You’re in the middle of the new series of Ten O’Clock Live, how’s it going?
Good. Because I do the desk item on the show, we start looking at that the day before, working out what it is and what exactly we are going to do. [The week of this interview Brooker’s desk item was a long poem/ diatribe against The Sun, recounting the various people and groups of people who have been subject to witch-hunts by the tabloid – ‘social workers, women in burkas, left wingers, suburban swingers …’ – in reaction to the paper’s claims its journalists have been subject to a witchunt themselves].
After the initial Alternative Election Night, you wrote a column in G2 about the terror of live TV …
Oh yes, I said I did a piss and everything.
Are you more used to it now?
Yes, there are no bowel movements anymore, I am much more used to it, but it’s still nerve-wracking. You wouldn’t be human if it wasn’t. I guess if you have been doing it as long as Huw Edwards, then you don’t get scared. ‘Exhilarating’ is probably the word for it, but I am trying to convince myself as I say that.
How did you pitch some of the more controversial elements from Black Mirror, such as the National Anthem episode’s pig-fucking storyline?
Oddly, the series had been commissioned before that episode was written. It replaced another episode, written with my wife [former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq] that made National Anthem look like a broad, knockabout farce. It was an idea I liked, but it was pretty harrowing and C4 thought it didn’t fit in with the rest of the series. There was a moment, though, where I had to say to the head of C4, ‘Right, I have got this idea. There is an episode in which this happens …’ She wasn’t entirely convinced at the start.
Did you watch much X Factor-type telly for the 15 Million Merits episode?
There was surprisingly little research for any of the episodes. We just drew on everything around us. One of the trickiest things on that episode was working out how much everything was worth in that economic system, making sure that all the numbers added up, which they do – apart from in one point, if anyone can work out where that is. I didn’t think anyone would notice, but we actually had to work out how long you would have to pedal for to earn the merits to live.
What can you tell us about next month’s The Guardian ‘open weekend’ Charlie Brooker live event?
I’m there to jabber to people who turn up, other than that I don’t know. I hope they aren’t going to throw me a mic and ask me to do some Bon Jovi numbers. I doubt that will happen, but you never know. It’s a bit like Guardian Glastonbury.
You‘ve just been to the southern coast of Australia. What’s it like humour-wise?
They are quite similar to the British – although The Goodies is still incredibly popular there. The Aussies probably grumble less, too.
Is this the start of a new career as a travel writer?
No, The Guardian just said, ‘Do you want to go to Australia?’ and I said ‘yes’. I figured it would be interesting and it was. Although I was relieved that no sharks turned up because they were expecting them [while great white shark cage diving]. When we went in the cage the guy said ‘don’t put your arms out of it,’ not because they will bite it off but they are so huge, they weigh several tonnes, that they might just snap them off, without even noticing.
You have said everyone in the media hates themselves – do you?
If you are doing anything funny, you can come across as a bit aloof and smug, so I think it is good to have a slightly lower opinion of yourself.
You started out trashing TV and now you work in it. Does that change your point of view?
Yes, in some ways. I don’t write that column anymore [The Guardian’s Screen Burn] not because your views change, but because
if I have a drama series on C4 and write about how terrible a drama series is on C5, that is different to someone who is just
writing about it. It starts to look like bullying or crowing, and like I had a platform to knock the competition.
Have you forgiven Russell Brand for making fun of your haircut?
Yes. He said I had a trendy haircut and a famous wife, which was a bit rich coming from him.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is out on DVD on February 27, through Channel Four DVD.