Published On: Tue, May 14th, 2013

Could everyone except Charlie Brooker please stop trying to be Charlie Brooker?


I remember when I wrote my first ‘witty’ piece.

I was a student, writing for the student newspaper. I was covering the uni elections, which I still believed mattered at the time, and there were a bunch of lads protesting them. They had very little to base their campaign on, so I decided to write an opinion piece. I fired up my laptop and rifled off a thousand words or so, and I nailed ‘em. I nailed ‘em good. I know, because in the few days after printing, people would approach me and tell me “Well done John, you nailed ‘em good.” It felt good. I’d said what I wanted to say, I’d put a good few jokes and barbs in there, and people had liked it. I decided I was onto something, so I kept doing it.

After a while, though, I began to tire of the style. It wasn’t that ‘writing snide’ got old or stale – it was that everyone started doing it. I remember in my final year of university, I could open the opinion section of our little newspaper and see half a dozen similar articles – each stuffed with attempted metaphors and clumsy half-formed insights, trying altogether too hard to drive home some incisive satirical point about something.

The trouble was, none of them really had anything to say. They clearly just wanted to be “the funny writer”, the sharp-witted columnist who doles out literary bitchslaps and makes cute bookish girls swoon. As a result, they churned out nothing of value – just sloppily aimed hate at easy, predictable targets.

I need to appeal, very loudly, to all writers everywhere now: please, please, do not do this. Don’t try to ‘write funny’ – just write, and if you have a sense of humour, it’ll come across. If you really want to tickle people, then maybe go back and put some jokes in after you’ve got a structure, a flow and  – you know – a point.

Make sure it’s an interesting point, too! Say something positive or constructive about your subject matter. With very few exceptions (a review of a movie that you genuinely despised, for example), rant pieces about how much you hate [blank] tend to suck. Especially if you hate the same thing as everyone else.

Consider, for example, Justin Bieber. I recently rejected an anti-Bieber article that someone submitted to me – and I hate Justin Bieber. The trouble is, I’m a middle class male in their twenties – everyone I know hates Justin Bieber. There’s a lot about him to hate, and it’s universally acknowledged that he’d be long dead if there wasn’t such a social stigma attached to driving bulldozers through crowds of children.


I consider myself above posting images like this.

He’s bland – I know. He’s overprivileged – I know. He’s an arrogant, petulant tool with the dress sense of an incarcerated trainee clown – I know. Yawn.

Personally, I think the best way to treat a celebrity (or movie, or any kind of pop culture artefact that you dislike) is to simply ignore it. I know this is a stretch, and I have no way of proving it to you, but trust me – if you ignore celebrities, THEY WILL GO AWAY. If you choose to complain about them, you’re still publicising them.

Let me put it to you like this: nowhere hates Justin Bieber more than Reddit. However, Reddit is pretty much the only place I hear about Justin Bieber. Whilst I appreciate the tone and intent of most anti-Bieber rhetoric, I would be a lot happier if I simply never heard about him. A celebrity you never hear about may as well not exist.

So please, please, please – unless you honestly are the most insightful, cutting, thought-provoking print satirist of your generation – please don’t try to be The Rant Guy. Say what you want to say, and tell it straight like a fucking adult, not through quips and one-liners like 90s Spiderman.