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Advertising Week

For Social Satire, Check Out U.K.'s Fake TV Reporter Jonathan Pie

By Published on .

Johnathan Pie at Advertising Week Europe
Johnathan Pie at Advertising Week Europe Credit: Shutterstock/Advertising Week Europe
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Is Jonathan Pie the next Stephen Colbert? Probably not, but the fake TV reporter is finding a growing audience for his online social satire in the U.K. and the U.S., especially when he rants about Donald Trump.

Jonathan Pie is really Tom Walker, an out-of-work English actor who was about to give up acting but decided to first try out in a YouTube video an idea that intrigued him—capturing what an opinionated TV reporter says before and after the camera is rolling.

That reporter is Jonathan Pie, whose weekly rants are scripted and performed by Mr. Walker and posted on YouTube and Facebook.

"YouTube and social media are where you can afford to fail," Mr. Walker said at an Advertising Week Europe session about the Jonathan Pie phenomenon. "I'm not sure this character could have been developed on TV or radio because people are so scared of offending."

In a typical video, Jonathan Pie breaks off the bland TV news story he's recording and launches into a diatribe at his unseen producer Tim: "Muslims are bad. China's bad, but not as bad as it used to be. Russia is always bad."

The Jonathan Pie video monologues started in September 2015, but the breakthrough video was his post-U.S. election rant against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats for losing to "pussy-grabbing, wall-building, climate-change denier, healthcare-abolishing" Donald Trump.

"Trump won because Hillary and her lot refused to engage with anyone who said they were thinking of voting for Trump," Mr. Walker said. "We have to take responsibility for our losses. That video went ballistic. What it did for me was to consolidate Pie as a brand."

He satirizes everything from soccer to the U.K.'s National Health Service, but has become best-known for his U.K., and sometimes U.S., political commentary. The U.S. accounts for about 20% of his audience.

"Trump is always a good one, but I'm trying to make sure not to do too much because I could do Trump every week," Mr. Walker said. "I've garnered a lot of U.S. fans, and whenever America's mentioned there's a bump in the numbers. There is a tradition of satire over there in a more mainstream way [than in the U.K.]."

To monetize Pie, Mr. Walker took a live show starring the character on tour for the last 12 months in the U.K. He said his weekly videos average 1 million views per week, but the U.S. election video last November got more than 20 million views in the first week.