Brooker at the 2011 Royal Television Society Awards
3 March 1971
Reading, Berkshire, England, UK
|Occupation||Humorist, satirist, critic, journalist, author, screenwriter, producer, presenter.|
|Spouse(s)||Konnie Huq (m. 2010)|
In addition to writing for programmes such as Black Mirror, Brass Eye, The 11 O'Clock Show and Nathan Barley, Brooker has presented a number of television shows, including Screenwipe, Gameswipe, Newswipe, Weekly Wipe, and 10 O'Clock Live. He also wrote a five-part horror drama Dead Set, which was nominated for the 2009 Best Drama Serial BAFTA. He has written comment pieces for The Guardian and is one of four creative directors of the production company Zeppotron.
Brooker's style of humour is acerbic, profane, and often controversial with surreal elements and a consistent satirical pessimism. He won the 2009 Columnist of the Year award at the British Press Awards, the 2010 Best Entertainment Programme Award for Newswipe from the Royal Television Society, and has received three British Comedy Awards: Best Newcomer in 2009, Best Comedy Entertainment Show Award for Newswipe in 2011, and Best Comedy Entertainment Personality in 2012.
Brooker was born in Reading, Berkshire, and grew up in the village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Oxfordshire. He was raised in a relaxed Quaker household. He first worked as a writer and cartoonist for Oink!, a comic produced in the late 1980s. After attending Wallingford School, he attended the Polytechnic of Central London (which became the University of Westminster during his time there), studying for a BA in Media Studies. He claims that he did not graduate because his dissertation was written on video games, which was not an acceptable topic.
Brooker wrote for PC Zone magazine in the mid-1990s. Aside from games reviews, his output included the comic strip "Cybertwats" and a column titled "Sick Notes", where Brooker would insult anyone who wrote in to the magazine and offered a £50 prize to the "best" letter.
In February 1998, one of Brooker's one-shot cartoons caused the magazine to be pulled from the shelves of many British newsagents. The cartoon was titled "Helmut Werstler's Cruelty Zoo" and professed to be an advert for a theme park created by a Teutonic psychologist for children to take out their violent impulses on animals rather than humans. It was accompanied by photoshopped pictures of children smashing the skulls of monkeys with hammers, jumping on a badger with a pitchfork, and chainsawing an orang-utan, among other things. The original joke was supposed to be at the expense of the Tomb Raider games, known at the time for the number of animals killed, but the original title, "Lara Croft's Cruelty Zoo", was changed for legal reasons. In October 2008, Brooker and several other ex-writers were invited back to review a game for the 200th issue. Brooker reviewed Euro Truck Simulator.
Brooker began writing a TV review column titled "Screen Burn" for The Guardian newspaper's Saturday entertainment supplement The Guide in 2000, a role he continued through to October 2010.
From late 2005, he wrote a regular series of columns in The Guardian supplement "G2" on Fridays called "Supposing", in which he free-associated on a set of vague what-if themes. From October 2006 this column was expanded into a full-page section on Mondays, including samples from TVGoHome and Ignopedia, an occasional series of pseudo-articles on topics mostly suggested by readers. The key theme behind Ignopedia was that, while Wikipedia is written and edited by thousands of users, Ignopedia would be written by a single sub-par person with little or no awareness of the facts.
|“||John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Jr. – where are you now that we need you?||”|
The Guardian withdrew the article from its website and published and endorsed an apology by Brooker. He has since commented about the remark in the column stating:
|“||I ended a Screen Burn column by recycling a very old tasteless joke (a variant of a graffiti I first saw during the Thatcher years), and within minutes half the internet seemed convinced The Guardian was officially calling for assassination. My inbox overflowed with blood-curdling death threats, and it was all very unfunny indeed – a bit like recounting a rude joke at a dinner party, only to be told you hadn't recounted a joke at all, but molested the host's children, and suddenly everyone was punching you and you weren't going to get any pudding. I've had better weekends.||”|
Brooker left the "Screen Burn" column in 2010. In the final column, he noted how increasingly difficult he found it to reconcile his role in mainstream media and TV production with his writing as a scabrous critic or to objectively criticise those he increasingly worked and socialised with. Longtime covering contributor Grace Dent took over the column. He continued to contribute other articles to The Guardian on a regular basis, his most recent comment column appearing in May 2015.
From 1999 to 2003 he wrote the satirical TVGoHome website, a regular series of mock TV schedules published in a format similar to that of the Radio Times, consisting of a combination of savage satire and surreal humour and featured in technology newsletter Need To Know. A print adaptation of the site was published by Fourth Estate in 2001. A TV sketch show based on the site was broadcast on UK digital station E4 the same year.
In 2000, Brooker was one of the writers of the Channel 4 show The 11 O'Clock Show and a co-host (with Gia Milinovich) on BBC Knowledge's The Kit, a low-budget programme dedicated to gadgets and technology (1999–2000). In 2001, he was one of several writers on Channel 4's Brass Eye special on the subject of paedophilia.
In 2003, Brooker wrote an episode entitled "How to Watch Television" for Channel 4's The Art Show. The episode was presented in the style of a public information film and was partly animated.
Together with Brass Eye's Chris Morris, Brooker co-wrote the sitcom Nathan Barley, based on a character from one of TVGoHome's fictional programmes. The show was broadcast in 2005 and focused on the lives of a group of London media 'trendies'. The same year, he was also on the writing team of the Channel 4 sketch show Spoons, produced by Zeppotron.
In 2006, Brooker began writing and presenting the television series Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe on BBC Four, a TV review programme in a similar style to his Screen Burn columns in The Guardian. After an initial pilot series of three editions in April, the programme returned later in the year for a second run of four episodes plus Christmas and Review of the Year specials in December 2006. A third series followed in February 2007 with a fourth broadcast in September 2007, followed by a Review of the Year in December 2007. The fifth series started in November 2008 and was followed by another Review of the Year special. This series was also the first to be given a primetime repeat on terrestrial television (BBC Two), in January 2009.
Screenwipe's format mostly consists of two elements. The first is the playing of clips from other television shows – both mainstream and obscure – interspersed with shots of Brooker, sitting in his living room, delivering witty critiques on them. The second is where Brooker explains, again with a slice of barbed humour, the way in which a particular area of the television industry operates. Also occasionally featured are animations by David Firth and guest contributions, which have included the poetry of Tim Key, and segments in which a guest explains their fascination with a certain television programme or genre.
Brooker has regularly experimented with Screenwipe, with some editions focusing on a specific theme. These themes have included American television, TV news, advertising and children's programmes. The last of these involved a segment where Brooker joined the cast of Toonattik for one week, playing the character of "Angry News Guy". Probably the most radical departure from the norm came with an episode focused on scriptwriting, which saw several of British television's most prominent writers interviewed by Brooker.
As per the development of his career with The Guardian, a similar show called Newswipe, focusing on current affairs reportage by the international news media, began on BBC Four on 25 March 2009. A second series began on 19 January 2010. He has also written and presented the one-off special Gameswipe which focused on video games and aired on BBC Four on 29 September 2009.
Brooker's 2010 Wipe, a review of 2010, was broadcast in December 2010. The end-of-year Wipe specials have continued every year since then, the last one to date broadcast on 30 December 2015.
A documentary series How TV Ruined Your Life was broadcast on BBC Two in 2011.
Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe was first broadcast on BBC Two on 31 January 2013. It is an amalgam of Screenwipe and Newswipe, with sections focussing on recent news, television shows and films. Along with the regular cast, it also features guests who discuss recent events. Two more series followed in 2014 and 2015. A 60-minute special, Election Wipe, aired on 6 May 2015, focused on the events running up to the 2015 general election.
He often signs off his programmes with a characteristic "Thank you for watching. Now go away."
Brooker wrote Dead Set, a five-part zombie horror thriller for E4 set in the Big Brother house. The show was broadcast in October 2008 to coincide with Halloween and was repeated on Channel 4 in January 2009 to coincide with Celebrity Big Brother, and again for Halloween later that year. It was produced by Zeppotron, which also produced Screenwipe.
Brooker told MediaGuardian.co.uk it comprised a "mixture of known and less well known faces" and "Dead Set is very different to anything I've done before, and I hope the end result will surprise, entertain and appall people in equal measure." He added that he has long been a fan of horror films and that his new series "could not be described as a comedy". "I couldn't really describe what it is but it will probably surprise people," Brooker said, adding that he plans to "continue as normal" with his print journalism.
In December 2011, three episodes of Brooker's Black Mirror, a science fiction anthology series, aired on Channel 4 to largely positive reviews. As well as creating the show, Brooker wrote the first episode and co-wrote the second with his wife Konnie Huq. He also wrote all three episodes of series two. In September 2015, Netflix commissioned a third season of 12 episodes, with Channel 4 losing the rights to the programme A trailer for the third season was released in October 2016. This was later split into two series of six episodes. The third season was released on Netflix worldwide on 21 October 2016. Brooker has solely written four of the episodes in series three, and has co-written the remaining two.
The series is produced by Zeppotron for Endemol. Regarding the programme's content and structure, Brooker noted, "each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they're all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy."
An Endemol press release describes the series as "a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected which taps into our contemporary unease about our modern world", with the stories having a "techno-paranoia" feel. Channel 4 describes the first episode as "a twisted parable for the Twitter age".
Brooker explained the series' title to The Guardian, noting: "If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The "black mirror" of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone."
Several news reports, including one by Chris Cillizza, political reporter for The Washington Post, compared the 2016 Donald Trump political campaign to The Waldo Moment, a 2013 episode of the Black Mirror TV series; later, in September 2016, episode writer Charlie Brooker also compared the Trump campaign to the episode and predicted Trump would win the 2016 election.
Brooker has appeared on three episodes and one webisode of the popular BBC current affairs news quiz Have I Got News for You. He appeared on an episode of the Channel 4 panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2009, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Would I Lie To You?. In December 2006 he reviewed two games written by the presenters of VideoGaiden, on their show. He also made a brief appearance in the third and final instalment of the documentary series Games Britannia, discussing the rise and popularity of computer games.
On 6 May 2010, Brooker was a co-host of the Channel 4 alternative election night, along with David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne. The telethon was interspersed with contributions from Brooker, some live in the studio but mostly pre-recorded. Notably, these included an "Election Special" of You Have Been Watching and two smaller segments in an almost identical style to Screenwipe (the only noticeable difference being that Brooker was sitting in a different room). Brooker described the experience of live television as being so nerve-wracking he "did a piss" during the broadcast. A spin-off series, 10 O'Clock Live, started in January 2011 with the same four hosts.
Brooker hosted How TV Ruined Your Life, the first episode of which was broadcast in January 2011.
Beginning on 11 May 2010, Brooker presented a 5-part BBC Radio 4 series celebrating failure titled So Wrong It's Right, in which guests compete to pitch the worst possible ideas for new franchises and give the 'most wrong' answer to a question. Also featured are guests' recollections about their own personal life failures and their complaints about life in general in a round called 'This Putrid Modern Hell'. Guests have included David Mitchell, Lee Mack, Josie Long, Frank Skinner, Helen Zaltzman, Holly Walsh, Graham Linehan and Richard Herring. The second series started to be broadcast on 10 March 2011. A third series was broadcast in May 2012. In common with Screenwipe's use of a Grandaddy track (A.M. 180) from the album Under The Western Freeway as its theme tune, So Wrong It's Right uses another track from the same album, Summer Here Kids.
Brooker became engaged to former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq after dating for nine months, having met while filming an episode of Screenwipe. They married on 26 July 2010 at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Huq gave birth to their first child, Covey, in 2012. Their second son, Huxley, was born in 2014.
Brooker won Columnist of the Year at the 2009 British Press Awards for his Guardian column, with the judges describing Brooker as "edgy, entertaining and wonderfully surreal, he has the explosive writing skills that can turn your thinking upside down. A definite destination read and a jewel of a column. Acerbic, nasty, spiteful, yet clearly in love with every subject he writes about at the same time. Must read stuff".
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