Many of the most successful and long-standing celebrity columnists have secured their place in the editorial spotlight because of their writing prowess, having worked in journalism, written books or produced TV programmes that have shot them to fame.
This makes them perfectly suited to column writing, using their honed word-manship to bring us their interesting viewpoints on topical or personal situations.
Then there are those people in the limelight that just have a way with words, making us want to hear more from them. They might not have an editorial qualification or background, but they write how they speak – in an engaging and often lovable way.
The creative and eloquent columnists on our list fall in both groups of celebrities, from comedians to actors, and presenters to authors.
If longevity stands for anything then Caitlin Moran clearly knows a thing or two about writing engaging columns, as she’s been doing so for The Times since 1992. In fact, she doesn’t produce one column for them, but three. Her most popular is definitely the satirical Friday column “Celebrity Watch”, plus she has a column in the Saturday Magazine and a TV review slot. Giving a different twist on the latest news, Moran is the kind of person we feel would always have something to say at a dinner party.
Moran started life as an author, having her first book published at just 16 and penning many more since. She went on to be a journalist, but reached celebrity status after co-hosting the Channel 4 music show Naked City alongside Johnny Vaughan in the 90s. More recently, she’s known for writing the 2013 comedy series Raised by Wolves with her sister, which was based on Moran’s upbringing as one of eight children in a three-bed Wolverhampton council house.
Moran also draws on her life experiences in her columns, incorporating funny anecdotes into her well-built arguments. In a recent column entitled ‘My advice to vegans’, she compares the plight of a vegan father (named Cook) having to drop his kids off at school every day where they rear pigs, to the fact Michael McIntyre’s kids used to attend the same school as her children. She says “As someone moved to rage by ‘very successful light observational comedy’, on seeing McIntyre in his big car every morning, I felt the same daily bummer as Cook.”
It’s no wonder Moran has won a cabinet’s worth of trophies, including the British Press Awards (BPA) Columnist of the Year for 2010, Critic of the Year 2011 and Interviewer of the Year 2011. She was named one of Britain’s most influential women in the BBC Woman’s Hour power list 2014, and in the same year, it was reported by Reuters that she was the most influential British journalist on Twitter.
In comedian and actor David Mitchell’s Guardian column, his clever writing makes you smile in the same way that his dark and sarcastic humour does on the panel show ‘Would I Lie to You’. It sometimes even reaches the shadowy depths of an episode of Peep Show, although generally Mitchell likes a bit of light-hearted toilet humour and play on words.
He’s the master of alluring headlines that make you want to dip in to see where he’s going with this one. For example, ‘How Hitler could solve our housing crisis’ is actually a chuckle-worthy article on rude-sounding street names.
Mitchell’s ramblings invariably go on off tangents, but they add a real depth to his writing, as well as displaying his intelligence, such as quipping on the use of definite articles in street names, offsetting the sometimes silly nature of the topic. These sidelines also build the suspense and keep you guessing until the end of the article exactly what has this all got to do with Hitler.
Apparently, it’s this: “If you won’t build affordable housing, we [councils] have a way of making it affordable. Welcome to Nob-cheese Avenue, adjoining Hitler Lane. Go straight up Jimmy Savile’s Passage and you’re there.” Who’d buy a house on those streets?
Giving a completely different take on fashion journalism, Claudia Winkleman’s Times fashion column is as much about showcasing her bubbly witticisms as the latest trends. Winkleman hosts a Sunday night radio show on Radio 2 called Claudia on Sunday. But of course, we know Claudia from co-presenting Strictly Come Dancing, and although her fringe divides opinion, her sleek fashion sense is much revered.
Winkleman’s Strictly style jump-started her fashion writing, and The Times were quick to give her a platform for her cheeky, conversational prose. Although, interestingly, she’s only written one article that incorporates Strictly, when discussing Christmas party dresses, and vowed “I promise my two jobs won’t collide again”, preferring to instead cover more everyday items, styles and colour trends.
You can just imagine Winkleman speaking in her usual jaunty way when she jibes on topics such as the sudden upsurge of berets: “You thought a big winter coat, some fluffy lace-up boots and a casual Pret hot chocolate meant you were ready for the cold? Not a bit. You’re only half ready… A felt sideways-flying-saucer head-warmer is the only way to go.”
Currently writing for The Metro, Dom Joly also had a column for The Independent, from the height of his Trigger Happy TV fame in 2001 all the way to 2016. Although best known as a comedian and prankster on the aforementioned cult TV show, Joly’s foray into column writing shows us his depth, personable nature and often zany lifestyle. His writing style is in fact far from his TV personality’s brash persona, mixing eloquence and openness with sharp wit.
Having said that, one column that we can particularly associate with here at Woo, is his hilarious bite-back at Katie Hopkins. We featured Hopkins on our recent blog ‘Celebrity columnists who shouldn’t write in the public domain’ and Joly backs up our reasoning perfectly.
For The Independent, Joly often focused on travel with a difference. After all, he’s written travel books on unusual holiday destinations like Chernobyl and monster hunting round the world. In his round-up of unlikely safe destinations to holiday, he says of North Korea “The attractions are… shall we say… more specialised. A typical day’s sight-seeing in Pyongyang might include a couple of hours looking round the “Museum of Agricultural Lathes” followed by a trip to the “Dear Leader’s Mother’s Tomb”.
Demonstrating some of the other interesting places Joly has covered, in his final column for the Independent he jokes “I have managed to file from the Syrian Desert, North Korea, Chernobyl, the Congo, Antarctica, the Beijing Olympics, my Iranian ski holiday, the Empty Quarter, a prison in Mexico. Once I even managed to get online in the Cotswolds.”
If you read our blog on controversial celebrity columnists, it’d be easy to think that celebrities should steer clear of writing columns. But the above stars get across their points with flair and without being confrontational, making their words a joy to read. Their long careers in column writing and multiple awards are testament to their skill.
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