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Philomena Cunk is a character portrayed by the British actress Diane Morgan that has appeared in a variety of mockumentary shows on BBC since 2013. The character is an ill-informed and dense interviewer and reporter, who often misinterprets what her interview subjects are saying. In 2022, the character went viral soon after the launch of her mockumentary series Cunk On Earth as clips from the show became popularized on TikTok and YouTube.
On January 31st, 2013, the British television review program Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe premiered on BBC Two. A regular segment on the show featured Diane Morgan as Philomena Cunk, an ill-informed and dim-witted interviewer (shown below, left). The character later appeared in multiple other mockumentary series and shorts on BBC, including Cunk on Chrismas (2016), Cunk on Britain (2018, episode shown below, right) and Cunk and Other Humans (2019).
The character did not achieve virality until September 2022 when the mockumentary series Cunk on Earth premiered on BBC (trailer shown below).
Starting on September 21st, 2021, BBC uploaded clips from Cunk on Earth to TikTok and to YouTube as shorts, with the videos going viral on both platforms. For example, the first upload gained over 213,000 likes on TikTok and 1.3 million views on YouTube in one month (shown below).
In late September through October 2022, BBC uploaded multiple clips with interviews by Philomena Cunk that went viral on TikTok and YouTube. For example, on September 22nd, BBC uploaded an interview about pyramids in Egypt that gained over 1.2 million likes on TikTok and 4.1 million views on YouTube in one month (shown below, left). On October 12th, BBC uploaded another clip in which Philomena Cunk inquires about "every American's right to kill anyone they want with a gun." The video received over 2.8 million likes on TikTok and 13.2 million views on YouTube in three weeks (shown below, right).
The viral success of the series on YouTube and TikTok became a subject of discussions on other social media, such as Twitter. For example, on October 18th, 2022, political scientist Brian Klaas tweeted about a clip of Philomena Cunk interviewing him gaining over 17 million views on TikTok, with the tweet gaining over 34,000 views, 70 retweets and 600 likes in two weeks (shown below).
This video of me discussing the right to bear arms with Philomena Cunk has [checks notes] 17 million views on TikTok for some reason. Tune in tonight on BBC2 for the series finale of Cunk on Earth, in which we discuss the “Cube and Missile” crisis. pic.twitter.com/4lg5rxarhE
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 18, 2022