Meet the British Satirist Who Fell Into Political Humor and Became a Social Media Star

'Jonathan Pie' creator Tom Walker comes clean

If you are a regular Facebook user, there's a pretty good chance you've seen Jonathan Pie—a faux TV news reporter in the U.K.—swearing up a storm about the state of politics while he "thinks he's off-camera." After all, the fictional character's page on the social platform has garnered more than 50 million video views since last September. 

Pie has hurled insults at British politicians, particularly David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson and Tony Blair, as well as pols here in the U.S.—Donald Trump is becoming one of his favorite targets. Here's Pie's take on Brexit in a post that drew 3.6 million views on Facebook:

The man behind the character is 38-year-old satirist Tom Walker, who became an overnight social media sensation, getting an average Facebook reach of 25 million a month. Months ago, Walker signed on with RT (Russia Today), a state-run channel owned and operated by Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation. But the funnyman recently walked away from the TV station and is getting set to roll out Jonathan Pie Live, a comedy tour in the U.K. that will run through the fall. 

Adweek spoke with Walker by phone to get his take on the current state of British and American politics—with new U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump, respectively, dominating the scenes—and discuss what happened at RT. 

Adweek: What's the story behind the character?

Tom Walker: Well, it's been in my head for years, but I hadn't bothered to do it until last September. You know when there's blooper reels and kind of TV shows going wrong? When I was a kid, it was always the news broadcaster bloopers that stood out to me. My idea was never originally about politics, it was just about things going wrong and the real person. Because there is such an obvious language that news is done in. People don't actually speak like that. That was the genesis of it. 

Why is politics a target-rich area for you?

Well, it is now. I mean the thing is, the first one I did was about politics. And then that one went bonkers. So then I thought, well, I'll stick to the same sort of subject. Three or four in, [the character] went completely viral. What hooked people might have been politics more than the humor. I don't know. I write it more for the humorous point of view. British politics at the moment is going a bit mental, and I feel tied down by it sometimes, do you know what I mean? For instance, we just got a new prime minister last week, and I think, "I cannot not mention that." At the moment, there are so many things happening in British politics, I don't really get a choice about what I get to talk about. 

How often do you riff on American politics?

I did one last November that was a bit of a light piece. It was on Trump. Last November, he didn't have a cat in hell's chance of making the nomination. I was thinking, "Imagine this man thinking he can make president." It was just a few lines because he was in the news here. And then I kept holding off on the U.S. election until the nominations came through. I've mentioned Bernie Sanders a lot because there's been a similar resurgence of the left here. And then I did one a few weeks ago specifically about Trump getting the nomination, which did really well.

As the election progresses, I think the U.S.'s politics will become more prevalent in what I do. Actually, one of my biggest dates on the tour is two days after the election—it's in London—so I am going to have to watch your election very closely. 

Were you a social media-minded person before the Pie character launched?