Edinburgh Festival Review: Jonathan Pie: Live, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Jonathan Pie: Live

Pleasance Courtyard

Until August 28


Reviewed by Mark Brown


The warning that Jonathan Pie: Live “may contain some f***ing strong language” is accurate but inadequate. The one-man show should also carry an alert that Tom Walker, creator and performer of the parody TV news journalist, might have a bloody aneurysm in front of your very eyes.

Or, to put it another way, fans of Pie’s three-minute TV skits will be pleased to learn that he makes the step-up to a 60-minute live show with his apoplectic political rage entirely intact.Jonathan Pie

Walker is arguably the UK’s sharpest political satirist since John Oliver. His alter-ego, the left-wing reporter Jonathan Pie, combines the brilliant characterisation of Al Murray the Pub Landlord with the radical anger of Mark Thomas.

Pie made his name courtesy of the Russian state’s mischief-making global TV channel RT and, more significantly, youtube. The smart conceit of the live show is that he’s now working for the BBC, having been drafted in as a last-minute replacement for John Barrowman as the anchor of Children in Need.

Presenting Ainsley Harriott in a 12-hour Macarena in Swansea is enough to get the veins on Pie’s neck twitching. But that’s as nothing compared to his off-camera observations about Theresa May (“Margaret Thatcher’s re-animated corpse”) or new Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s £8.5 million personal fortune.

There’s a fine line in Pie’s comedy between entertainment and well-researched editorialising. Serious points are well-made about a range of subjects, from TTIP to the worrying rise of a censorial brand of easily offended political correctness.

However, just when you’re beginning to worry that the show is getting more like a Jeremy Corbyn rally than an Edinburgh Fringe comedy gig, Pie pulls it back round to a hilariously graphic assault on a Tory politician or a decidedly un-PC rant about his ex-wife.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on August 14, 2016

© Mark Brown

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