If you are a regular YouTube or Facebook user, there's every chance you've seen Jonathan Pie – the faux TV news reporter who vents his spleen in unguarded “off-camera” rants where he tears up Trump, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, corporate greed and the politically correct.
After all, the fictional reporter has clocked up more than 100 million views since his first video went viral in late 2015.
The man behind the character is 40-year-old UK actor and comedian Tom Walker who, despite having no journalistic training, is so convincing on screen that many first-time viewers reported the potty-mouthed newsman to the UK's communications regulator.
And soon after the US election, American alt-right website Breitbart posted Jonathan’s scathing Trump video believing it to be real. “As far as Breitbart goes – I mean seriously; if they’re that stupid to use a piece where I call their man every expletive under the sun and still not get it – that’s their problem. I’m not going to put a disclaimer on it,” Tom says.
In 2016 Tom signed his first deal – with 'Russia Today' – a state-run television channel operated by the Russian Federation. Looking back does he have any regrets given the parlous state of democracy in that country? “I’d been out of work as an actor for quite some time and 'RT' were the only people to offer me payment so I did it out of necessity. I wouldn’t do it now given what’s happening in Russia but at the time it helped pay the rent and put food on the table, so no I don’t regret it one bit.”
Tom Walker makes his Australian debut in May with ‘Jonathan Pie: Back To The Studio’ touring Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney. But how does he fare when there is over an hour to fill, instead of a five minute scripted soundbite? “This time around, the concept is that Jonathan is making a pilot for a TV show where he attempts to host a night of serious discussions on current affairs, whilst simultaneously attempting to smash the system from within,” Tom says. He wrote the show with fellow comedian Andrew Doyle.
“It used to be that the left were the protectors of free speech, now it’s the conservatives who are championing democracy,” he says exasperatedly. “You’ve got to engage with people if you’re going to convince them of your argument. You don’t win it by shutting down debate which is actually the theme of my new live show.”
In this show, Tom also rallies against political correctness which he says has gone too far and he isn’t afraid to attack the pious, self-righteous thinking of liberals who he says are, “f***ing offended by anything that doesn’t fit their concept of what is morally right. All this does is open the door for people like Trump and those like him.”
According to Tom, Australia is the next big thing for Jonathan Pie. “I’ve not taken the live show outside of the UK, but Australians understand satire,” he says. Ironically, this fake newsman brings a rare authenticity and insight into political coverage and despite knowing little of Australian politics, “apart from the fact you go through Prime Ministers faster than most,” Tom is confident ‘Back To The Studio’ will resonate with local audiences. He plans to rewrite the show for the Australian tour.
Jonathan Pie Dates
18 May – Regal Theatre (Perth Comedy Festival) 19 May – Enmore Theatre (Sydney Comedy Festival) 20 May – The Street Theatre (Canberra) 22 May – The Old Museum (Brisbane) 25-26 May – Athenaeum Theatre (Melbourne)