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Charlton "Charlie" Brooker (born in Readingmarker, Berkshire) is a British journalist, comic writer and broadcaster. His style of humour is savage and profane, with surreal elements and a consistent satirical pessimism. He presents TV shows Screenwipe, Gameswipe and Newswipe, writes review columns for The Guardian newspaper, and is one of four creative directors of comedy production company Zeppotron. His five-part horror drama Dead Set for E4 earned him a nomination for a BAFTA and he is also the host of the Channel 4 comedy panel show You Have Been Watching.

Early life and education

Born in Readingmarker, but raised in Brightwell-cum-Sotwellmarker, Oxfordshire and schooled in Wallingfordmarker, Brooker first worked as a writer and cartoonist for Oink!, a comic produced in the late-1980s.

Brooker attended the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminstermarker) from 1989 to 1992, studying for a BA in Media Studies and specialising in Television and Video Production. He never graduated, however, having failed to write his dissertation on videogames. His final piece of creative work at university was a short film called "A Busy Day for Bob Yippee", which featured Erik The Viking actor, Jay Simpson and Stand-up comedian Ian Moore.

Brooker is an atheist, frequently making reference to this in his writing.

Career

PC Zone

Brooker wrote for PC Zone magazine in the mid-1990s. Aside from games reviews, his output included the comic strip Cybertwats and a column entitled "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 entitled "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 copyright 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.

SuperKaylo

A number of Brooker's artworks were available to the public on his website. This body of work is drawn both from the commissions of his various patrons, and began as a paper comic that was sold to customers at Brooker's former workplace CeX. In addition to its counter presence, Brooker sold issues to mail order customers when they called up to place orders for games.

One aspect of the SuperKaylo site was a series of recorded phone conversations, that had originally started from a commissioned featured for PC Zone on technical support phonelines. Brooker took things further than this half serious investigation, when in 1999 he called up the then editor of Edge magazine, Jason Brookes. Pretending to be an angry father, he phoned up enraged by an advert that had appeared in a previous issue for CeX, one that Brooker himself had written and drawn.

TVGoHome

From 1999 to 2003 he penned 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.

Newspaper columns

Brooker began writing a TV review column entitled "Screen Burn" for The Guardian newspaper's Saturday entertainment supplement The Guide in 2000, a role he has continued in to the present day. From the autumn of 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. Since late October 2006 this column has been 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.

On 24 October, 2004, he wrote a column on George W. Bush and the forthcoming 2004 US Presidential Election which concluded:

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:

At the British Press Awards 2009, Brooker was awarded 'Columnist of the year'. The judges described 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."

Three compilations of Brooker's various columns have been published: in chronological order, Screen Burn, Dawn of the Dumb and The Hell of it All.

Television

In 2000, Brooker was one of the writers of the Channel 4 show The Eleven 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 controversial Brass Eye special on the subject of paedophilia.

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 Londonmarker 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 his signature TV 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 of that year, the programme returned in the autumn 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 TV (BBC 2), in January 2009.

Screenwipe's format mostly consists of two elements. The first is the playing of clips from other TV shows - both mainstream and obscure - interspersed with shots of Brooker, sat 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 TV industry operates. Also occasionally present are animations made by the owners of the Fat Pie website and guest contributions, which have included the poetry of Tim Key and segments in which a celebrity (or colleague of Brooker's from elsewhere) explains their fascination with a certain TV show or genre.

Brooker has regularly experimented with Screenwipe, with some editions focusing on a specific theme. These themes have included American TV, TV news, advertising and children's TV. (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 TV script writing, which saw several of British TV's most prominent writers sit down with Brooker for a (mostly) serious interview about their job.

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 BBC4 on the 25th of March.

Brooker has appeared on three episodes and one webisode of the popular BBC current affairs news quiz Have I Got News for You. Brooker also appeared on an episode of the Channel 4 panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, and in December 2006 reviewed two games written by the presenters of VideoGaiden, on their show.

Charlie Brooker wrote for the BBC Three sketch show Rush Hour.

On 30 January, 2009 Brooker recorded a pilot for a Channel 4 panel show entitled You Have Been Watching. The show featured guests discussing television, similar to Screenwipe but with contributing guests. For the pilot episode the guests were David Mitchell, Jamelia, Rufus Hound and Terry Christian.. On Thursday 26 March 2009 You Have Been Watching was picked up by Channel 4 for a first season. It started airing on Tuesday 7 July 2009 for an 8 episode run.

Dead Set

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.

Publications

  • TV Go Home, Charlie Brooker, 2001 (ISBN 1-84115-675-2)
  • Unnovations, Charlie Brooker, 2002 (ISBN 1-84115-730-9)
  • Screen Burn, Charlie Brooker, 2004 (ISBN 0-571-22755-4)
  • Dawn of the Dumb: Dispatches from the Idiotic Frontline, Charlie Brooker, 2007 (ISBN 9780571238415)
  • Charlie Brooker's the Hell of it All, Charlie Brooker, 2009 (ISBN 9780571229574)


Awards

Brooker won Columnist Of The Year at the 2009 British Press Awards for his column in The Guardian.

References

  1. GRO Register of Births: MAR 1971 6a 275 READING, mmn = Povell
  2. "Yeah, that's right. I'm an atheist defending moderate Christians. Wanna make something of it?"
  3. Brooker's 30 October 2006 column, featuring Ignopedia and TVGoHome
  4. Full text of deleted article
  5. Apology for Brooker's 24 October 2004 Screen Burn column
  6. British Press Awards 2009: The full list of winners
  7. http://twitpic.com/28dqy
  8. http://www.comedy.org.uk/guide/pilots/you_have_been_watching/
  9. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/a150748/charlie-brooker-for-new-comedy-series.html
  10. http://www.comedy.org.uk/guide/tv/you_have_been_watching/
  11. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/21/television.television1 Charlie Brooker's E4 zombie thriller to be set inside the Big Brother house
  12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7346204.stm Brooker to write E4 horror series
  13. http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/displayProductDetails.do?sku=6226287
  14. British Press Awards 2009: The full list of winners


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