Despite his success worldwide and growing popularity among Australian audiences for appearing on Charlie Pickering’s The Weekly – prompting an Australia-wide tour later this month – Tom Walker is not a seasoned political satirist. He’s more of a diligent researcher with a keen eye on the cracks forming in international debate.
Walker writes and performs as news anchor Jonathan Pie, an old-school socialist known for his explosive, self-righteous off-camera rants. The character exerts an almost cathartic rage as he breaks down everything from the West’s involvement in the Syrian proxy war to a Manchester council’s initiative to fine its citizens for swearing in public.
“I’ve only been writing two or three years now. I’m not that prolific. I can’t just throw something out on the page and see what happens,” explains a slightly groggy Walker, calling from the early morning in England. “If you just read a newspaper a day and one of the weekly periodicals, then as long you’re informed your brain is full of ideas.”
I’m a big advocate for free speech. Free speech for twats as well.
When it comes to Australian governance, he’s yet to decide what he’ll cover when bringing his Back To The Studio tour down under. “A lot of your politicians are really dull,” he complains. “And the problem with your Prime Ministers is they almost seem to change on a weekly basis. It’s like one of your MPs wakes up and thinks, ‘I think I might be Prime Minister today’, and then that evening they are. It’s pretty weird.”
He’s been reading up on our news to get a sense for how to tailor the little jokes to Aussie crowds. When bringing up the obscenity of A Current Affair’s shock-driven storytelling, wherein a large portion of the programing seems to cherry-pick the most horrific murder cases from around the globe, he quips, “It’s not really news is it? It’s kind of like murder entertainment.”
Jonathan Pie tears Australia to shreds over the marriage equality plebiscite.
Before Pie, Walker was at an end. He’d been working as an actor for 15 years, becoming exhausted from the day-to-day struggles of an increasingly competitive industry.
“I was out of work, I was poor and I was fed up,” he explains. “Once you’re poor, fed up and you realise that you might have to give it all up, suddenly the jeopardy is gone.”.
He decided to bring the character’s archaic presence to YouTube. “You’re like, ‘Oh sod it, I have this character in my mind (I’d had [Pie] in my head for years), so just do something.’ I just videoed some films and then got a career out of it, which is extraordinarily lucky.”
It’s good to hear what bigots have to say because they expose themselves as bigots and then you can argue against it
Walker’s Pie started gathering a following covering British politics; media outlets and viewers even mistook him for a real news anchor. But unlike the explosiveness of Pie, Walker is quite calm while retaining a candid manner.
“We do differ,” he points out. “Obviously I’m not as sweary or as angry as he is – I don’t care as much as he does about some of the things.” What they both share, though, is a passion for freedom of speech, and for acknowledging the patronising way the political left views the right.
“I’d consider myself a leftist socialist, a proper liberal … [Freedom of speech is] what democracy is based upon,” explains Walker. “So I’m a big advocate for free speech. Free speech for twats as well. Free speech for people we don’t like. That’s really, really important. I need to hear what nasty people have to say.”
“Look at that prick, thinks he’s Liam Gallagher!” – Pie tackles the issue of legal weed in inimitable fashion.
In 2016, Pie’s enraged call out of the left, criticising their naivety and disbelief after Donald Trump won the US election, pushed Walker’s work into the international eye. The video has received nearly four million views, providing an amplified version of his own views on how Trump, “the pussy grabbing, wall building, climate change denying, health care abolishing, tax dodging, shit spewing demagogue,” came to power.
Left wing and liberal politics always used to be about looking out for the working classes
Walker felt – and continues to feel – intense frustration at people who believe that anyone who voted for Trump and for Britain to leave the European Union must be racist and sexist. “When you don’t debate properly, and you do tell anyone who’s voting differently to you that they’re a bigot, then you end up with Trump. Because you’re not actually engaging with those people, you’re just insulting them,” he says.
“Left wing and liberal politics always used to be about looking out for the working classes, for the uneducated and now it’s all about identity politics. It’s all about race, gender, sexuality, which are all extraordinarily important, don’t get me wrong, but you have to talk to the working classes, the poor people, the great unwashed, if you want to win an election,” says Walker, becoming more energised in his tone.
You have to talk to the working classes, the poor people, the great unwashed, if you want to win an election
“Those are the people that are going to win it for you; those are the people who won it for Trump. And unless you’re engaging with these people rather than looking down your nose at them, then you’re going to lose.”
Pie defends freedom of speech, even for twats and bigots
We discuss how perhaps our University-educated left wing demographic can become condescending by assuming that people from poorer and working class backgrounds can’t grasp progressive politics, and he brings up last year’s plebiscite on marriage equality to make his point.
“I agree with the results wholeheartedly,” he begins. “But you still need to persuade people of your argument, and Australia managed to do that. It’s good to hear what bigots have to say because they expose themselves as bigots, and then you can argue against it. I was hugely impressed.”
As for his upcoming show, we can only imagine what jabs he’ll tease out from all sides of the political spectrum in order to critique and question our current climate. And if done right, it could be useful for Australians to see our country’s discourses through Jonathan Pie’s fresh – albeit, often fuming –eyes.
Tom Walker will bring Jonathan Pie’s Back To The Studio comedy tour to Australia later this month, and tickets are on sale now, so check out all of the dates below.
Jonathan Pie 2018 Australian tour
Tickets on sale now through Frontier Comedy
May 18, 2018
Regal Theatre, Perth – (7pm) All Ages
May 19, 2018
Enmore Theatre, Sydney – (7:30pm) All Ages
May 20, 2018
The Street Theatre, Canberra – (7:30pm) All Ages
May 22, 2018
The Old Museum, Brisbane – (7:30pm) All Ages
May 25, 2018
Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne – (9:15pm) All Ages
May 26, 2018
Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne – (7:30pm) All Ages