaving school, he worked as a library assistant over the summer and attended Langside College. He then studied Urban Planning at Aston University for a year before leaving and beginning a BA in English Literature at the University of Sussex. He graduated from university aged 22 and his first job was working in a Mental Health Hospital. He then went to a teacher training college in Edinburgh and had placements in schools, but by then he was already performing as a stand up comedian. He gained his big break after performing at The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh, a venue that has also helped launch the careers of Stewart Lee, Johnny Vegas, Peter Kay, Dara Ó Briain and Michael McIntyre.
Boyle was a regular on the BBC panel show Mock the Week from its first episode on 5 June 2005 until 17 September 2009. A show in which the panel comment humorously on various news stories from the British media, Mock the Week is hosted by Dara Ó Briain, who in an episode of Live at the Apollo referred to Boyle as "the dark heart of Mock the Week." He is known for his morbid sense of humour, which plays on negative images of celebrities, politicians, and society (particularly his home country of Scotland). On 2 October 2009, Boyle announced via the Mock the Week's Facebook fan page that he was leaving the show to concentrate on other projects. Boyle has since criticised both the show's production team and the BBC Trust. He claims that the show did not cover enough major news stories, and was too restrictive on his risqué comedy act because the producers and the BBC Trust were afraid of "frightening the horses". He is seen in archive footage of Mock the Week on the 2009 Christmas Special, which aired on 22 December 2009, as a series of "Best Bits and Festive Clips", in a compilation celebrating the show's 100th episode on 5 July 2012 as well as in archive footage on the 2012 Christmas Special, which aired on 27 December 2012.
In October 2009, Boyle piloted a sketch and stand-up show for Channel 4, entitled Deal with This, Retards to be produced by RDF Scotland subsidiary the Comedy Unit. Boyle mentioned on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross that the original title of the show had been dropped, due to its offensive nature, and been renamed Tramadol Nights and aired from the end of November 2010. An official page launched via Channel 4's official website, which confirmed that the show's full name is Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights and the series was made up of six episodes. Boyle caused controversy on the show with his comments about Katie Price and Dwight Yorke's disabled son Harvey.
On 21 August 2011, it was revealed that Channel 4 had given Boyle permission to record a pilot for a topical talk show in October of that year, which would be called Frankie Boyle's Rehabilitation Programme (despite the controversy surrounding Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights). Channel 4 head of comedy Shane Allen told the press that "it's very much like Parkinson or Wogan, but with paedo jokes" and that the show would feature Frankie "in a studio, riffing off the audience a bit with some people challenging what he says".
The Boyle Variety Performance was broadcast on 19 August 2012 and featured Boyle with guests Rob Delaney, Nick Helm, Katherine Ryan and Tom Stade. A few days after the show was broadcast, Boyle attracted criticism after he posted jokes on Twitter about the 2012 Summer Paralympics.
In 2014, Frankie Boyle starred in the short comedy film Gasping for BBC Scotland, written by Greg Hemphill. The title refers to an expression in Scottish English, communicative of an irresistible compulsion to do something, such as smoke a cigarette; or, as here, to drink alcohol. The short feature, an at-times-farcical but generally deadpan treatment of a man's attempted recovery from alcoholism.
Frankie Boyle's Referendum Autopsy was released on 28 September 2014, and Frankie Boyle's Election Autopsy was released on 17 May 2015, through BBC iPlayer. Featuring guests Katherine Ryan and Sara Pascoe, Boyle dissected the Scottish independence referendum, 2014 and general election. Frankie Boyle's American Autopsy dissected the buildup and fallout of the United States presidential election, tackling topics such as feminism, entertainment, propaganda, and guns. Special guests include Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Michelle Wolf, Desiree Burch, and Richard Osman.
A show similar to his BBC iPlayer exclusive "autopsy" shows, Boyle returned to TV on BBC Two, with this Frankie Boyle's New World Order, which follows a very similar structure to the aforementioned programmes, where Frankie makes two statements, and discusses them with his guests. The difference is that the studio audience do not vote on if they agree with that statement. The show premiered on 8 June 2017.
A sitcom set in a small regional theatre starring David Mitchell as a happy-go-lucky writer with writer's block written by Frankie Boyle and Steven Dick, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 5 June 2014.
On 1 October 2009, Boyle's autobiography My Shit Life So Far was released, published by HarperCollins. His second book Work! Consume! Die! was released in October 2011. Boyle's third book, Scotland's Jesus: The Only Officially Non-racist Comedian, was released in the UK on 24 October 2013.
In October 2007 Boyle embarked on a stand-up tour of Britain, playing over 100 dates and enjoying a sold-out run that was extended through until December 2008. Boyle said that he planned to quit stand-up before he turned 40, had written his final tour and plans to do more television work after this. Boyle performed the tour, entitled I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face between March and December 2010.
On 21 November 2011, at a "Meet the Comedians" session in the Apple Store, Regent Street with Jimmy Carr, Boyle announced he was doing another tour entitled The Last Days of Sodom, despite intending I Would Happily Punch Every One of You in the Face to be his final one. He mentioned the tour will not be as long as its predecessor. His website has stated it will run from July to December 2012 with more dates to be added. Tickets went on sale in December 2011.
On 10 November 2008, Boyle's first DVD was released, featuring a sell-out stand-up performance given at London's Hackney Empire and some additional material, including a documentary about the tour, entitled Fuck You Scotland, and some sketches from the BBC Three comedy Rush Hour. The DVD was described by WhatDVD.net as "certainly not one to watch with your grandparents – not unless they are pretty open-minded!"
Boyle has also featured in three DVD compilations of material from Mock the Week. The compilations, entitled Too Hot for TV, include material deemed too offensive for broadcast on TV and uncut versions of several full episodes. Boyle's second live DVD, If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV and Strangle You I Would, was released on 15 November 2010.
On 16 July 2009 Boyle's first, and only, podcast was released. Entitled Mock the Week Musings, the podcast is a recording of Boyle testing the material he has written for Mock the Week to a London audience. Boyle comments on his material throughout and often informs the audience that certain jokes are not going into the show due to their reaction (or lack thereof), and the podcast carries an explicit content warning. The recording includes some audience interaction, with Boyle offering to test some of his new "put-downs" on the crowd.
Between 2013 and 2015, Boyle, along with Canadian comedian Glenn Wool hosted a number of editions of a podcast known as Freestyle, which involved Boyle and Wool speaking about topical and controversial news stories, including Madeleine McCann, Bill Cosby, and obscure takes on popular culture. The podcast is available to download on iTunes or on Boyle's promotional website.
In September 2010, Boyle began publishing his comic strip Rex Royd in the launch issue of CLiNT magazine, co-written with comedian Jim Muir and with artwork by Michael Dowling. The story follows a Lex Luthor-style newspaper magnate with a super-villain alter-ego. Initially, the strip ran for first four issues of CLiNT. The strip resumed again in November 2011, until the final issue in August 2013, when publisher Titan announced that CLiNT was ending.
Boyle appeared as himself in the video game Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned (2009), in a stand-up routine at Liberty City's Split Sides Comedy Club. He appeared on Real Radio Wales's weekly comedy show Comedy Nighthorse on 19 October 2011. Boyle writes satire and opinion pieces for the British newspaper The Guardian.
Boyle has regularly been involved in public controversies due to the acerbic nature of his humour. Among these are:
Boyle managed to attract criticism in August 2008 when complaints were received about comments he made regarding British Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington on Mock the Week, saying that she "looks like someone who's looking at themselves in the back of a spoon". The BBC ruled that the jokes were indeed "humiliating" and "risked offending the audience", while also calling Boyle "a brilliant member of the team". Despite this, Adlington's agent said that simply admitting mistakes was not enough, saying: "By giving Frankie Boyle a rebuke they fail to discourage others from doing the same." Adlington later went on to comment on this issue.
In October 2008, during The Russell Brand Show prank telephone calls row, Boyle found himself in the midst of a scandal when the BBC broadcast a Mock the Week repeat in which he made a joke about the Queen. Whilst pretending to be the Queen in the "Scenes We'd Like To See" segment of Mock The Week, Boyle said "I am now so old, my pussy is haunted". This caused many to complain about the state that the BBC had come to, with Conservative MP David Davies calling the joke a "disgracefully foul comment". Boyle was eventually cleared of any misconduct by the BBC Trust, although they called the comment "sexist and ageist".
In a performance on his 2010 tour, Boyle interrupted a "long, seemingly semi-improvised skit" about Down syndrome by challenging a woman in the front row who seemed uncomfortable with the material. The audience member explained that her five-year-old daughter had the condition, and strongly criticised Boyle's portrayal of people with Down syndrome. Mencap spokesman Ismail Kaji said that the comments could be misconstrued and seen as "no different to bullying".
In April 2010, the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee apologised for a joke made by Boyle on Radio 4 panel show Political Animal in which he likened the situation in Palestine to "a cake being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew". Boyle also made another joke where he said that he had "been studying Israeli Army martial arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back". In response, Boyle published a letter in which he criticised the Trust's "cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine" and reprinted the jokes in question. He then criticised the BBC for not broadcasting a humanitarian appeal during the 2008–2009 Gaza War, saying that it was "tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying." Boyle then said that the situation in Palestine "seems to be, in essence, apartheid", concluding that he had reached this position after watching a documentary about life in Palestine that he said had driven him to tears.
In December 2010, both Katie Price (a.k.a. Jordan) and Peter Andre were said to have been left "absolutely disgusted and sickened" by a joke that was made on Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights about Price's heavily disabled son, Harvey. On the show, Boyle said: "Apparently Jordan and Peter Andre are fighting each other over custody of Harvey. Well eventually one of them will lose ... and have to keep him." Then he added: "I have a theory that Jordan married a cage fighter (Alex Reid) because she needed someone strong enough to stop Harvey from fucking her."
Andre's representative also responded to the comments made by Boyle and said "We're all disgusted by these comments. Peter is angry and very upset at Harvey being mocked in this way. Children, especially a disabled youngster, should be off-limits." Both confirmed that they had sought legal action and wrote a complaint to Channel 4 regarding Boyle's jokes with Price saying: "To bully this unbelievably brave child is despicable; to broadcast it is to show a complete and utter lack of judgement. I have asked my lawyers to write to Channel 4." Ofcom confirmed that Price issued a complaint and accordingly launched an investigation into the programme. In April 2011 Ofcom ruled Channel 4 had breached broadcasting rules by transmitting the material in question but did not require the network to broadcast an apology saying that it was an "erroneous decision on a matter of editorial judgment on the broadcaster's part". Price criticised the decision not to require a broadcast apology.
Boyle discussed the material onstage at a charity gig some months later, saying that the joke was intended to highlight how Price exploited her son, and that he felt the two aspects of Price's media profile, "her disabled son and her sexuality", did not belong together. He rejected comments that the joke may have led to playground bullying, saying that "I find it hard to believe there are kids at that school who would like to slag Harvey, but can't think of an angle."
In July 2011, the Daily Mirror published an article strongly criticizing Boyle which alleged he had been forced to quit Mock the Week and described him as a "racist comedian". Boyle, In response, sued the Mirror for libel. In October 2012 a jury found in his favour, ordering the Mirror to pay him £54,650 in damages, all of which he donated to charity.
On 6 March 2013, Boyle caused controversy when he was invited to perform at Russell Brand's BBC Three fundraiser Give It Up for Comic Relief at Wembley Arena. He made a series of jokes about Comic Relief itself, Queen Elizabeth II, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Oscar Pistorius, Pope Benedict XVI and the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal. This was deemed so distasteful that his entire six-minute performance was cut out of the broadcast version of the 3.5-hour show.
Boyle lives in Glasgow with his girlfriend, Shereen Taylor, and has two children: a daughter (born 2004) and a son (born October 2007). He has admitted that his career had caused him to neglect his family. He is a recovering alcoholic, having started drinking at the age of 15 and stopping at 26, and former drug user, who now maintains a life of sobriety (a teetotaler).
He is a follower of Noam Chomsky and says that he has had a great influence on his political beliefs, claiming to be more left-wing than Chomsky. During one of his interviews, he has also claimed to be a follower of Advaita Vedanta.
In July 2013, Boyle supported Shaker Aamer, the last UK resident being held at Guantanamo Bay, by going on a hunger strike.
Boyle is a supporter of the Glasgow-based Celtic Football Club.
Boyle's comedy influences include Billy Connolly, Bill Hicks and Spike Milligan. The fellow Scottish shock comedian Jerry Sadowitz is often cited as an influence on Boyle, although Boyle himself has discounted this.
Boyle is a supporter of Scottish independence. When asked "How do you feel about independence?" Frankie replied with "Yes, I think we should be independent. What have we got to lose? A Tory government? I'm looking forward to the vote just because it will be a novelty for Scottish people to fill in official forms while still in possession of their own belt and shoelaces. And imagine what Scotland's annual Independence Day celebrations will look like; the fucking D-Day Landings."