Charlie Brooker Interview

While TV’s prom queen of 2009 is undoubtedly Cheryl Cole, then who is prom king? Well, you could argue that Charlie Brooker is the unlikely winner of that prestigious crown. Although, that said, it’s unlikely Brooker would even get to the prom, preferring to stay in and spit at the telly, up to his neck in joypads and bits of PC.

So, at the close of a very successful year for the nation’s favourite grouch, I caught up with him in the middle of a nervous breakdown as he dashed around, preparing for tomorrow night’s Screenwipe (BBC Four).

Mr Brooker is getting rather famous… has that changed him? Does fame sit well with him? And really… how does he fancy becoming the next Hugh Grant? Read on to find out.

Mof Gimmers: New Screenwipe.

Charlie Brooker: Yep. Just a one-off. A Christmas Special.

MG: What are you gonna be lookin’ at?

CB: Everything! It’s on on the 22nd December. I’m editing it right now and in a state of panic.

MG: Everytime I speak to you, you’re late for doing something. Anyway, ‘You’ve Been Watching’ has been recommissioned. Are you pleased with that?

CB: It’s alright. Not bad. We’re going to be making some changes… as ever, I’m not sure what. We’re not going to open with a dance number or anything like that.

MG: I think that’d be quite good. Everyone seemed to enjoy a song and dance number.

CB: Those people can go and drown themselves.

MG: You’ve done one before though… you did with the toilet roll when you clearly got your actual arse out.

CB: (Laughs) Yes, it was definitely the actual arse. Y’know that some people thought I’d actually got my arse out… I’m far too prudish.

MG: You’re in a blind panic now and in prior chats, you’ve been a bag of nerves about new projects and stuff… are you getting any better with regards to that?

CB: Yes… and no. I mean, you’ve caught me doing an edit which is just a slow burn of anxiety.

MG: Surely an edit is enjoyable in its own way… watching something take shape…

CB: It’s a bit like being an osteopath. There’s a lot of crunching around and then suddenly something clicks and you think ‘Oh! Thank God!’

MG: It must be weird looking at your own face for ages.

CB: Harrowing. I genuinely jettison half of the close ups. If there’s ever a close-up of my face it’s only ever because there wasn’t another angle.

MG: So in an ideal world it’d just be shots of your screaming jokes from a mile away?

CB: So far away that I’m actually on a different channel… in the background on BBC Three or something.

MG: Everyone has noticed that you’re becoming well famous now…

CB: Really?

MG: Well, you’ve got your own Channel 4 show… the various Wipes… you’ve just beaten two children at the British Comedy Awards…

CB: I’ve beaten two children who aren’t eligible for an award that I was eligible for in the first place (laughs)

MG: That must’ve been a bit weird…

CB: It was. I forgot to tell my parents it was on so I rang them up… because the show goes out on a delay… so when they lead you off to have your photo taken with Joe Calzaghe or whatever he’s called, I thought I’d tell my parents I’d won an award and they can watch it on the telly, and I did, and of course, they didn’t show it. I was stuck on ITV2 or something.

MG: I’d be more concerned about making two children burst into tears while I collected an award.

CB: I think those children are probably far more mature than me.

MG: What about that ‘leaked’ BBC memo list thing? (The papers ran a story which featured Brooker above Michael Palin and Delia Smith which was from the BBC)

CB: The fact that I’m in the top tier of that exposes the list as absolute nonsense. I think it was just the papers trying to drum something up. They found a fucking pointless list that’s probably just one person’s thoughts. I can’t, in any world, imagine… that… people would perform backflips to get Michael Palin to present anything. It’s a list to be taken with a truck-load of salt.

MG: Did you not have a minute moment where you thought “Yes! That’s ace!”

CB: If someone is going to make a pointless list, I’d rather be higher up on it I guess. It’s a bit like finding out you’re number one in the charts in someone’s head. (Laughs)

MG: Oh, but Charlie, you are number one in a lot of people’s heads…

CB: That’s alarming!

MG: Well, I asked the good souls of Twitter if they had any questions for you and most of them were marriage proposals!

CB: Piss off. (Laughs) You can tell them that I laugh at their desperate attempts!

MG: Speaking of the Twitter questions… one thing that a lot of people asked about was Nathan Barley. Anything new happening with that?

CB: Probably not for the next few years. I do keep thinking about it though. I was supposed to meet up with Chris [Morris] but he’s very busy as he’s doing his film. We had a whole idea. It wasn’t going to be set in our fictional borough of Hosegate. It was about Nathan and his brother… Dan was still in it but he was a cab driver… it was almost more trad. Sitcom. We came up with some really funny ideas.

MG: Do you fancy doing more mainstream stuff in that respect? I ask that because it certainly seems that a lot of people are most happy with you when you’re harpooning something.

CB: (Laughs) What? I’m only happy when I’m attacking? That’s horrifying! It’s like being a shark that only moves forward to bite things.

MG: I think people gravitate to you for some bitterness… you’re effectively everyone’s external bile duct…

CB: It’s weird because people often expect me to be more bitter, depressed and angry than I actually am… which makes me bitter and depressed and angry actually.

MG: It’s weird because people often think the same of me… someone said to me when they heard I would be interviewing you, that our combined cynicism could make the universe fold in on itself.

CB: Like the Large Hadron Collider?

MG: Yeah, just drive us around a ring road at high speeds in opposite directions.

CB: Man. That’s quite an idea. But you’re clearly not a bitter person. I dunno, maybe it’s because we get these things out? Maybe I’m not as angry and bitter because I’ve managed to purge a lot of it?

MG: Do you purge it… or do you take a bit of a character on?

CB: A little of both I guess. It’s probably somewhere between the two. I mean, for the end of year Screenwipe it’s a lot more knock-about. It’s largely cartoon scowling. That said, I can’t say too much about it because we’re still editing it! Jesus. I’ve got to do Newswipe and that’s going to be almost impossible!

MG: When are you doing that?

CB: January. I’m dreading it. In fact, I’m not dreading it… that’s not right… I’m dreading the amount of hard work I’ll have to do. I pretty much have to be locked in a darkened room and forced to write.

MG: Is there going to be anymore Gameswipe?

CB: Hmmm. Good question. Possibly… I don’t know… I don’t know that I’d do a series, but I might do bits of a programme or help oversee a programme… but I don’t know is the answer to that.

MG: Dara O’Briain’s bit was great in that!

CB: Weirdly, a lot of people thought quite the opposite. They were all like [Adopts George from Rainbow voice]: ‘You shouldn’t be playing games if you think that…’…it was very true what he was saying. I mean, everytime you encounter a boss, it reminds me of when you’ve nearly finished the washing up and someone brings in a load more plates covered in runny egg.

MG: I’d love to see a show hosted by you, Gia Milinovich and Dara covering gaming… but anyway… another Twitter question. I’m going to give you one of those wacky questions because I bet no-one ever asks you them. From @NeverEnoughShoe, she asks: “Out of Lady GaGa and Paris Hilton, who would you use as a human shield and who would you eat in a time of crisis?”

CB: [flustered] I don’t know anything about Lady GaGa. This is when I start sounding like a High Court Judge who doesn’t know who anyone is!

MG: I’m going to start calling you Charlie Pickles or something…

CB: Exactly. Which is the thinnest?

MG: I’d say Paris Hilton is probably the thinnest.

CB: In that case, I’d use Lady GaGa as a human shield. I mean, Paris Hilton… the bullets would pass through her like a sheet of A4 paper.

MG: So what do you think Paris Hilton would taste like?

CB: Taste like?!

MG: Yeah, you have to use one as a shield and the other you have to eat.

CB: Of course! I hadn’t thought of that.

MG: So what she taste like then?

CB: Sinewy… and sinewy and sweet.

MG: Like a Pepparami dipped in custard?

CB: And honey.

MG: Anyway, once you’ve got this tortuous edit done, what’s next for Charlie Brooker?

CB: Well, I’ve got a holiday… then You’ve Have Been Watching… Newswipe… I’m not sure what order things go in but I’ve got a lot of things jostling for position. I’ve got shit-loads. I had a meeting the other day and because I’m in demand at the moment (for some reason), I’ve been offered more things than I can comfortably do. For the first time I’ve had to say ‘no’ to things. We were saying things like ‘Well, we can’t do that until 2011…’.

MG: Jesus.

CB: I’ll probably be dead by then. I mean, when someone approaches you and says that they’d like you to think of something for their channel, I don’t saying [mews] “No.” It’s got to the point where you’re deciding on what not to do and then you start worrying that you’ve turned down the best one… it’s rubbish, even when you’re doing well.

MG: What about films?

CB: I wouldn’t say no to it, put it that way. I’ve spoken to some people about a few ideas.

MG: No. I meant as a lead actor in a romantic comedy. You could be the next Hugh Grant.

CB: I’d be appalling. I’d rather see a film in which Sandra Bullock has sex with a pig.

MG: Babe 4: Pig In a Bullock.

CB: (Laughs) There you go! That writes itself!

MG: Are you doing anything that we don’t already know about? Perhaps give us all a little teaser of some project or something?

CB: Ummm… err… yes. We’re hoping to do something that’s an evolution of Screenwipe. And maybe a big, sort of documentary thing… and maybe a completely new scripted thing. How vague is that?

MG: Very.


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