Jonathan Pie

Fake ‘fake news’ presenter Jonathan Pie finally made it to Norwich for his much re-scheduled tour, with a show full of impassioned invective that delighted a sell-out crowd.

Portrayed by actor and comedian Tom Walker, Pie as a character grew out of a series of spoof news reports in 2015 and honed a reputation as a blistering broadcaster, unable to contain his ‘real’ views in rants delivered either side of his more professional, restrained reporting to camera.

This current show – with Norwich Theatre Royal its final tour date – takes the premise that Pie has been sacked after an outburst made it on air, causing his shaming on social media and ejection from employment. After a period drinking heavily and hanging out at theme parks, Pie has embarked on a national lecture-cum-apology tour.

As with his TV pieces, Pie is at his bet when in rant mode, and Walker is a startling impressive performer – he seldom seems to draw breath as he spits out colourfully-metaphored descriptions of political figures like Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer.

Topics include the ineffectiveness of online hashtagging against the backdrop of much bigger social and economic problems, the travesty of the public and political reactions to coronavirus, and inevitably – given its part in his early career – Brexit.

There are also softer elements, dealing with the character’s home life and family.

But this is perhaps where Pie comes unstuck. Unlike an obvious, knowing objectionable, caricature like Alan Partridge, it isn’t always clear where the character begins and ends, with the lengthier diatribes feeling less acted than actual.

There is also a lack of coherence in the political positioning, which may not be as obvious in shorter sketches but when stitched together becomes confusing if you choose to carefully consider what is being said, rather than just let the jokes and rude nicknames wash over you.

The speed of Walker’s delivery means that you don’t get distracted by that dissonance for too long though, and there is a density of content here packed into an 80-minute routine that leaves you feeling you got your money’s worth, even in the see-sawing means you disagreed with a chunk of it.

Support came form Jojo Sutherland, focusing on the personal rather than the political, and particularly her family life and upbringing in Scotland, and at a pace far more relaxed than Pie. This was dark and very rude, but also very funny.

  • Political comedy coming up at Norwich Theatre includes the in-house production Robin Good, billed as a “wilfully woke pantomime full of satire and local humour”. Written by James McDermott, the show will chart the attempts of the newly created Minister for Greed & Division to deport the people of Norfolk to Suffolk, build a wall around Norfolk, and turn the county into a holiday resort for billionaires – challenged by young queer socialist vegan social media influencer Robin Good. The show runs from December 8 to 19 at Norwich Playhouse.
  • Other upcoming stand-up includes Sofie Hagen at Norwich Playhouse on November 1, Jason Byrne on November 3, and Mark Watson on November 18 and 19.