Jonathan Pie

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Jonathan Pie is a fictional character played by comedian Tom Walker in a series of YouTube videos and live performances. Although the performances are satirical, it's worth noting that the character's opinions are similar enough to Walker's that Pie could easily be considered a mouthpiece for his creator [1]. Furthermore the comments section of his videos frequently feature very sensible people who hail his rants as a vindication of common sense, and their own opinions of course![2]

This phenomenon is probably best explained by the 'precious few jokes' in any of his given performances [3]. The lack of which results in his live comedy feeling more like a political rally than a live comedy gig[4].

Character[edit]

Described by Walker as "an old-school lefty who thinks he is always right", Jonathan Pie is a reporter for BBC News who often finds himself apoplectic with fury whilst describing current events and frequently launches into foaming at the mouth rants in which he reams everyone and everything he finds objectionable and ridiculous. His unseen supervisor Tim is usually the unwilling audience to these diatribes. In various videos, Pie will make reference to his personal life which is played for drama as often as for comedy.

Pie is a divorcee whose wife has moved to Australia and remarried. Pie has joint custody of his infant son but seldom gets to see him due to working long hours. Pie's job is his life and he finds it extremely difficult to switch his mind off from politics and news.

A socialist, Pie is an ardent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn whom he frequently defends. He backed Remain but had Eurosceptic sympathies due to disliking the European Union for their contempt for Democracy as well as for being what he saw as a neoliberal institution. He is an environmentalist and believes global warming to be a bigger problem than terrorism but nevertheless despises ISIS. He is an atheist and believes in criticism of all religions, including Islam though he finds prejudice towards Muslims distasteful.

Despite being a leftist, Pie is a fierce supporter of free speech and has nothing but contempt for the politically correct tradition of silencing opinions perceived as offensive, and instead calls for people to engage with people of opposing viewpoints. In his most-watched video, just following the 2016 US Presidential Election[5], Pie stated that part of the reason why Trump won was because "the left" had the habit of shouting down any ideas from the opposing political aisle and demonising their supporters as all stupid and evil, which ended up backfiring and driving people towards Trump. He has, however, had the habit of taking this view to absurd lengths, for instance in one video where he stated that people shouldn't be outraged at Jacob Rees-Mogg's beliefs on abortion and gay marriage [6]. He has also not always practised as he preaches, particularly with regards to members of the Labour Party who do not always agree with Corbyn. In one video[7], he criticised the 50 Labour MPs who defied the Labour Whip and voted against triggering Article 50, saying that by doing this they were "defying the will of the people" and seeking to undermine Corbyn, even though many of those MPs represented constituencies that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. In another video he labelled Owen Smith a "Blairite", even though his views line up more with those of Corbyn than those of Blair. In one of his live shows he also stated that the reason why the 2011 AV referendum failed to pass was because "people are stupid".

Pie comments on American politics almost as frequently as British politics and his favourite US President is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He reviles Donald Trump but in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential Election found Ted Cruz even more repellent due to his religiosity and opposition to gay marriage.

Whether or not Jonathan Pie represents Walker's views in their entirety is not clear but Walker himself has stated that he invented the character of Pie as a response to what he considered unfair coverage of Jeremy Corbyn in the media.

Videos[edit]

Most videos follow a specific format. They will open with Pie arriving at the end of a news report before standing still and looking as though he has passed wind until he is no longer live at which point he will launch into a vituperative, profane, witty and scathing rant about the news story he is covering. The recipient of these diatribes is Pie's long-suffering supervisor Tim with whom Pie communicates via earpiece. No character but Pie is usually featured in the videos. Once Pie has made his point, usually in the most acerbic and foul-mouthed manner possible, he will go back on air and resume his report at which point the video will stop. At times, it is implied that Pie's inability to separate his personal life from his job is what drove a wedge between himself and his wife, leading to their estrangement.

The character's first video focused on him objecting to extensive coverage of Jeremy Corbyn's sexual affair with Labour MP Diane Abbott. In the video, Pie made reference to his adolescent decision to pursue a career in reporting and his father's consternation at his decision. The character of Jonathan Pie first gained media attention with a video released outside the Houses of Parliament in which Pie characteristically lost his temper and launched into a vitriolic diatribe on what he called "the Fucking News" in which he excoriated (among other things) David Cameron, the Syrian conflict, Alan Sugar, nuclear proliferation, fossil fuels and Matt Damon before calmly resuming reporting the daily headlines. The video went viral on social media and many mistook Pie for a genuine news reporter having a breakdown live on air.

Pie went viral worldwide with a video he released after the election of Donald Trump as US President. In the video, Pie controversially blamed the election of Trump on the contemporary left wing, attributing his victory to the culture of Social Justice Warriors, Safe spaces and the demonisation of opponents promoted by the left. In the video, Pie also derided Hillary Clinton and those who considered her a viable Democratic candidate. This video alienated a significant portion of Pie's fanbase[citation needed].

Walker's Trump video was depicted by some media outlets who did not recognise Pie as a fictional character including American news source PJ Media who mistook him for a "British lefty reporter."

Conservative Stooge?[edit]

The character Jonathan Pie often handles topics like identity politics and political correctness in a way that can seem somewhat reactionary. In one of his more famous videos on the topic Oppression Obsession Pie flies off the handle at the presence of a rainbow coloured coffee cup and gets very mad at a quote taken out of context from Vogue magazine. The quote in question was about how patriarchal culture is harder to change than mere legislation and not, as he tried to suggest, about how third wave feminists are better/braver/smarter/sexier than the suffragettes ever were[8]. While over-reacting to minor annoyances and playfully mis-characterising opponents is a staple in comedy it's doubly ironic here since Pie/Walker often accuses feminists and others of over-reacting and mis-characterising their opponents. Later in the same rant, Pie has an exchange with an imaginary barista who accosts him for ordering a 'skinny' latte and the whole bit is vaguely reminiscent of early conservative chain-email scare stories about black coffee being banned in case it offends black people.

On its own this is harmless but it is part of a wider trend in which ostensibly left-leaning people are gas-lit by conservative tabloids into hollering with indignation every time an emoji is changed[9].

In other media[edit]

Tom Walker has been approached by various media companies including RT (formerly Russia Today) which, ironically given Pie's disdain for Vladimir Putin, offered him complete creative control. Walker worked with RT until July 2016, preceding his premier at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August the same year.

Walker has since gone onstage as Jonathan Pie at various venues and as himself discussing the character on British news show, Take of the Week on the 17th November 2016.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA6OwzQ-P1Q&t=473s
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA6OwzQ-P1Q&t=473s Scroll down and you'll see plenty of this.
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/aug/16/jonathan-pie-edinburgh-festival-review-tom-walker
  4. ibid
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLG9g7BcjKs
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erqoVVKqMCc
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkJs-tK2vak
  8. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/04/vogues-new-suffragettes-fight-against-stereotyping-women-harder/ Although this is the Telegraph, the original quote can be found reproduced here.
  9. https://www.rt.com/news/429281-pc-miss-america-scouts/ Yes, Pie joins the proud ranks of the definitely not offended people who lost their shit at the idea of an eggless salad emoji.