Alex Brooker

Submitted by on Sep 16, 2015

Alex Brooker interview: ‘I got called a cripple online. and Twitter did nothing’

By Catriona Wightman Friday, Aug 7 2015, 19:45 BST

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Alex Brooker has hit out at Twitter for failing to protect its users after he was called a “cripple” on the site.

Speaking to Digital Spy to promote Scope’s End The Awkward campaign, Brooker suggested that the social network needs to start tackling abuse more strongly.

© Getty Images / Anthony Harvey

“I do believe that the people who run Twitter really need to get a hold of it soon and start really enforcing some rules on it, because at the moment you can just say anything to anyone,” he said.

“I had a guy call me a ‘cripple’ after I was on A League of Their Own. I reported that to Twitter and they said it wasn’t against their rules. And then they said, ‘If you disagree with this, please give further evidence’. I basically explained to them who I was, what I did – bearing in mind that I’m a verified account as well so they can look back on it – and I told them, ‘This is what I do, I’m disabled, this is referring to my disability, surely this is against your rules’. And they did nothing.”

Brooker explained that for every negative message he gets “20 or so nice tweets”, and described the messages as “a small part of something that I’m very lucky to do”, but admitted that he has struggled to deal with criticism online and said he found the response to his role on reality show The Jump difficult.

“I just mainly had people telling me I was crap!”he joked.”Davina copped it as well, so it’s not like I was the only one. But I’ve spent my life as a sports journalist, and alright, you get little tips on how to tidy up your copy from the sub-editor, but I’ve never come in for that much s**t for my job before.

“And it was a really difficult time for me personally – I had a very good friend who had passed away a week before I flew out to Austria. I remember writing an obituary the same night as I was looking at the script for the first show.”

Brooker continued: “I think people forget that when they see you on television, it’s not like the camera’s gone on and I’m doing what I want. I have some influence but ultimately with that show, there was some way you’re being produced and you’re doing what they’ve asked you to do. Everyone does something in their job that they might not agree with, but the thing with television is that for everything like that, because you’re public property, because you’re on television, you come in for more criticism.

“It’s one of the big things I struggled to deal with since I’ve been on television, people who give you crap on Twitter. Every single person I talk to in telly says, ‘Why do you care? Just let it go’. But it’s the one thing that I don’t do very well. I get really annoyed at it and I end up replying to people and then I realise the next day that I shouldn’t have replied to that person at 3am. It was a real learning curve for me in television because there was such a feelgood factor around the Paralympics and The Last Leg that I hadn’t actually come in for any real criticism.”

Brooker also revealed that he received some abuse from angry Liberal Democrat supporters after his interview with Nick Clegg earlier this year, but explained that he loved the chat.

© Getty Images / Joseph Okpako/Redferns

“I thought Clegg was brilliant,”he said.”I thought he was so good in that interview, and I think because I was hammering him so much, he didn’t have time to think of the party line on everything, so he just started answering as a bloke. In the election it didn’t do him much good! But it earned him respect and rightly so. If you cast aside whatever political allegiances you have, I thought he was just a lovely bloke and I really liked him.”

Brooker admitted that he would have loved to give the same treatment to David Cameron – “We were desperate to get Cameron on during those elections shows and he didn’t want to do it” – but also revealed that there’s someone else that he would love to interview: Oscar Pistorius.

“When I interviewed Oscar Pistorius [in 2011] that was brilliant,”he said.”Put it this way, we went on different paths, me and him, after that – but it was still enjoyable! I want to interview him again when he gets out, I really do. Whoever gets that interview with him afterwards, it will make for fascinating television. I was talking to [Adam] Hills the other day about Pistorius and what I’d love to ask him, so I suppose in my head I have already started planning it and what I would like to say.”

Brooker is currently working on Scope’s End The Awkward campaign, which he explained is about making people realise awkwardness and curiosity about disability is “human nature”.

“It comes from a good place where you want to do the right thing and you don’t want to make someone feel different or anything like that but in the end you end up making a bit of a hash of it,”he said.”I have it when people go to shake my hand – they want to do the right thing but in the end they’ll end up wiggling one of my fingers or something like that.”

As part of the campaign, Brooker’s filmed some Channel 4 shorts called What Not To Do. a hidden camera show which examines various situations faced by disabled people.

“They’re so clever and they’re really funny and they’re extremes, but it’s just trying to break down some of the tension and expose that these silly awkward moments can happen,”he said.”And also, the videos are based on stories that Scope have got from disabled people themselves so this has happened to some people which is just incredible.”

Brooker – who said that he’s always confronted his own disability with humour – admitted that he’s faced a few awkward situations in his time.

© Getty Images / Joseph Okpako/Redferns

“I’ve had it where I’ve been on a night out and woken up in a strange place next to a girl, I have no idea who she is, and I couldn’t find my leg for love nor money,”he laughed.”I just did not know where it was. Not being able to make an escape when you can’t locate your right leg is horrible! The worst thing about that was if you think about it, I’m like, ‘God, I’ve got to get out of here’. Think of her! She’s woken up next to someone who’s searching for a leg. I feel sorry for her in that situation. There are no winners when a leg is located underneath her curtain.”

So does Brooker think there should be more disabled presenters and actors on TV? “No, sod ’em, I’m cleaning up at the moment!”he joked.”The last thing I want is more of us knocking about, f**k them!

“No, I’m only joking. When I was a teenager, there weren’t any disabled people on television really, let alone people doing the sort of show we do. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but when I was 17 I would have loved to see someone like me or Adam on television, because it would have made me feel a lot better. Personally, from my own point of view, I feel a lot more comfortable about my disability, having done television, than I ever have before.

“I realise that I’m in a very privileged position – there haven’t been a great many disabled comics or presenters apart from Ade Adepitan and Cerrie Burnell from CBBC. I’m lucky that I’m one of the privileged people that have got to do comedy, and to be a disabled person and go on a mainstream show like Celebrity Juice or doing The Last Leg. it’s a really big thing for me. I’m lucky and I’ve got a little bit of a responsibility to try and fight the cause for us on telly.”

Brooker added: “I would love to go into comedy acting. I might end up being crap at it but I would like to give it a crack. But the problem I’ve got is if I do any role, it has to be a disabled person. When articles were written about me when I first came on television, it was always ‘disabled presenter’. Now, I’m just ‘TV presenter’ and the disabled bit is neither here nor there. It’s a real tough one but it would be great – the more disabled people on screen, the better it is. As long as they’re not doing comedy panel shows!”

The Channel 4 What Not To Do shorts in association with Scope’s End The Awkward campaign are available on All 4 now.

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