That Charlie Brooker, eh? Miserable, lovable, roly poly man. Like the spirit of Oscar the Grouch has been crammed behind a face that resembling a cross between a disapproving, overfed kestrel and the inside of a pork pie. Oh, I’m so world-weary. Oh, I’m so furious at everything.
But wait – if the camera holds on one of my rants for just long enough, if the camera keeps rolling when I’m irate and yelling in the face of one of my extras hard enough that the phlegm from the back of my throat flies out and gloms onto his part-time model face until he looks like he was attacked by Slimer from Ghostbusters you’ll see me crack a smile, you’ll hear me laugh, and you’ll be let in on the gag. “Hey guys,” I seem to say. “I might be angry and erudite, and I might be able to render the English language supple enough to sculpt it into scathing, rage-figurines with which to enact televisual tabletop wars for your entertainment, but at heart I’m just one of you guys. When the camera stops rolling, I’m just one of you.”
I don’t always take myself seriously. I’m aware of how patently absurd I can be, and I have a streak of self-deprecation that appeals to you, because you have it, too, deep down inside, nestled by your colon and your appreciation for the albums of Wendy-slash-Walter Carlos. You know how stupid it is to get angry when some idiot fails to open a shop door for an OAP, or when the fools on the bus can’t shut their chuffing mouths without some bleating, cod-political lack of insight emerging like a chittering alien insect to crow and carouse and crawl inside your ear. You know the madness of it all, yet you can’t help feeling sad and embittered about it, so you try to laugh it off – hahahaha, just like that – because it’s better to pretend there’s something wrong with you than with the world you live in. You feel you know what I’m like because you recognise so much of me and my diatribes inside yourself, and that’s what keeps you coming back to my shows, so that we might glare, laugh and despair together. Like me. Love me. Love my ridiculous, horrendous face.
Actually, I don’t have a problem with Charlie Brooker or his face. I quite like the chap. I watch his shows and I read his columns, but as I watched the latest episode of How TV Ruined Your Life on the iPlayer this evening it struck me that Charlie Brooker, the Sad Sack from Raggy Dolls for the iPad generation, is actually the most likable person on television. While I watched him rain upon the shit parade we call ‘love’ from a location shoot out on Dartmoor I actually found myself thinking “I bet hanging out on the top of Sheep’s Tor with Charlie Brooker would be more fun than just about anything in the universe.” I actually found myself thinking of him as my friendly television chum. And this worries me.
Sure, he likes video games, Big Brother and The Wire. He yells at the TV when the Shithawk Show is on, and he does it from a bachelor pad set that eschews modern art and minimalist designs in favour of game consoles and an atmosphere of comfortable slovenliness. He comes up with the most entertaining, most elaborate insults, and displays just enough self-pity to come across as endearing rather than the drag the majority of us self-pitying misanthropes are. The man has talent, taste and a great sense of humour, yet he’s decent enough not to look like a supermodel, or to rub our faces in it. He’s one of us! you might be fooled into thinking. He even has a Twitter account. I can tweet him and he’ll invite me over to his telly flat to hang out with his telly mates, and we can all play Xbox party games together and be snotty about the plebs who laugh at the unfortunately poor singers on the X-Factor auditions.
Charlie Brooker is not your friend. You don’t get to go around to his and Konnie Huq’s place for Marmitey toast fingers and Pot Noodle. You don’t get to pal about with him and David Mitchell when The Ten o’ Clock Show finishes recording and they’ve scraped off Jimmy Carr and called Lauren Laverne a cab (she’s clearly wandered into the wrong studio, but that’s by the by). He’s just a guy on TV who shares some of your interests and resembles the kind of person you wish you were witty enough to be, and at the end of the day he goes home to a former Blue Peter presenter and makes fun of everyone who use the phrase ‘at the end of the day’.
He can do no wrong. When people talk about The Ten o’ Clock Show they make it clear that, though most of the programme is foetid cank that in no way lives up to the legacy of other topical political magazine comedy shows such as The Friday Night Armistice, they still enjoyed Charlie Brooker’s ranty bits. When he revealed his groovy new hipster hair a year or so ago we all had a good giggle about it, then settled down and shut up about it because underneath that Curly from Dennis the Menace shock-top was still the quick-witted, perpetually ill-at-ease Charlie Brooker brain we all know and love. Sometime I want to pick up my TV when he’s on to shake it and scream: “HOW? HOW CAN YOU BE THIS PERFECT?”
I find have to invent reasons to be mad at him. I mean, I found the picture accompanying this article on a blog belonging to a woman called Gia. This is the kind of swanky beaujolet-swiller Brooker is, I tell myself. He has friends with names like ‘Gia’, and probably ‘Tarquin’ and ‘Alessandro’. Ooh, I’m literally combusting with rage as I type this. My keyboard’s becoming tacky beneath my flaming fingers. Pretty soon it’ll be nothing but a puddle of half-melted plastic with a few sad letters still desperately clinging on, as if there’s some hope the keyboard still works and that I can still type upon it.
Ooh, the anger.
Even when our politics come into conflict he comes off as the better man. He’s not as ready to plumb the depths of misanthropy and human villainy as I am. He can call the cast of the latest Ikea commercial a crowd of cunts in the cleverest of ways, but cancer? That’s a taboo. As it should be, of course. How dare anyone express any measure of satisfaction when a loathsome human being dies, particularly when this perceived loathsomeness actually equates to a niggling annoyance, a vapid stupidity, a series of broken promises to charities, or rampant televised bullying and racism? As repugnant as those non-qualities might be when added together, it hardly makes cancer a suitable punishment, does it? Not even after those other much-publicised cancer scares used to wring cash from a gullible, idiotic audience and malign both the disease and the people suffering from it. I mean, the cast of Two Pints of Lager and Packet of Crisps can shit off and die, and I wish the trumped-up tantrumming tots of My Sweet Sixteen would literally drown beneath the doting attentions of their parents – perhaps in the swimming pool they bought monstrous little Alexis for her sixteenth birthday, the ungrateful proto-WAG.
But there’s a line between disgusted-but-tasteful ribbing and sheer mean-spirited fuck-uppery and I, Charlie Brooker, am on the right side of it, while you, you twat-off blog writer, are not. You’d make me sick, if I could be bothered to expel stomach acid and half-digested Vesta curry in your direction. You’ll never be my friend, Campfire Burning – which isn’t even your real name. I hate you more than I hate the kid from the Kellogg’s Frosties ‘They’re Gonna Taste Great’ advert, and he was really, really, really annoying.
It’s funny how Brooker can front a show called How TV Ruined Your Life seemingly oblivious that he’s an unrealistic aspirational figure for us furious and misanthropic gamer idiots, who’ll never be nice enough, clever enough, witty enough or self-aware enough to marry Konnie Huq. But then, it’s possible that the Charlie Brooker living with Mrs. Huq isn’t anywhere near as charming as the Charlie Brooker who endures Jimmy Carr on a weekly basis. With his TV persona so tightly scripted and edited down to mere highlights, we don’t have a clue what he’s like in his real life. Maybe he fucks newborn kittens until their eyeballs strain at their still-closed lids. Maybe he can only be sexually satisfied if his wife dresses in a Tellytubby costume and begs for tubby custard. Maybe he votes Tory. I’m not saying he does any of these things, but if he did there’d be no way for us to know.
And so we’re left with the perfect Charlie etched in our skulls. The saggy old grumpy guts, who’ll drop a puerile word like ‘bum’ into his spiel, and when he does we titter and our hearts lift, and like absolute chumps we believe he’s one of us. The aspirational crosspatch, like a Martine McCutcheon for men who loathe everything.
That Charlie Brooker, eh? I hate his bloomin’ guts.
Under advisement I’m adding this addendum, partly in the hope it’ll assuage the fears of people searching for ‘pics of Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq fucking’ (yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Disappointed Repeat Visitor) and partly because I’m sick of having to explain myself over and over, as if I was Adam Sandler in Fifty First Dates and the full might of Mr. Brooker’s fanbase was Drew Barrymore. Because let’s face it, we might think we can fool the audience but we can’t fool ourselves: this is no The Wedding Singer, none of us are enjoying the time we spend in one another’s company, and we all wish it would just end, full stop, finito, au revoir–no, not au revoir, au NE-voir.
The preceding post is not an embittered stab at TV’s favourite curmudgeon. If anything it’s quite the opposite, something I thought was quite evident, about which I appear to have been quite wrong. So if you think I’m attacking a modern day comedy hero, for the love of God, please reconsider.
If my post upset you, I’m sorry. Really I am. Nobody wants to be upset, especially not when searching for the downright disturbing stuff some of you Brookerati are searching for. Earlier this morning I read a post about an orangutan who’d been shaved and whored out to an entire village-worth of perverts. That’s the kind of upsetting news you just can’t let go of, the kind so ridiculous, like a dagger-toothed clown it haunts you after dark. I’ll spend this day in abject fear of the ooking nightmares that await me after I go to bed tonight. That I’m trying to make light of it doesn’t change that it’s a horrible mess that’s disgusted me to my core, and one I fervently wish I hadn’t read about.
And you, frowning Brooker fan, you didn’t want me to upset you with what you took to be an ill-written attack on your idol. I didn’t want to upset you either, so I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.
Are we cool, now?
Stylistically, this post was a far cry from my usual ramblings, deliberately overblown and awkward, a poor impersonation of Brooker’s own writing. Apparently the parody wasn’t close enough–again, something for which I apologise–but neither is it indicative of my own writing, which runs the gamut from–well, you’d know the gamut it ran if you read some of my other stuff, which I’m not saying you should, but a good chunk of it is on this site if you want to reconsider your stance the same way I’m reconsidering mine.
Which isn’t to say I disagree with the things I originally said. Behind the silliness, the satire, the faux-irritation and the affected anger, I think it makes some good points about the closeness we feel toward our heroes, and the inadequacy we experience when failing to take into account that all we’re seeing is a carefully cultivated public persona. It’s something Brooker’s shows have dealt with on a number of occasions, so it’s interesting to me that someone famous for skewering TV’s artifice has himself become victim of it. That so many people feel the need to stand up for someone they don’t know and who they’ve never met is evidence of that.
But I fell down at the article’s execution. If I didn’t get these themes across, I didn’t do a good enough job writing it. I’m guilty, if you like, and I’m sorry.
Rather than rewrite, this addendum should address any issues you have with the article. It might not make you feel any more sympathetic, but you can feel a certain snooty satisfaction in my admitting responsibility for miscommunicating the matter at hand.
There. We cool, yeah? We cool.