Jonathan Pie comedian gives rape joke speech at Cambridge Union

Students claim Tom Walker trivialised sexual assault in shocking Union debate

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On Thursday 18th May, Tom Walker (best known for playing disgruntled news reporter, Jonathan Pie) made a series of shocking rape jokes.

The Cambridge Union Society refused to provide us with a transcript or video of the comedy debate. Any kind of recording is also banned from the Union chamber, but we’ve collected eye witness reports from the event.

He began by joking that the only reason he had come to speak was in order to have sex with a Cambridge student. Apparently he said that there were 36 women in the audience, 37 at a push, that he would go to bed with.

Walker went on to joke that he had attended a sexual consent class that morning, but that he had found it useless. He made light of good sexual practice, joking that it would be ridiculous to ask for verbal consent when engaging in any kind of sexual act, including anal play.  

At one point, Walker’s character started a sentence with “one in three women…”. It’s a widely known and repeated statistic that this is the proportion of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence. But he reportedly ended it instead with “… are being fingered right now in this room.”

In character, he then kept starting sentences with “speaking as a rapist” or “speaking as a sexual predator”, before jokingly correcting himself.

When asked by the Tab what he would say to people who may have been offended by his speech, Walker explained that “Offence is taken not given […] and I would argue that if anyone was genuinely offended by it then, clearly, they didn’t understand the satire of, or the irony of it. But I’m not stupid enough to not know that I was broaching a contentious issue.”

The whole room was silent by the end of his speech. When asked how he felt the speech went down, Walker told how he felt that “Generally it went down well, I knew it’d be contentious, but generally the response after was generally positive.

“I was aware that is was possibly contentious, but what was really interesting is that people were genuinely having decent discussion about it afterwards, which was truly the point of that [the Cambridge Union] society: to create debate and to create discussion, and so in that respect I think it worked.”

Walker told how “I only prepared it 24 hours before, so you know it was rough round the edges but I would concede that some people didn’t get the satire of it or the irony of it.”

When an audience member criticised Walker from the floor, Walker (stepping out of character) gave two defences. The first was that of free speech, which of course, the Union strongly upholds, their motto being “Defending Free Debate since 1815.”

He then went on to say that he had been speaking as an “arrogant” and “misogynistic” character the whole time.

Speaking to the Tab, Walker explained that “no I wasn’t playing Jonathan Pie as was made fairly clear in the speech, I was playing a persona, to make a controversial point knowing it was controversial so that I could defend someone’s right to be controversial.”

The Union term-card and Facebook event both read: “Tom Walker/Jonathan Pie: A frustrated news reporter known for venting his spleen in unguarded “off-camera” rants, Walker/Pie’s online videos have been viewed by millions worldwide.”

The left-wing Jonathan Pie persona, which has gained huge social-media attention over the last few years, was originally given a platform by RT (formerly known as Russia Today). The Russian state-owned news service, considered in some spheres to be a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin

When asked if he had asked for the video of the event to be unpublished, Walker explained that “That was something that was said before the event […] Things can be taken out of context really easily in many cases and, um, I was there to do a public debate with a public audience, I wasn’t there to make a film that was therefore [in] the public domain.

“The context of the speech was to be performed live at that particular event at that particular time […] The manner in which I did the speech, it was probably noted, there isn’t a particular transcript – I ad-libbed some of it  […] I don’t want that out in the public domain.”

This event comes as Cambridge Student and CUSU Woman’s Officer, Audrey Sebatindira, launches a nationwide petition for universities to “Give sexual assault survivors better support at university.” 

The Union Society’s standing committee have refused to comment on the events of the evening or allow us to use photographs of the evening