7) Gnarr [7.5]

Jon Gnarr is an iconoclastic Icelandic comedian who has won a large audience at home for his offbeat comic style, and in 2009, after the global economic crisis hit Iceland hard, he decided to run for mayor of Reykjavik, largely as a prank. Gnarr launched his own political party, The Best Party (their slogan: “Hooray for all kinds of things!”), and created a purposefully absurd political platform. (2010)

Perhaps it’s best that I provide this caveat: I’ve been obsessed with the Icelandic culture for the past ten years. After becoming a fan of Sigur Ros (and eventually getting a tattoo of one of their album titles), I made a piss-poor attempt at learning their language as well as informing myself as much as I could about the unique Nordic country. Ahead of visiting Reykjavik in two months, while doing research I came across the utterly fascinating public figure, Jon Gnarr. Some cursory information about him:

Gnarr launched his own political party, The Best Party (their slogan: “Hooray for all kinds of things!”), and created a purposefully absurd political platform in which, among other things, he promised to build a Disney theme park in Iceland, eliminate all elected official who don’t faithfully watch The Wire, and increase the number of polar bears in the city’s zoos. Gnarr’s campaign won him a lot of laughs, but surprisingly also gained popular support — early polls had him claiming 13% of the vote, and as election day drew nearer, his campaign team of punk rockers, bohemians and folks sick of the status quo were in the position of being legitimate spoilers in the mayoral race, with the other candidates as a loss for how to run against him.

What primarily makes Gnarr so enjoyable is that the comedian-turned-mayor is tremendously funny. In addition, his winning of the Icelandic mayoral election is an interesting turn in politics in general, yet the filmmakers don’t necessarily always show him in a positive light despite his accomplishment. Instead, they let Gnarr speak stream of conscious, retelling stories (who knows if there’s validity to some of them) and screwing with the press–never in a malicious fashion, mind you–while never making him out to be a hero. Between his failings in running a company and the negative perception that some in the media hold for the mayor, Gnarr lets the viewer decide what to make of him; furthermore, Jon Gnarr isn’t just a joke for the sake of being joke. You can tell that he’s sincere and has a great passion for his people, in spite of his unorthodox approach.

Sure, celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Al Franken were elected, but they didn’t run their campaign as a joke. Is Gnarr winning an anomaly that may never be repeated? It’s possible, as the Icelandic people were likely ready for something significantly different after their economy tanked and their country had been dealing with a never ending cycle of turmoil for a few years. Maybe with the exception of crisis, people wouldn’t have the nerve to vote in a prankster. Even still, it’s fascinating to see people rally behind and entrust a person who has made a mockery of the government they voted him into.

Gnarr refers to himself as an anarchist, and perhaps in some sense he is. More than anything, though, he is taking satire and parody to an entirely different level. For those that act as of politics is solely a serious affair, Gnarr will likely cause revulsion in them. For everyone else who have open minds, it makes for a compelling question: what if politics and government could be fun?


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