Biotic Baking Brigade

battle of the century

Pieing is the act of throwing a pie at a person or people. This may be a simple practical joke, but can be a political action when the target is an authority figure, politician, or celebrity and can be used as a means of protesting against the target’s political beliefs, or against perceived arrogance or vanity. Perpetrators generally regard the act as a form of ridicule to embarrass and humiliate the victim. In most or all jurisdictions, pieing is punishable as battery, and may constitute assault as well.

In pieing, the goal is usually to humiliate the victim while avoiding actual injury. For this reason the pie is traditionally of the cream variety without a top crust, and is rarely if ever a hot pie. In Britain, a pie in the context of throwing is traditionally referred to as a ‘custard pie.’ An aluminum pie pan or paper plate filled with whipped cream or shaving foam can substitute for a real pie. Pieing and pie fights are a staple of slapstick comedy, and pie ‘tosses’ are also common charity fundraising events, especially in schools.

Pieing has its origins in the ‘pie in the face’ gag from slapstick comedy, first seen in the 1909 Essanay Studios silent film ‘Mr. Flip’ starring Ben Turpin. In the story, Turpin has a pie pushed into his face for taking liberties with a woman. Beginning in 1913 with ‘That Ragtime Band’ and ‘A Noise from the Deep,’ filmmaker Mack Sennett became known for using one or two thrown pies in many of his comedy shorts. Sennett had a personal rule about who received the pies: ‘A mother never gets hit with a custard pie … Mothers-in-law, yes. But mothers? Never.’ At least a half dozen films have been made incorporating extended pie-throwing battles. The first was Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Behind the Screen’ released in 1916. The definitive pie fight film is ‘The Battle of the Century’ (1927) starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, using 3,000 pies. ‘The Three Stooges’ used the gag in their 1941 short ‘In the Sweet Pie and Pie.’ The 1965 comedy, ‘The Great Race’ is known for having the largest pie fight in cinematic history, with over 4000 pies. There are many instances in the Looney Tunes series of cartoons where characters ‘pie’ each other in the face.

The probable originator of pieing as a political act was Thomas King Forcade, the founder of ‘High Times’ magazine. In 1970, Forcade pied Otto N. Larsen, the Chairman of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography; his action was called the first Yippie pieing. Another yippie, Aron Kay, followed his lead and pied several notable people including William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, and Andy Warhol. A disciple of Aron Kay, Thom Higgins, pied singer and anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1977 (audio footage of the incident is included in the Chumbawambasong ‘Just Desserts,’ an homage to the concept of pieing). Kay retired in 1992 after pieing right-wing activist Randall Terry. ‘Concerning Kay,’ an article in the ‘San Francisco Examiner’ reported: ‘He considers the ‘Three Stooges,’ whom he began watching on TV as a kid, as the true fathers of pie-throwing.’

A noted victim of pieing was Microsoft founder Bill Gates who was pied in Belgium in 1998. A computer game was later released in which Gates’ head pops up around the screen and the object is to ‘pie’ as many of his heads as possible in the allocated time. Other victims include designer Karl Lagerfeld, American singer Kenny Rogers, former Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm, and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The anonymous Biotic Baking Brigade has pied or attempted to pie, among others, conservative pundits Ann Coulter and David Horowitz; and Fred Phelps, the controversial leader of the Westboro Baptist Church. Coulter has also been attacked by the ‘terrorist’ group Al Pieda. The Canadian group the Entartistes, founded by Rhinoceros Party of Canada founder François Gourd, has also pied many, including then-Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien. In 2003 in the city of Calgary they pied Ralph Klein, the premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, saying in their press release: ‘The pie gives power back to the people because so many feel powerless in the face of big politicians and industrialists.’ ‘Newsweek’ columnist Gersh Kuntzman wrote that pieing ‘deserves to be one of the most celebrated traditions in our so-called culture.’

Sometimes pieing targets suffer the prank with good humor. Belgian anarchist and surrealist Noël Godin pied filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard during the Cannes Film Festival, and Bernard-Henri Lévy many times. Godard was very pleased at being pied and said ‘this is what happens when silent movies meet talking pictures’; he intervened with the Cannes authorities on behalf of Godin to prevent him from being arrested. Anti-gay campaigner Anita Bryant, upon being pied by a gay activist on television, joked that ‘at least it’s a fruit pie,’ apparently making a pun on the derogatory term for a gay man (‘fruit’). However, moments later she was in tears. By contrast, Bernard-Henri Lévy has on multiple occasions attacked Godin and his followers, and Ann Coulter pressed charges in 2005 when she narrowly evaded a pie at the University of Arizona. Activist David Horowitz said of his pieing, ‘These attacks are sinister. The person who throws a pie is saying, ‘I hate you. I don’t want you to speak.’ I never saw it coming. And it took away my dignity. When you’re lecturing, you’re supposed to have an authority. But a pie turns it into a food fight.’

In 2011, Spanish politician Yolanda Barcina was hit by three pies a meeting in Toulouse, France. The authors of the pie smash were Gorka Ovejero Bengoa, Deputy Mayor of Arruazu at the time, Julio Martín Villanueva, and Ibon García Garrido, protesting against a high-speed rail line. In 2013, a Spanish court condemned all three to a fine of 900 euros and two years in prison each. An accomplice who did not throw a pie was condemned to one year in jail. Yolanda Barcina claimed bodily harm, suffered because of ‘the hardness of French meringue pie.’ In September 2001, the Swedish king Carl XVI Gustaf was visiting Varberg when he suddenly got pied by a 16-year-old boy. Such an attack could possibly have counted as high treason under Swedish law, which would have warranted a long prison sentence. However, the perpetrator was merely convicted for assault, as it could not be proven that his motive was of political character. He was therefore sentenced to no more than hefty day-fines. Two other boys, who had helped to prepare the attack by making the cake, were also fined.

At charity fundraisers, a pie-toss event usually involves some well-known figure, generally a person either in a position of authority or fame, who is intended as the ‘victim.’ People attending the event pay for or bid on the opportunity to smoosh the volunteer victim in the face with a custard pie; throwing is generally not allowed anymore as the impact can cause injury, and the smoosh is usually in slow-motion and applied without great pressure. Although this takes the element of chance out of the event, it allows the opportunity to smear pie more thoroughly in the victim’s face and potentially through their hair.

In Major League Baseball, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A. J. Burnett (formerly of the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies) pies teammates who drive in or score the winning run in a walk-off win (a game won on a hit by the last batter). His ‘pies’ are filled with either shaving cream or whipped cream. Burnett has pied Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher (twice),Robinson Canó (twice), and Mark Teixeira, among others. Burnett usually pies the player while they are being interviewed on the field by a TV reporter.



One Comment to “Pieing”

  1. The Donald would be my nomination for pieing. Just make sure it’s a HUUUGE PIE….

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