048 – The Curmudgeon

Nam Rood, delivering hints and cheats on the latest episode of Bad Influence.

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.

EDIT:

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.

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16 Responses to 048 – The Curmudgeon

  1. deKay says:

    I never knew he was Nam Rood. Mind. Blown.

    I knew he used to do the conic strips in the CEX adverts in Sega Power though 🙂

  2. He wasn’t. But he kind of looked like him in that picture.

    See?

  3. Gingineer says:

    brilliant piece there! the misses and i felt slightly unease with him after his last show, as he has married a TV hotty of a number of peoples dreams. So telling everyone their aspirations in love is unrealistic is a bit rich coming from him.

  4. So basically you hate Charlie Brooker because you’re not as witty and clever as he is?

    • Obviously I don’t hate Charlie Brooker. That would be silly. But his curmudgeonly image cultivated over the years through his columns and television appearances is exactly that: an image. I’m sure he’d be the first person to admit he’s as flawed and self-deprecating as the rest of us – as well as being constantly aware of his audience’s perception of him. Deconstructing media manipulation and audience perception is practically his stock in trade. I find this particularly interesting. I expect he does, too.

    • I Like Cheese says:

      That’d be my line, yes. Grumpy Tiswas-loving, visceral anecdote throwing, monstrously successful git that he is.

  5. Joe J. Bloggs says:

    well done and thank you

  6. Nyabel says:

    I somehow ended up here and I must say you’re not half as eloquent as you seem to think you are. The part about your keyboard and combusting with rage and alessandro and whatever were especially sad. It doesn’t work.
    Although I suppose you’ve already realised this, and I know you’re trying to be funny with the blog, it makes you seem like a sad faggot. The Konnie Huq stuff especially; Seriously, mister, she’s a normal person. She’s by far one of the normallest so called “hot presenters” (or whatever) that I’ve seen.
    If you want to see Charlie Brooker as a git because he “achieved” Konnie Huq, don’t bother. You know there’s far worse options if you truly wanted to hate him over marrying someone who’s pretty or retarded. In fact, Konnie Huq marrying Charlie Brooker and vice versa should say enough about her personality to you as well, yet you talk of her like some sort of trophy wife-thing that Brooker should be hated over.
    He’s scripted, deal with it. Does it mean he’s funnier than the average person whose company you enjoy and find funny? Not necessarily. Does it mean he’s a better writer? Most probably.

    You must be Sherlock Holmes for realising people on telly have written the stuff they say before they say it. Treat yourself.

    • So good of you to comment, and in the process not only miss the entire point of the article but out yourself as a massive homophobe. Mr. Brooker would be ashamed to have you as a fan. Good day!

      • I'm still here and I still like cheese. says:

        I don’t know who to automatically hate and project all my insecurities onto. So I’m going to microwave a cat instead. Thankyou.

      • Nyabel says:

        Homophobe? Oh you’re talking about “faggot” are you? Please don’t tell me you’re being serious. I’ve never used the word faggot to describe a gay person. For self-absorbed pretentious dickwads? Yes. Those I have used it on. Get with the times, bro.
        And if I indeed did miss the “entire point of the article” and you’re being ironic; stop wasting your breath. The false, forced eloquence doesn’t work either way, and your writing isn’t flowing. Not to mention this entry is far too long considering how boring and badly structured it is as well.

      • Well, I wish you’d offered your writing critique sooner! Sadly it comes a little late in the day, seeing as since writing this piece Charlie Brooker’s old boss from his days at PC Zone has commissioned me to write for his latest magazine. I expect if you’d happened along earlier and I’d taken your criticisms on board I’d be writing for Hollywood by now, or propping up the New York Times bestseller list.

        Ah well, c’est la vie. In the future I’ll be sure to listen to people with such charming e-mail addresses over those who’ll actually pay me for my work.

      • C-dub says:

        I agree with Nyabel. You clearly feel you are very articulate…You are not. This article reads awful. Whist Brooker balances cynicism and wit like the perfect house of cards, your style is more one child on a see-saw.

      • Let me guess: you’re another fan, searching for information on your hero, now leaping to his defence in the face of what you take to be a slight against the big man?

        Okay, let’s set the record straight once and for all, because frankly I’m tired of people coming here, saying things like ‘this article reads awful’ yet still calling me out for my command of the English language unaware of their own irony.

        This piece is a parody. It’s intended to be overblown and awkward. Compare and contrast this with any of the other 365 articles written on this blog; you’ll find stylistically it bears little in common with them. The sentences run on for too long–they’re the breathless ranting of a man at the end of his tether–aping those end-of-Screenwipe breakdowns where Charlie Brooker’s characteristic venom doesn’t quite carry him far enough and he breaks down in a fit of the giggles.

        I do realise the things you–and probably those who’ll come later, wasting time Googling for whatever minutiae of Charlie Brooker’s life you feel you might have missed–say are said out of a misplaced loyalty. Like yapping bichon frises you leap to his defense, perhaps wondering if it’ll earn you bonus points should you ever run into him at Waitrose. “There was this idiot slagging you off on the Internet,” you’ll say, adorable in your buoyancy. “It’s okay though; I told him he sucked. He’ll think twice before he’s mean you again.”

        I get it, I understand. Hell, I’ve written posts about it before. I had one guy cast me out simply for using a picture of the Book of Mormon in a post about being offensive–I didn’t mention it in the text; it was simply a reference to the recent Book of Mormon musical, which was stirring controversy at the time. He couldn’t see that, wouldn’t accept it when I explained it to him, and cast me out like the devil. It was his religion, you see–and this is your religion. You feel slighted. Who wouldn’t?

        But I like Charlie Brooker. This isn’t a post about how much he sucks. I’m sorry if that’s how it comes across, but it isn’t. I respect the man. I respect that he spent so much of yesterday on a futile crusade against the advertising campaign for next game in the Hitman series. Futile, yes, but it was a matter close to his heart, and one he felt about strongly enough to isolate so many of the thousands of people following him on Twitter, who have no interest in video games, who couldn’t tell Hitman from Michaela Strachen.

        If anything, my only crimes against articulation are that I failed to get my points across to some of the–forgive me–dunderheads trawling data from the Internet a year after I wrote the piece. I hadn’t accounted for its enduring infamy. I assumed I was writing for a small audience–if-any–who uniformly enjoyed it on the time but have since forgotten all about it and moved on with their lives.

        I suppose I should thank you for pointing out that an article thoroughly intended to veer wildly all over the shop is, in fact, the written equivalent of Maureen from Driving School, but if I did I’m sure I’d have Maureen’s fans here a year from now, criticising my inability to merge with literary traffic.

        Anyway, I really am fed up with trying to explain myself to people I assume are unwilling to listen. You’re right: I should have got the nature of this article over more bluntly in the first place, perhaps with a disclaimer, perhaps by being a better writer.

        Now, can’t we all go home?

  7. thoreau says:

    I need a poo

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