Edinburgh 2016 Review: Jonathan Pie: Live

Jonathan Pie works better in small installments, writes

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★★★☆☆

Back in September, when Tom Walker’s character, Jonathan Pie, first started appearing on YouTube, I remember the format feeling fresh. There was a particularly strong sense of catharsis in having a composed journalist suddenly break and say exactly what I was thinking. As the videos continued to come out, however, the Jonathan Pie character slowly lost its appeal. Pie never became irritating, but as the shock of the reporter breaking character wore off, so did the humour. I continued to watch the videos (and still do), but, particularly in the wake of RT’s sponsorship, they’ve slowly taken on a character that is more political commentary than cathartic satire. I was curious, then, how the concept would translate from five minute videos to an hour long live set.

The translation is surprisingly successful, in its conceit at least. There’s nothing particularly distracting about it and the show is more than just Walker pretending to carry out a news report on stage. But here at the live show, just as in the videos, the conceit exists mainly as a way of facilitating Pie’s topical rants, and the more character based sections of the performance are not as successful as the political content.

The show was funny, but for much of the time it inspired more agreement than entertainment, something that was echoed by an audience who clapped more than they laughed. Walker clearly knows what he is talking about (or at least how to make it sound like he does), and he actually made a few good points, but as soon as he voiced opinions which would be more controversial to the left, or turned issues back on his audience, you could their support waver.

If you find yourself agreeing with the Pie you see online, the show is worth catching. I cannot, however, see the appeal holding for anyone whose sympathies lie with a more conservative politics. It is an interesting hour, but I can’t help but feel that the concept is better suited to five minute online chunks.

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