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The Cultural Evolution of Pie in the Face or Pieing
Some records show that throwing a pie in the face or pieing (pie-ing) started in the 1890s as a vaudeville slapstick routine. William Hammerstein, father of the Tony and Academy award winning American writer, theatrical producer and director Oscar Hammerstein II, produced vaudeville shows that included someone getting a pie in the face. William Hammerstein was thought to have invented the pie-in-the-face routine.
However, according to HarperCollins English Dictionary, Canadian Edition, it was Canadian Thomas "Doc" Kelley who invented the pie-in-the-face slapstick routine in his travelling medicine show in 1889. It seems that Kelly witnessed an angry cook throwing a piece of pie at a stable boy, and made the onlookers laugh. The pie hit the boy on the shirt, but Kelly thought that a pie in the face would be funnier. Kelly was right; his audience found it hilarious.
Soon the pie-in-the-face routine found its way to the movies starting with Ben Turpin getting a pie in the face in the silent film Mr. Flip (1909).
On television, throwing pie in the face can be traced back in one of the first episodes of The Little Rascals in 1923.
Pie in the face had become the trademark of Soupy Sales, an American comedian and TV/radio personality, whose comedy show, Lunch with Soupy Sales (1953-1961) frequently ended with Sales receiving a pie in the face.
Throwing pie in the face scenes also appeared in Loony Tunes cartoon shows such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Pie in the face or pieing has evolved in our culture from slapstick comedy routine, to making social or political statements. Politicians are favorite targets of pieing, but so are activists, actors and even royalties. The very rich and powerful are also major targets for pieing, such as the recent pieing of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The first recorded pie in the face or pieing incident occurred on October 15, 1898, when the defendant threw a pumpkin pie at the plaintiff, and hit him in the face with the pie.
Pie in the face has also found its way in sports as part of a win or a milestone celebration.
Pie in the face has also evolved into pieing for a good cause. Pie in the Face is now being used in fund-raising for schools, as well as social and charitable organizations.
A pie in the face can be funny if it is part of a comedy routine. It can be fun if it is all in jest. It can be sad because a good pie is wasted. It can be humiliating for the pie-ee (the victim). It can be triumphant for the pie-or (the culprit). Or, it can be disastrous if the pie-or misses, and then gets caught and gets charged (a triple whammy), as again in the case of Rupert Murdoch pieing incident.
Pie in the face or pieing will continue to be a part of our culture for generations to come. Why? Because it is funny. Because it is fun. Because it is arguably the lesser of two evils - pieing or shooting (plus carrying a gun is illegal in some countries, but carrying a pie is completely legit). And because there is always someone deserving of a pie in the face.
Pie in the Face in the Movies
In 1909, the first pie in the face scene appeared in the silent film Mr. Flip (1909) starring Ben Turpin. It seemed that the movie audience found throwing a pie in someone's face hilarious, so the pie in the face slapstick gag in the movies, was born.
The First Pie Throwing in the Movies
In 1913, the first pie throwing scene appeared in A Noise from the Deep (1913) starring Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle. Normand threw a pie at Arbuckle.
Pie in the Face turned into Pie Fight
Soon the pie in the face scenes in films became full-fledged pie fights, starting with someone accidentally or purposely gets hit with a pie in the face and a pie fight would erupt.
The First Pie Fight in the Movies
The first pie fight in the movies appeared in the movie Behind the Screen (1916) starring Charlie Chaplin.
The First Pie Fight on Television
In 1923, in one of The Little Rascals television series episodes, one of the funniest pie fight scene occurred.
The Best Pie Fight Film
The first notable and arguably the best pie fight film, using 3,000 pies, is The Battle of the Century (1927) starring Stan Lauren and Oliver Hardy.
The Largest Pie Fight in Cinematic History
In 1965, in the movie The Great Race (1965) starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, the pie fight scene is known in the film industry as the largest pie fight in cinematic history. The pie fight scene cost $200,000, used up 4,000 pies, a giant cake, and took five days to shoot.
The First Political Pie in the Face
In 1970, pie in the face turned political when Tom Forcade, the founder of the pro-Pot High Times magazine, pied Otto N. Larsen, head of the U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography.
Most Notable Pie-or - Aron Kay a.k.a The Pie Man
Following in Forcade's pieing footsteps, U.S. left-wing activist Aron Kay has been dubbed "The Pieman" for a whole series of pie in the face attacks stretching across almost three decades. Kay hurled his thoughtfully baked confections into the faces of such dignitaries as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (seen in photo below), New York City Mayor Abraham Beame, former CIA chief William Colby, and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Most Famous/Infamous Activist Pie in the Face
In 1977, Thom Higgins, a follower of Aron Kay, pied singer and anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bill Gates Pied for "lacking a sense of humor"
In 1998, during his trip to Brussels, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates got cream-pied by the notorious Belgian pie-or Noel Godin, a.k.a. "Georges Le Gloupier" and his followers. Godin reportedly claimed that his goal was to "entarte" as many people like Gates - people he feels are particularly self-important and lacking a sense of humor.
Calvin Klein Pied for "being at the right place at the wrong time"
In 2001, Fashion designer Calvin Klein got hit, by accident, with a tofu cream pie by fur protestors who were aiming for designer Karl Lagerfeld at the 20th-annual American Fashion Awards, held at New York's Lincoln Center. Klein was walking the red carpet with Lagerfeld at the time.
Even a King Gets Pied
In 2001, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden was hit in the face with a strawberry tart thrown by a 16-year-old Swedish boy.
Sylvester Stallone Pied for "needing public embarrassment"
In 1998, Sylvester Stallone got a pie in the face during the grand opening of a Planet Hollywood restaurant in Montreal. The attacker was Les Entartistes, a Canadian satirical political group whose members throw cream pies at political and cultural figures whom the group deems to be in need of public embarrassment.
Robert Pattinson Pied in Toronto
On June 28, 2011, Robert Pattinson got hit in the face with a pie in Toronto, Canada. Not to worry, Twilight fans, it was all for his new movie, Cosmopolis, that was being filmed in Toronto.
More Political Pie in the Face in 2010
On January 25, 2010, Canadian federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea got a pie in face while delivering a speech at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario. A woman stood up in the front row and pushed a shaving cream pie squarely into Shea's face saying "Shame on you Gail Shea." The animal-rights group PETA claimed it was responsible for the incident as part of their campaign "to stop the government ill-advised sanction of the slaughter of seals."
On March 14, 2010, Lierre Keith, an American writer, radical feminist, food activist, radical environmentalist, author of The Vegetarian Myth, and who has called vegans ignorant and childlike, got pied while speaking her mind at the annual San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair in 2010. While Keith was speaking at the podium, three men wielding cayenne-laced pies came out from behind and attacked. And adding insult to injury, an audience member tossed a banana peel in her direction for good measure.
Pie in the Face for Fun
Not all pie in the face are slapstick gags or political attacks. Some are done just for fun.
In 2006, in "The Late Show with David Letterman," Emma Thompson hit Letterman with a pie in the face. Thompson was promoting her film "Nanny McPhee," in which her character throws a pie at another character. Letterman produced a cream pie and challenged her to throw it at his face. Of course, she did. This set off a chain reaction of pie-throwing that becomes one of the funniest pie in the face on television.
On July 28, 2010, at the end of Rachael Ray Show "Play with Your Food" episode, Rachel Ray had the lucky (or unlucky) staff member, who got to eat the food of the day, take a pie in the face.
Here's a funny take on Rachael Ray's pie in the face.
Some pie in the face are happy ones.
Celebratory Pie in the Face
In 2009, Major League Baseball, New York Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett started a tradition of pieing his teammates who drive in or score the winning run in a walk-off win (A walk-off win is a game won on a hit by the last batter.)
Soon, the pieing tradition in baseball has extended beyond game-winning hits to any outstanding performance.
Rookie Stephen Strasburg, a right-handed pitcher for the Washington Nationals, was pied by teammate John Lannan after his historic debut when he struck out 14 Pittsburgh batters.
On April 7, 2010, Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia received a celebratory pie in the face after hitting a pair of Opening Night home runs (to go with the two he hit in his major league debut last August) and drove in five runs, against the defending AL Central champion Twins
On July 26, 2010, Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays was pied by Evan Longoria after Garza pitched the first no-hitter in Rays history.
On July 26, 2010, the Florida Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan injured himself while pieing teammate Wes Helms after Helms's single won the game in the bottom of the 11th inning.
First Pie in the Face in 2011
The first pie in the face for 2011 was honorably given to Yankees Nick Swisher for giving the Yankees a dramatic 6-5 win against the Orioles with a walk-off sacrifice fly on the 10th inning April 14, 2011 game.
Some of Baseball Celebratory Pie in the Face
Some pie in the face are for a good cause.
Pie in the Face for Charity
Pie in the Face has further evolved from slapstick gag in the movies and television and political attacks to "get one or give one for a good cause."
Pie in the Face is now a popular fund-raising event with schools and social or charitable organizations.
In World Vision's 12 Fun Ways to Fundraise, guess what the No. 5 way is. You got it - Pie in the Face for a Cause.
On November 2010, Cheryl Cole, the then most hated judge among voters in Britain's The X Factor, was pied in the face for charity during the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards in London.
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And the pieing continues...
Recent Political Pieing (as at August 16, 2011)
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch recently became the latest in a long line of prominent figures who have had a pie thrown at them.
On July 19, 2011, as Rupert Murdoch testified before Britain's Parliament about the News Corp phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch got hit with a pie of shaving cream, courtesy of self-proclaimed comedian and activist Jonnie Marbles. The pie missed Rupert Murdoch's face and landed on his shoulder - thanks, or in Marbles case - no thanks, to the quick reaction from his wife Wendi Deng, who leapt up to defend her husband, slapped the assailant on his head, grabbed the plate used in the attack and hit the assailant. A classic case of the pie-or becoming the pie-ee, or just an unfortunate missed opportunity... darn!
Guess who gets pied next?