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Taking a cream pie in the face for charity.

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.


Ensign Patricia Cunanan shoves a pie in the face of Command Master Chief Michael Lucas during a fundraiser aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD-45)
The World Custard Pie Flinging Championship at Coxheath

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.[1] 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."[2]

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. Our Gang's Shivering Shakespeare (1930) winds up with an auditorium full of people throwing pies. The 1935 short subject Keystone Hotel featured a large pie fight ending with the camera taking a pie. In 1941, another major pie fight film appeared: The Three Stooges' In the Sweet Pie and Pie.[3][4][5] A Technicolor film involving pies was the 1965 comedy, The Great Race; known for having the largest pie fight in cinematic history.[6] Its $200,000 pie fight scene used one large cake and 4,000 pies, and took five days to shoot.[7] Pie fight also featured in Beach Party (1963) and Smashing Time (1967). In the movie Bugsy Malone, the "splurge guns" resembled spud guns which fired custard.

There are many instances in the Looney Tunes series of cartoons where characters "pie" each other in the face. Bugs Bunny repeatedly hits Elmer Fudd with cream pies during a scene in Slick Hare. In Shishkabugs, Bugs Bunny releases a spring-loaded pie into the face of the king, causing the royal cook Yosemite Sam to be led away to a dungeon. The episode Daffy Dilly has Daffy Duck trying to cure a dying millionaire by getting him to laugh. After he achieves this inadvertently, by landing in a cake, Daffy is hired as a sort of household jester and ends the cartoon by getting repeatedly pelted with cakes and pies.[8]

In one of the Batman comic books, The Joker once concocted an elaborate scheme whose sole purpose was to hit Batman in the face with a pie.[8]

Many comedy routines have used a pie as a gag, including ones performed by Soupy Sales and Monty Python, and those of clowns in many circus performances.

A popular Nickelodeon reality show called What Would You Do? also features contraptions designed to hit participants in the face with multiple cream pies, often as punishment for losing, or sometimes reward for winning, a game performed on the show. The UK Saturday morning programme Tiswas had custard pies as a regular feature and even had a character called The Phantom Flan Flinger, a masked man who pied people.

The World Custard Pie Throwing Championships take place annually in the village of Coxheath in Kent, England.

Political acts[edit]

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.[9][10] Aron Kay, also a Yippie, went on to take up Forcade's pieing tactics. Kay pied, among many others, William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, and Andy Warhol.[11] 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 Chumbawamba song Just Desserts, an homage to the concept of pieing).[12][13][14] Kay retired in 1992 after pieing right-wing activist Randall Terry. Kay appears in cartoon form in a 2003 animated music video, "Death penalty for pot" by Benedict Arnold and The Traitors, where he and Dana Beal pie George W. Bush and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (at 2 minutes and 33 seconds into the video).[15]

Concerning Kay, an article in the San Francisco Examiner says: "He considers the Three Stooges, whom he began watching on TV as a kid, as the true fathers of pie-throwing."[4]

Belgian anarchist and surrealist Noël Godin pied filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard during the Cannes Film Festival, and Bernard-Henri Lévy many times.

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.[16]

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.[17] 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: "Is it surprising to see Ralph Klein opposing the Kyoto Accord for the right of big corporations to pollute, the same corporations that finance his campaigns?"[3]

"The pie gives power back to the people because so many feel powerless in the face of big politicians and industrialists", explained Pope-Tart (a pseudonym), a member of the Entartistes.[18] Newsweek columnist Gersh Kuntzman wrote that pieing "deserves to be one of the most celebrated traditions in our so-called culture."[14]

Sometimes pieing targets suffer the prank with good humor. 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 Noël 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.[19] 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."[14]

On January 25, 2010, Canada's Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea was hit with a pie in her face while touring the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario, in an act of protest against the seal hunt in Canada by animal rights group PETA.[20] PETA said in a release that it was part of its campaign “to stop the government’s ill-advised sanction of the slaughter of seals.”[21]

On July 19, 2011, Rupert Murdoch was pied in London during a Parliamentary hearing on the News International phone hacking scandal.[13][22][23][24][25][26]



Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien was hit in the face with a pie by a protester in Prince Edward Island in 2000. His attacker initially was given jail time but eventually received a conditional sentence.[21]

A woman who missed Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach with a pie at the annual Calgary Stampede breakfast in 2007, and hit a security official instead, was sentenced to 30 days in jail. So was a woman who threw a pie at Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier in the summer of 2007.[21]

In 2003, a protester who hit then-Alberta premier Ralph Klein in the face with a pie at the Stampede breakfast was convicted of assault and ordered to serve a 30-day intermittent jail sentence.[21]


Jonathan May-Bowles pied Rupert Murdoch in July 2011 during a highly publicized testimony before a British parliamentary committee in connection with the News International phone hacking scandal. May-Bowles was sentenced to serve a six-week prison sentence at Wandsworth Prison in London; this sentence was later reduced to four weeks.[27]

United States[edit]

In August 2010, a Michigan State University student named Ahlam Mohsem, 23, threw a Dutch apple pie into Michigan Senator Carl Levin's face and was arrested on assault and battery charges. The police also charged a man who allegedly distracted the senator before the pie was thrown. Mohsem said she threw the pie with the aim of "bringing to light Sen. Levin's war crimes" as a "Zionist".[28]


On 27 October 2011, the Spanish politician Yolanda Barcina was hit by three pies a meeting in Toulouse, France.[29] 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. On 27 November 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.[30] Yolanda Barcina claimed bodily harm, suffered because of "the hardness of French meringue pie".[31]


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.[32]


At charity fund raisers, 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. This is a popular fund-raising event with schools and social or charitable organizations. Students can pie teachers, professors, or other administrators to ease the tension while still raising money and/or awareness about a cause.

One additional option is allowing the person who has purchased or won the opportunity to use the pie to also fill it, usually with a variety of extremely messy dessert toppings: chocolate, cherries, caramel sauce, strawberry sauce, etc. Plastic bags for the victim to protect their clothing and hair are optional. Witnesses standing too close to the victim(s) may be splattered.

Pie-in-the-face variants on the Ice Bucket Challenge also emerged in 2014, most commonly under the name "Pie In The Eye Challenge," in which the nominated person must receive a pie in the face instead of the bucket of iced water poured over the head.[34][35] In some cases, individuals underwent both challenges in the same video.


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).[36][37]

Burnett's "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), Francisco Cervelli,[38] Juan Miranda, Mark Teixeira, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Marcus Thames, Brett Gardner, Alex Presley, and most recently, Josh Harrison and Russell Martin. Burnett usually pies the player while he is being interviewed on the field by a TV reporter.

Other players have become well-known and celebrated for their pieing. During his tenure as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, utility infielder Tomás Pérez would commonly pie teammates during post-game interviews. [39]

The pieing tradition in baseball has extended beyond game-winning hits to any outstanding performance. Rookie Stephen Strasburg was pied by teammate John Lannan after his historic debut when he struck out 14 Pittsburgh batters.[40] Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays was pied by Evan Longoria after Garza pitched the first no-hitter in Rays history July 26, 2010.[41] Most recently, Baltimore Orioles rookie Manny Machado was pied by teammates Robert Andino and Adam Jones after hitting two home runs (the youngest Oriole ever to do so) in only his second major league game.[42]

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. In response, manager Edwin Rodriguez said that there will be no more such celebratory antics.[41][43]

J.P. Arencibia was pied in the face after hitting two home runs in his MLB debut against the Rays.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Very Brief History of Slapstick". Splat TV. 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  2. ^ "Mack Sennett – The Father of Slapstick Comedy". The Obit Report. Legacy.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "The Art of Pieing. Nothing cuts through the veneer of the powerful like a banana cream". By Tooker Gomberg. Now (Toronto). July 17–23, 2003.
  4. ^ a b "A Long Career of Pitching Pastries". By Rachel Gordon. San Francisco Examiner. November 12, 1998.
  5. ^ Everson, William K. (1967). "The Battle of the Century". The complete films of Laurel & Hardy. Citadel Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-8065-0146-4. 
  6. ^ Zeitlin, David (July 9, 1965). "Greatest pie fight ever creates a horrendous SPLAAT!". Life. pp. 84–88. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ Wasson, Sam (2009). "The Great Race (1965)". A splurch in the kisser: the movies of Blake Edwards. Wesleyan Film. Wesleyan University Press. p. 98. ISBN 0-8195-6915-1. 
  8. ^ a b http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PieInTheFace
  9. ^ Vinciguerra, Thomas (December 10, 2000). "Take Sugar, Eggs, Beliefs . . . And Aim". New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  10. ^ Tom Forcade: Unsung Hero of the Counter-culture By Bill Weinberg. World War 4 Report.
  11. ^ Lewis Grossberger (October 3, 1977). "Aron Kay: Un-American as Apple Pie". The Village Voice. 
  12. ^ Rutledge, Leigh (1992). The Gay Decades. New York: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-452-26810-9.
  13. ^ a b Murdoch, the Pie Man, and Baked Goods as Political Theatre. By Bill Lichtenstein. July 21, 2011. Huffington Post.
  14. ^ a b c "Pie-Faced: Why throwing a pie at someone who deserves it is one of the most celebrated traditions in our so-called culture". By Gersh Kuntzman. Newsweek, April 25, 2005.
  15. ^ "Death penalty for pot". Kay pieing George Bush and John Ashcroft in an "animated music video (2003) by northern California artist/animator Brad Frost, of the song "Death Penalty For Pot", by the band Benedict Arnold & The Traitors." on MySpace on YouTube
  16. ^ "Flanning: Rich and famous get custard pie treatment". BBC News. 3 February 2000. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  17. ^ Time Waster (2004-10-22). ""Al Pieda" Targets Ann Coulter". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  18. ^ "Pied Snipers". By Andrew Duffy. Southam News. January 31, 1999.
  19. ^ Time Waster. ""Al Pieda" Targets Ann Coulter". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  20. ^ "Anti-sealing PETA protester smacks Minister with tofu pie". By John Burman and Mike McNeil. Toronto Star. January 25, 2010.
  21. ^ a b c d "Pie tossing is terrorism, MP says". Toronto Star (Ottawa). 2010-01-26. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  22. ^ Rupert Murdoch attacked: an eyewitness account. By James Kirkup. July 19, 2011. Daily Telegraph.
  23. ^ "Phone hacking: Murdoch attacked at MPs' hearing". BBC News Online. July 19, 2011. 
  24. ^ From Jonnie Marbles to the Yippies: a history of pie activism. By Andrew Gallix. July 20, 2011. The Guardian.
  25. ^ Murdoch is the latest in a long line of pie-throwing pranksters’ targets. By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Monica Hesse. July 19, 2011. Washington Post.
  26. ^ Rupert Murdoch attack: The power of a custard pie. 20 July 2011. By Jon Kelly. BBC News Magazine.
  27. ^ CC Murdoch pie thrower reportedly blogging from prison, CNN, August 16th, 2011
  28. ^ Tan, Emily (Aug 18, 2010). "Woman, 23, Arrested for Pie-ing U.S. Senator". Lemondrop.com. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  29. ^ "La presidenta de Navarra recibe tres tartazos", Público, 27 October 2011
  30. ^ [1], Diario de Navarra, 27 November 2013]
  31. ^ "La peligrosa dureza del merengue francés", El País, 13 April 2012
  32. ^ http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article10246204.ab
  33. ^ Jackey Locke (April 9, 2009). "Pi-Day in support of the Janeway Foundation a huge success". Memorial University of Newfoundland. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  34. ^ http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/msp-hugh-hap-pie-help-charitys-4189480
  35. ^ http://www.t-g.com/story/2114393.html
  36. ^ Barron, James (28 October 2009). "A Pie in the Face Is a New Yankee Tradition". The New York Times. p. 25. Retrieved 26 December 2010. 
  37. ^ - Video: Victorino Pies Myers On 'Today Show' - Phillies Nation
  38. ^ Pie Is Again Served at Yankee Stadium - New York Magazine
  39. ^ http://articles.philly.com/2006-04-03/sports/25395593_1_tomas-perez-david-dellucci-phillies
  40. ^ "Stephen Strasburg sets Washington Nationals strikeout record, gets win in debut". Washingtonpost.com. 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  41. ^ a b Plutnicki, Kenneth (July 27, 2010). "Rays Turn the Tables With Garza’s No-Hitter". New York Times. 
  42. ^ KC@BAL: After homering twice, Machado earns first pie. Major League Baseball. August 11, 2012. 
  43. ^ Marlins’ left fielder Coghlan headed for DL
  44. ^ Arenciba Pie to the Face

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