Speaking of made-up “holidays”….

…today is, according to someone, Pie In The Face Day!

If you Google it, several dates come up (July 1 is one), but the most common is November 27. I’ve no idea why November 27 is the date for this, unless the idea is that November 27 is usually after Thanksgiving, so there’s likely to be leftover pie left about (though pumpkin pie would never be my choice for this application). Seems to me the birthdate of one of the fine comedy film stars of a century ago: perhaps Ben Turpin’s on September 19, as Turpin is thought to be the first recipient on film of a pie in the face, or maybe Mabel Normand’s on November 9, as she is sometimes credited with throwing the first pie in a face. This era of film history is pretty hazy, since most of the films don’t even exist anymore, and surely the notion of dispatching messy food into someone’s face didn’t just come out of nowhere, never done before, sometime in the 1910s.

Of course, I grew up seeing people getting pied all the time on shows in the 70s, both on variety shows and sitcoms. Three’s Company had a memorable episode in which every cast member was on the receiving end:

From THREE’S COMPANY: “The Bakeoff”. Suzanne Sommers (left) has just hit herself in the face with a pie before Joyce DeWitt (right) could do it for her.

From THREE’S COMPANY: “The Bakeoff”. John Ritter (center) has just had two pies smashed simultaneously into his face, by Norman Fell (left) and Audra Lindley (right).

And variety shows! Remember the Mike Douglas Show? They had Moe of the Three Stooges on once to declaim on pieing, and since HEE HAW was commonly on in my household during my formative years, it’s not hard to look back at that show and see more bits of my personality locking into place:

Johnny Cash plants a pie in Archie Campbell’s face. Note the overalls!

I mean, really: Between the ages of 4 and, say, 9, I was exposed to: Star WarsStar Trek, Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, John Williams, bib overalls, and pies in the face. That’s a lot of influence to pack into a few years!

The pie in the face continues trucking right along, though it maybe isn’t quite the comedic staple it once was. You still see it showing up these days in fundraisers (“If we raise $1000 for St. Bob’s Hospital, Dr. Weisenheimer will get a pie in the face!”) and still once in a while in political protest (a scenario of which I am not a fan, to be honest). A pie in the face is the payoff in a lot of pranks nowadays (example), and again I’m not a big fan of this: the whole “unwitting victim” thing might work in a fictional comedy, but less so in real life, I think. A new odd subset of the pie in the face is sports mascots that have made pies a part of their schtick; these are kind of a middle-ground because the recipients aren’t entirely unwitting. If you see these mascots coming in your direction, you probably know a pie is ending up in someone’s face, so you can take measures to ensure it’s not yours, maybe! (And if it happens to someone you’re with, be prepared for their natural reaction to you laughing at them.)

There was a pie fad in baseball several years ago, when pies would be dispatched post-victory into the faces of players who had performed on-field heroics, but sadly, baseball’s Fun Police, fearing pie-related injury, apparently put the kibosh on that:

A pie in the face should NEVER hurt and it should NEVER cause injury! Pie safely, people!

And in pandemic times such as ours, the pie in the face doesn’t have to be forgotten! It just takes good aim, like Blake Edwards demonstrates in this production photo from The Great Race:

Director Blake Edwards (left) exhibits perfect aim with a pie he has thrown into the face of actress Natalie Wood (right).

In comedy situations, obviously the usual reaction is going to be stunned indignation:

From SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: Jean Hagen (right) reacts to being hit with a cake (not a pie, but it counts) by Debbie Reynolds (left), which had been intended for Gene Kelly (center).

But a pie in the face can also be an occasion for happiness and cheer, as these two friends apparently demonstrate:

More recently, just the other day friend of this blog Roger Green pointed out a recent dearth of pie-related content around here. This has certainly not been for lack of trying, though it’s not a frequent thing. Last fall a friend and former coworker of mine, who is also an amateur actress and has played a part in previous pie-related shenanigans, and I attempted collaborating on a “How to Give and Receive a Pie in the Face” video. It was fun to shoot, but alas, the footage really isn’t usable, because it was a really windy day. Not only did the camera mike pick up the wind howling (it actually makes the day sound worse than it was), but the wind actually made the camera vibrate slightly! We hope to film the concept again at some point, using a better camera-and-mike set-up, but I am able to cull stills from the footage:

Splat! Yes, that’s me. I applied a Prisma filter to this screencap.

More recently, this same friend and I got together to film a short gift exchange when she got a new lucrative job. We celebrated with an exchange of gifts: I gave her a bottle of rum that she and her husband like, and she gave me a pie in the face.

That was no store-bought pie, either–I actually made that thing for the express purpose being smashed in my face. The thing had to weigh a good two pounds! I felt that pie when it landed. Didn’t hurt, though! It should never hurt!

So, Happy Pie in the Face Day, y’all! If you celebrate, pie responsibly: Don’t surprise your recipient, don’t hit them so hard it hurts, and don’t use shaving cream! And if you’re on the receiving end, well–just laugh and enjoy it. And then go get a towel.

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3 Responses to Speaking of made-up “holidays”….

  1. That’s better! All’s now right with the universe.
    Not quite a pie fight, but you may find this interesting, especially the third video, https://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2008/09/flying-pies-and-lisa-edelstein.html

    • ksedinger says:

      I remember that! I used to read Levine’s blog daily and somehow got away from it. I’m checking in on him again now, though I have to say that there seems to be a “Get off my lawn!” tone creeping into his blogging of late. Still a source of great stories from teevee, film, and entertainment!

  2. You’re not wrong about Ken, particularly regarding what comedy writers people can’t say because it’s politically incorrect. But his podcast is pretty solid, with show biz insiders (writers, showrunners, character actors) you don’t generally hear from.

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