Guardian columnist Marina Hyde has said the current UK political climate is “good for business” and her business is telling jokes.
Hyde, who won the the prize for Comment Journalism at the British Journalism Awards earlier this month (pictured), said: “We need more jokes at the moment.”
The judges described Hyde as “clever, innovative and consistently on the ball”, adding: “She always finds a different way of covering the same subject that everyone else is looking at and makes for compulsive reading.”
The 45-year-old, who writes regularly on current affairs, celebrity and sport for the Guardian, told Press Gazette that “perhaps humour is the best way to deal with not always madly humorous times”.
“Plus it’s been crazy, hasn’t it?” she added. “Everything is just crazy now and half of it feels like some kind of absurdist theatre and I think you have to try and laugh about it.”
Hyde spoke to Press Gazette after a Tory landslide at the polls that returned Boris Johnson to power and sealed Britain’s exit from the European Union.
‘I’m mainly trying to make people laugh’
Asked what makes a good column, Hyde said “jokes”, “people who can write beautifully”, and “keeping the anger out”.
“I think I wrote one particularly angry column about Prince Andrew this year, but perhaps it was more effective because I normally try to keep it out,” she said.
“I don’t think you want to sound like you’re hectoring people, but perhaps I do, I don’t know. I’m mainly trying to make them laugh and to be a friend, to say I found this as mad as you might have done.”
Hyde’s winning columns included her reaction to a Royal statement saying Prince Andrew was “appalled” by Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes, joking that “most of us are suffering eyeball strain from all the rolling we’re doing”.
Another referred to Boris Johnson’s “greatest shits collection” during his first full week in the Commons as PM.
Hyde, who has worked for the Guardian for almost 20 years since starting out on its diary page, revealed how her approach to writing columns has changed over the years.
Sometimes it’s just ‘slight despair’
“I always would try and write in a vaguely humorous way but I think I’ve made more of an effort to do it each time nowadays,” she said.
“And actually, strangely enough, there’s something about the mechanics of working out a joke and why it works and why it ascribes to that situation that actually in a way I sometimes feel helps me make better points than when I was trying to make them in a rather explanatory, slightly more serious way,” she said.
“It’s a strange paradox. I think I’ve managed to get in some ways closer to some sort of truth that I might be trying to tell via the medium of jokes than I have when I used to write rather more long-winded things.
“It’s something about the mechanics of trying to find what the funny thing is and why it works. You just know when you’ve got the right joke about it and then you think ‘that’s why’.
“Sometimes I realise the point I’m making after I’ve thought up what the joke must be for that specific thing.”
But she said that just as often her columns “don’t have any point really other than to slightly despair”.
The writer said she never plans her columns from the beginning, instead thinking of “some random thing” and writing it down in a Word document before moving things around.
She frequently ends up telling the Guardian comment desk: “I think it will be some jokes about the Government”.
‘We’ve broken so many norms now…’
Hyde said the past few years of politics have been “good for business” with “plenty to write about”.
“Half of it’s just the raw material,” she said. “Sometimes the funniest paragraph can be just a pure statement of a thing that happened because it’s so ridiculous compared to how it ever was.
“We’ve broken so many norms now that you’re through such a looking glass that half the things are funny just by stating the actual thing that happened.
“I mean, the Prime Minister’s hidden in a fridge – what can you do with it? The Prime Minister’s in a fridge. In the old days when I was writing things, these are the sorts of things we would have dined out on for six weeks of copy. Now sometimes it doesn’t even make it in.”
She added: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the material, but I would have obviously sacrificed the material to return to slightly more normal times – whatever normal was. I don’t think any of us can really remember it. I don’t think it’s coming back.”
Hyde confessed she found the 12 December election “pretty depressing in lots of ways” and claimed she had spoken to numerous local press journalists and “seasoned Westminster hacks” who felt the same.
But said much of the local press “had a great campaign and really interrogated often difficult issues within their own communities”.
Looking forward, Hyde said she expects she will have “plenty” to write about under five more years of a Conservative majority Government, and Johnson in particular.
“I’m sure there are so many infinite things I haven’t said about him.”
Picture: The Photo Team/Press Gazette