Few things in life make me happier than a pie in the face.
For as long as I can remember, I thought a pie in the face was the coolest, funniest, funnest-looking thing that could happen to a person. And then, one fine day, I got to enter the proud ranks of People Whose Faces Have Been Pied, courtesy my beautiful wife, who puts up with more strangeness from me than she probably deserves. That's love, folks. I was a little nervous, the first time she hit me, but then...I loved it. It's awesome. We do it once a year or so, and I always look forward to it with a lot of excitement.
More videos of me getting pied in the face are at the bottom of this page...but for now, how did this weirdness get started?
Well, like I said, I've always thought that a pie in the face is a grand thing, and growing up in the 1970s, pies in the face were still a comedic staple. You'd see people get hit with pies on game shows, and on variety shows, on sitcoms...even on Sesame Street. Those were the days....
I can't embed it, but here's a wonderful clip of Moe Howard appearing on the old Mike Douglas Show and offering some pie-hitting pointers. And here are two GIFs of the roomies from Three's Company getting pied. (Well, Janet and Jack get pied. Chrissy, in order to avoid getting pied, pies herself.)
But anyway, how did I get started getting hit with pies? Well, it all goes back to Little Quinn's brief lifetime. In his first few months, virtually all of our energy went into his care, to the point where The Wife and I started to kind-of lose track of one another. It was awful, but we recognized it and started carving out time and opportunity for each other -- usually just a few minutes here, an hour or so there. We needed ways to be together, to let off steam, and to find reasons to smile and laugh.
Enter my old fascination with the pie in the face.
ME: "Have you ever wondered what a pie in the face felt like?"
SHE: "Not really. You have?"
ME: "Yeah. Want to try it?"
SHE: "You mean, me hitting you in the face with a pie?"
SHE: I don't want to get hit myself.
ME: That's fair.
SHE: So it would just be me hitting you.
ME: I'm fine with that.
SHE: Well OK, get a pie and I'll hit you in the face with it.
ME: You're really willing to give me a pie in the face?
SHE: Sure, why not?
HE: Well, it's kinda weird, isn't it?
SHE: You're worried about looking weird, now?
HE: Good point.
And thus a tradition was born...a tradition that consists of my wonderful wife smashing pies into my face. The first few times were a bit dodgy, but once she figured out how hard to properly hit me for maximum facial coverage and splatter, well...huzzah!
With the expected results:
In a lot of ways, I owe this tradition to my son. I wonder how he might think about the fact that part of his legacy is his father getting pied in the face on a regular basis...but I thank him for it. Thank you, Quinn!
Over the years since I've been posting about pies in the face, I've received some questions about the whole affair, so here is some mechanical detail about how to go about pieing and/or being pied. Some of these queries have actually been asked of me; others I've seen in my traffic reports as being the search engine strings used that led people here.
1. What kind of pie do you use?
First things first: No shaving cream. I don't care how well the stuff sticks to your face, and it really does stick wonderfully, because it's made to stick to the face. The problem is that it's soap. It tastes terrible, and it can sting the eyes. I'm pretty adamant that if a pie is going in my face, it had better be edible. So, what does that leave?
Aeresol whipped cream. Meh. This stuff doesn't stick very well, and it melts very quickly, unless you can find the heavier variety that is marketed to food service rather than the light stuff you buy at the grocery store. It's OK in a pinch, but I would never choose it willingly. For best results, a pie made with this stuff should be splatted with a bit of force and possibly smeared around the recipient's face.
Cool-Whip. Better than the aeresol stuff, but I find that by itself, it doesn't stick to the face very well, either. What helps is to mix the Cool-Whip with a stickier material, like cake frosting. What you can do is take an empty crust, either graham-cracker or one you bake (let it cool first), and fill it with some pudding (choose your flavor, I generally go with vanilla) and then top it with a mixture of a container of Cool-Whip into which you've whisked half a container of frosting. This seems to work pretty well.
Meringue. No. Just godawful. It doesn't stick at all. If you want to have a pie in the face experience that leaves as little pie on the face as possible, meringue is the way to go. Otherwise, fuhgeddaoudit.
Crust -- yes or no? Always use a crust. Always, always, always! A crust will pop out of the pan upon impact, thus ensuring that the entire pie sticks to the recipient's face. A crust also makes a much funnier visual, because there's just a lot more stuff sticking to the face.
My favorite pies to be hit with are Sara Lee coconut cream pies, although my last pieing was with Marie Callender's brand (pictured way up there at the top of this post). The Marie Callender pies are thicker and heavier than the Sara Lee ones, but on the basis of one pieing, I'm not sure if I prefer them, because I don't think I thawed them enough the one time I took them in my face. A frozen pie needs to be thawed completely, for obvious reasons, but even if it's thawed but on the cold side, it might make for a disappointing pieing if the custard isn't creamy enough in texture. The ideal pieing should leave layers on the recipient's face, not just a coating of whipped cream. There should be cream, followed by custard, followed by the crust.
As of this writing, I think that Sara Lee may have reformulated things with their pies a bit, so I'm not sure if their current product is as perfectly ideal for splatting in the face as their old one. Eventually I'll get hit with them, and I'll report my findings in this space. The things I do....
2. How do you take a pie in the face, anyway?
If you're the recipient of a pie in your face, your job is easy. You just stand there and get hit with the pie. Afterwards, well -- laugh, smile, giggle, whatever. You can try to hide your face behind your hands, but it's best to just accept that fact that your dignity has been completely blown. Wear the pie on your face with pride!
3. How do you clean up afterward?
This is the non-fun part. Well, I suppose it could be fun...but describing how would take this thing squarely beyond PG, right past PG-13, and into R-rated territory.
Currently we live in an apartment, which means that the only real decent option for a pieing location is the shower. I stand in the tub, take my pies, and then shower immediately afterward, clothes and all. It's just easiest that way -- the clothes have to be washed anyway, and the pre-rinse of showering gets just about all of the pie out of them anyway. I do drape old towels on the side of the tub and on the floor, to catch any errant splatter. After having done this a bunch of times, I've pretty much figured out the logistics of getting hit with pies without getting too much in places we don't want it.
Obviously, more ideal would be to own a house with a yard. Then we could just go outside and use a garden hose to clean up the affected area.
4. Why do you always wear overalls when you get pied?
Because I wear overalls when I do just about everything! Overalls aren't just utilitarian workwear; for me they're a kind of symbol of the kind of whimsical and slightly-eccentric life I want to lead. And you don't get more whimsical or slightly-eccentric than a pie in the face, do you? And besides, overalls are tough and rugged and are always right back to the way they were after a trip through the washer. (It helps that I don't get hit with pies that might stain.)
5. Do you always get hit with more than one pie?
Usually, just because if we're gonna go to the trouble of a pieing, we might as well do it right. Three or four is my max, though. More than that is just overkill.
6. Does it hurt?
If it does, find someone else to hit you. It shouldn't hurt at all. If you watch the videos, you'll see that my wife hits me at times with what looks like quite a bit of force -- but they never hurt. I imagine there's some physics involved with the pie itself absorbing the kinetic energy of the hit as it smooshes onto your face, or something like that. No, it doesn't hurt! And hey, the little bits of toasted coconut might even exfoliate!
7. Smash or smoosh?
I prefer a nice, hard splat that leaves the crust stuck to my face and sends chunks of cream splatter everywhere. But there's something to be said for a nice, gentle smooshing of the pie into the face as well. Here's a brief comparison:
I've never had one thrown into my face. A nicely-thrown pie always looks great when it hits, but I've seen too many such throws go awry and only strike glancing blows. If I'm getting a pie in the face, I want the pie in my face!
7. Doesn't the smell linger in your nose for a while?
Ummm...yeah, usually for a few hours. Small price to pay, in my mind.
OK, I think that covers everything that's ever been asked!
Finally, here are the videos of all my pieings:
This one first appeared on the blog here.
This next one coincided with my 40th birthday. Here's the original blog post.
I really like the way this one turned out. It's longer, with 'behind the scenes' stuff. Original blog post.
That should cover just about everything I have to say about being pied in the face!