A Pie-Thrower Speaks

What your average clown in the street doesn't understand, is that throwing a custard-pie is a political act.

The Murdochs' appearance before MPs for a grilling about the phone-hacking scandal was brought to a dramatic halt after an activist attempted to hit Rupert Murdoch in the face with a paper plate covered in shaving foam.

- The Guardian

Consistency is very important. An experienced professional is likely going to spend 30-40% of their time concentrating on consistency. (This compares to the 20-30% of their time spent on technique, with, depending on how firm their grip/wide their handspan is, 10-20% on size, and, depending on how poor their mental arithmetic is, 20-70% on stamina and general fitness).

Too liquid, and the pie becomes almost impossible to aim. Too solid, and you risk causing serious injury. Your ideal custard pie is a balance between the two. 'Ambidextrous', is how some people like to describe it. Which isn't at all accurate, as the word originally denotes an ability to use both hands with equal facility - taken from the Latin, 'ambi-, amb-, ambo-', meaning 'both', and, 'dexter-, dextra-, dextro-', initially meaning 'right-handed', and later coming to mean, 'skilful, fortunate'. Thus, it has the, somewhat uneasy, sense of, 'using both hands as if they were your right', which is unhelpful for those of us who write with our left. Now, I'm all in favour of the living-language, but whilst there are some people who have, so to speak, two right hands, I'm yet to meet a pie with even one. A former colleague suggested describing the perfect consistency as 'bi-sexual'. He was just confused.

There's a lot of superstition surrounds what we do. People spouting rubbish like, "the pie chooses the owner". That's wands, mate. Though, if you'd seen some of the greats wield a pie close up, you might well have been tempted to describe what they do as magic. On a totally serious note, I have the utmost respect for wizards, and neither I, nor any of my colleagues, would claim to merit comparison.

To approach pie-selection as if it were some sort of mystical, mumbo-jumbo passing-over of the hands is offensive. A lot of skill and knowledge and discernment goes into picking a pie. Our training lasts longer than architects. You wouldn't say, "ooh, the building draws the architect", or, "ooh, the patient treats the doctor", or, "ooh, the horse chooses the jockey". Well, in that case you might, because there it's all about the relationship. You can never have a relationship with a pie. They'll screw you for your last nickel, and won't give anything back, because they're just a pie.

What your average clown in the street doesn't understand, is that throwing a custard-pie is a political act. It annoys me when people talk about Bugsy Malone as if it were anything other than our Western Tradition's most powerful extant critique of capitalism's inherent tendency towards spiralling gangsterism. It certainly isn't, as some ill-informed critics have suggested, a musical. There wasn't a single song in the entire film.

Look at Laurel and Hardy. Again, that's all taking place against the backdrop of the Great Depression, and what they're saying is... well, I'm not 100% on what they're saying, I'm just the mug who throws stuff for a living, but I know it's something to do with pies. Maybe it's along the lines of "throw pies, not all your money at shares in a market so heavily reliant on speculation."

This is a noble tradition. When the Roman conspirators gathered that damp March morning, to prepare for converting Julius Caesar into a human voodoo doll, Quintus Legarius had actually brought a custard pie. Brutus, as per, went mental, and wanted to know if Quintus Ligarius was having some sort of laugh. Quintus Legarius replied, in Latin, that, yes, he was, but he was also trying to prove a point. Luckily, nothing went to waste, as lean and hungry Cassius was more than happy to dispose of the pie, explaining that he'd probably stab it off later.

Most cultures have their own version of pie-throwing. We've seen that in the Middle-East they favour the flung shoe (there are increasing calls to adopt the practise over here, but that's cobblers), and in Japan their equivalent is bowing.

The crucial thing, is that you never hate the person you're throwing the pie at. It wouldn't work, if you did. You love them, and you hate the pie, because that's what they stand for. Pies. But you also love the pie and hate yourself, and the person you're throwing the pie at - because who doesn't love pies? There's a lot of love in what we do.


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