Never one to mince his words, Charlie Brooker returns to the BBC with a new instalment of satirical show Weekly Wipe. Kate Samuelson finds out what to expect from series three – and why nothing should be off-limits in comedy.
HE’S THE sharp-tongued satirist who has made a living out of lampooning everything from Benefits Street to Katie Hopkins, but Charlie Brooker’s viewing habits might surprise his fans.
“The thing I’ve watched most on TV recently is kids’ cartoon Adventure Time,” says the father-of-two, who also admits to enjoying The Apprentice and wholesome hit The Great British Bake Off with his wife, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq.
He also tunes in to current affairs shows like Newsnight, Sky News and even This Morning, for his BBC Two show Weekly Wipe, which takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the week’s news, film, TV and tweets.
But after recording an episode of the scathingly satirical show, he admits ’I can’t watch anything for a bit’.
Brooker is back with a third series this month, joined by the usual cast of comedic characters, including the much-loved Barry Shitpeas (played by Al Campbell) and Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan).
Contributors Doug Stanhope and Limmy (Brian Limond) won’t be making an appearance this time (“not through want of trying but because we couldn’t get them”) but a few newcomers will be joining the cast, and “more women”.
And that’s not the only thing that will be different in this six-part series.
“There’s been a change in the parody law recently allowing the parody of copyright works, which slightly frees us up to do a few more things,” says Brooker, 43.
“So this series will be more of the same, but different. In that we’re doing more of the same, but it’s different,” he clarifies, dryly.
Writer and presenter Huq, who wed Brooker in Las Vegas in 2010, also contributes her own ideas (albeit unofficially) to the Weekly Wipe programmes.
“I’ll be watching footage at home, and she’ll chip in with thoughts and observations – they often end up in episodes,” her husband notes.
It’s hard to imagine the longest-serving female Blue Peter presenter having a part in such dark and sinister shows, but Brooker – who has two sons with Huq; two-year-old Covey and Huxley, 11 months – reveals: “I think she’s got a darker sense of humour than people probably realise, and weirder.”
It’s been a month since the presenter last graced our screens, with his 2014 Wipe looking back on the “huge, grim events” of the year, and the highly-anticipated Christmas special of Black Mirror – the series Brooker created, which was described by Channel 4 as “the most mind-bending episode yet”.
The 90-minute episode of tense dystopian satire was a far cry from what most people would normally expect of a festive special. “I suppose it threw people, because it was kind of a horror movie, and it wasn’t necessarily flagged as one. I think a lot of people were like, ’Oh my God, how horrible!”’ says Brooker.
The writer and broadcaster was able to enlist the help of a famous fan, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, for the special.
Brooker had written a part for a British “cheeky chappy” figure, but after learning of the American actor’s admiration for the series, he emailed Hamm the script, explaining he was thinking of changing the part.
“He got back to me pretty quickly,” says Brooker. “I was amazed and delighted. He’s brilliant in the role, and it’s much more interesting with him than the original notion.”
Reading-born Brooker started out as a writer and cartoonist for a comic called Oink! in the late Eighties, and went on to work for The Guardian as a TV critic. In 2006, he began presenting TV review programme Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe on BBC Four.
He was shocked when he saw the recent terror attacks on the news, against the offices of satirical Paris comic Charlie Hebdo.
“It took a while to sink in. I was initially like ’Jesus Christ’, and then the more I watched and thought about it, I kept thinking, ’This is crazy’,” he admits.
As “a former cartoonist called Charlie”, Brooker adds: “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a spike of fear that people have been murdered for creating comedy.”
He says he has noted an increasing anxiety in recent times, about what can and can’t be said in comedy.
“In Britain, people are suggesting that Katie Hopkins should be arrested for tweeting jokes. They were shit jokes, and terrible statements, but they weren’t really hate crimes. I don’t think any subject should be out of bounds for comedy generally.”
Although, he adds: “I think everyone’s got a responsibly to not fan the flames any further.”
Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe is currently showing on BBC Two
EXTRA TIME — FUNNIEST ’WIPE’ CHARACTERS
A recurring Weekly Wipe favourite, played by Diane Morgan, Philomena’s perspective on the week’s news and entertainment (“I wasn’t sure I’d understand it, because I haven’t seen One Years A Slave or Two Years A Slave”) is consistently hilarious.
Comedian Yapp’s ’Take Me Out In 94 Seconds’, in which he impersonates Paddy McGuinness, plus a male and a female contestant, is a pretty accurate summary of the ITV dating show.
Limmy (Brian Limond), a regular on the second series, who speaks to viewers through YouTube-type videos, was head-hunted by Brooker, who enjoyed the Glaswegian’s surreal TV series, Limmy’s Show.
Played by Al Campbell, the director of Brooker’s Screenwipe, the dim Barry’s insightful TV reviews are always a highlight.
Performance-poet Key’s ’topical poetry’ reflects on a variety of hard-hitting, important issues... including Deal Or No Deal and the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross controversy.
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