|18 Jan 2019|
What career did you envisage for yourself when you were in the Sixth Form at Downe House?
Prime minister. But then I met the sort of people who were in politics – oh dear me! - and I realised telling jokes about politics would be much more fun.
Describe a typical day for you.
I write three columns a week – one about politics, one about sport, and one satirical one about celebrities. So I read the news, mostly online but sometimes still in print, and then try and come up with an opinion column about it all. I find that the more alarming and weird the news has become in recent years, the more people want humour about it. So as politics has got less funny, I have tried to become more funny to handle it.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your career?
I got sacked very early in my career and had to work my way back, but I learned a lot from it and I really don’t think I’d be where I am now without it.
Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
I am just starting to write for television and movies so I hope to be doing more of that.
How important is having a presence on social media to having a successful career in journalism?
It’s helpful to get your work out there, and it’s helpful to see what people are saying. But I only have Twitter, and I try to treat it as a business account. My main problem with things like Facebook and Instagram is that you spend so long trying to curate this image of a fantastic / cool / gorgeous life, that you have rather less time to actually have one. When I was at school, I dreamt of living in London and earning all my own money and having hilarious nights with fascinating people who wrote books or made movies or created amazing comedy. I can’t quite believe that I do that now, but I do, and I’m very glad I don’t waste any of my life chronicling it all on some social media platform. I hope a sense of mystery will come back into fashion. People should be intrigued when they meet you, not feel they know the whole lot already.
In a competitive industry, such as journalism, what are the key characteristics needed to stand out?
Skill in writing, if you do opinion columns like me; and skill in listening to people and getting them to talk to you if you are a reporter. Never follow the pack just for the sake of it; try to approach each situation individually and ask what YOU really think of it. Learn all the rules first; then you can begin the fun of breaking them.
What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?
I have won various awards but I think all awards are nonsense. Probably the columns written since the Brexit vote have been my best. Making my childhood idols or people whose work I really respect laugh is maybe the biggest thrill.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have the confidence to try and fail in things you think you could never do as well as your idols. Force yourself. Don’t let men and the way they do things dictate how you have to do those same things. Your way is almost certainly better. Don’t let them talk over you or ridicule you into silence, and notice when they are refusing to share their power with you.