Nowadays it doesn’t feel like the start of a new year until I’ve sat down and relived the prior one with an hour of Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe. I was partly expecting the entire show to be Brooker primal screaming intersected with clips from the last twelve months. Brooker isn’t Yoko Ono however, and instead sticks with his style of fast-paced manic exacerbated comedy; opening with a “behind the scenes” look at Brooker talking to a producer, asking if he really has to do it, because it’s “just going to make everyone sad”.
The vaguely melancholic tone continues throughout the hour while Brooker delivers his usual brand of lightning fast insults and feigned ignorance of what’s coming up. As he moves through the year discussing various events of note for the month, starting with the wonderfully innocent footage of people jumping a big puddle, remember that anyone? Over the hour Brooker visits and revisits Brexit and the US election, following the progress and mocking either side as he feels is appropriate at the time. This includes a particularly harrowing scene involving a wordless violin cover of David Bowie’s Life on Mars playing over the top of footage from a Trump rally. The two are immaculately paired in hindsight of what’s coming up and made me want to smile and scream at the same time, which seems to be Brooker’s MO for the show.
His reaction to the results of both Brexit and the US election are hilarious, lampooning the ‘liberal arrogance’ that there’s no way what did happen could have happened (a fantastic running gag in this year’s show); his reaction to the US election goes one step further and is hilarious for how close to home it’ll hit for viewers who were as upset with the result as I was.
Also scattered throughout the show making their usual appearances are, Diane Morgan and Al Campbell as ‘Philomena Cunk’ and ‘Barry Shitpeas’, who’re always entertaining in their “thick as two short planks” routine. They discuss segments of the yearly news that Brooker doesn’t, including a fantastic segment on celebrity deaths (mentioning ‘Prince’ was one of the best David Bowie personas). Morgan gets her usual segment towards the end of the show which is a phenomenal interview with Professor Brian Cox which devolves into a quasi-nihilistic rant on his part, working perfectly with Morgan’s character creating the highlight of the show and a horrifying metaphor for the year.
The show wraps up with Brooker wistfully imagining a year where none of this bullshit has happened, waking up at the beginning of 2016, only to start repeating it all over again, having forgotten the last 365 days in some sort of nightmarish Groundhog Day.
‘2016 Wipe’ is available on BBC iPlayer and is definitely ‘laugh to keep from crying’ viewing.