What Even Is a Cunk?!

In 2023, America met Philomena Cunk. The rest is history.

Diane Morgan as Philomena Cunk in Cunk on Earth
Photo: Netflix

Being stupid, as the saying goes, is like being dead – you’re oblivious either way, so it’s only really a problem for the people around you. The people around TV documentarian Philomena Cunk therefore, have a major problem.  

At the end of January this year, America met Cunk properly for the first time when new show Cunk on Earth arrived on Netflix US. A documentary series follow-up to 2018’s Cunk on Britain, it’s an ambitious attempt to sum up the history of humankind in five half-hour episodes, made even more ambitious by the fact that it’s presented by a total moron.

A deliberate total moron, let’s be clear. Some apparently still aren’t clear that Philomena Cunk is not a real TV presenter but a character played by British comedy actor Diane Morgan. When Morgan appeared on US chat show Late Night With Seth Meyers earlier this year, she rattled off the list of complaints she regularly receives on Twitter: Cunk is a terrible presenter, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, she gets even the simplest of facts wrong… Add in the mass of online reaction videos to Philomena Cunk’s interviews with experts, doctored with freeze-framed bewilderment faces and “awk-ward!!!” emojis, and it appears that not everybody gets the joke. 

Maybe that’s because the Cunk documentaries, which began in 2016 as a spin-off from the character’s 30-second talking heads vids on Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker’s satirical review show Weekly Wipe, are extremely well observed. They ape the visual language of British documentary series so minutely that if you don’t listen to what’s actually being said, you could well mistake it for the real thing – give or take the regularity with which Cunk trips over on her walk-and-talks.  


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