When Citizens Elect Comedians Who Run For Office As A Joke...

from the the-system-at-work dept

The idea of comedians who run for office as a joke has a pretty long history. Comedian Pat Paulsen starting running for US President in the 1960s and ended up taking part in six presidential campaigns. More recently, Stephen Colbert attempted to sort of enter the 2008 election, but was eventually denied. There was also an awful movie based on this premise, wherein a TV comedian played by Robin Williams enters the race as a joke... and wins.

However, what I didn't know was that on a much smaller scale this sort of scenario actually played out... in Reykjavik, Iceland, where "absurdist" comedian Jon Gnarr entered the 2010 mayoral race as a joke... and then won, after an absurdist campaign.

Whenever anyone else made a political promise, Gnarr made a bigger one. Gnarr proposed attracting tourists by leveraging the fame of Iceland's most famous citizen: The pop singer Bjork.

His vision:

We should have this huge statue of Bjork at the harbor like the statue of liberty and instead of a torch she would be having a microphone and she would shout out some information about Reykjavik in three different languages and she would be revolving, you know? And also there would be lights. Her eyes would shoot lights on interesting tourist spots in Reykjavik.

When a candidate proposed building an entire amusement park, Gnarr went small.

"I promised to have a life size Mickey Mouse," he says. "We would be the only Disney World that had a life size Mickey Mouse."

When political events turned boring, Gnarr would walk out.

He's now been mayor for a year, and while he still does absurdist things (wearing a gorilla mask at the office, giving a speech while wearing lipstick) he's actually balanced the budget... and seen his ratings drop significantly. He also says that he has a lot more respect for politicians:
"I have realized that the politicians, or most of them, are not evil, stupid people like I thought they were."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:30am

    This should not be surprising

    Politicians make the best comedians. (unintentionally)

    Comedians make the best politicians. (probably because they are brutally honest)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    They people hate when politicians actually do their job, such as balancing budgets and denying the masses the bread and circuses they are use to. Too bad for him that he will likely get turfed out the next time around because he did the right things, even if they weren't funny and wasn't just for the lulz.

     

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  3.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    Re: This should not be surprising

    I'm suddenly reminded reading this what George Carlin had to say on this. If honesty was suddenly introduce to the government the whole dam system would fall apart...

    Sex between the Bushes was a prime example.

     

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  4.  
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    Kurto (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:50am

    Same in London

    This actually happened also over here in the UK - Boris Johnson was elected as the joke candidate for Mayor of London!

    In all seriousness I'm actually one of Boris's biggest supporters, mainly because he annoys self-righteous types who like to deride him. I think we may see more and more 'alternative' candidates finding electoral success in the coming years. Either as a protest, a backlash or through utter disillusionment. Or, as I do, just for the humour of it in the messed up world we live in. Politicians who take themselves seriously tend to have an inflated view of their own ability, and as such do the most damage (Gordon Brown etc...).

     

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  5.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    Why did his ratings drop?

    A little more info would be appreciated.

    And he should come the US then he would see the definition of evil and stupid.

     

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  6.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:58am

    In New New York

    It is actually commonplace to take the comedian-to-politico path.

    You're seeing the future.

     

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  7.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    Wikipedia says it's because taxes have risen and there are cuts to government programs. However, the google translated link of the citation for that is pure awesome. And I quote:
    ...[H]e addressed the protesters and said that no parking space to prevent the children could pursue music. Protesters point out that, among other music, like classical singing, for example, is not possible to pursue a childhood.

     

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  8.  
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    kyle clements (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    fake politics.

    When it comes to comedians and fake political parties, I think these guys take the cake:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinoceros_Party_of_Canada_(1963%E2%80%931993)#Other_campaigns

    "Penny Hoar, a safe sex activist, distributed condoms in Toronto while running under the slogan "Politicians screw you - protect yourself."

     

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  9.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:21am

    Re: Same in London

    My feeling is that they can't do much worse than the people that have been doing it, and because they don't have the ties and backdoor obligations they might actually have a better chance of doing a good job.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:27am

    Re: fake politics.

    Better yet, their campaign platform: It's about yay high and made of oak.

    And their proposal to raise the level of education: Raise the foundations of schools up a metre.

     

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  11.  
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    Peet McKimmie (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    A theory

    Perhaps it's because the best comedians actually observe the real world around them, unlike the majority of politicians.

     

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  12.  
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    Jim_G, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:31am

    It makes my brain sort if implode every time I read about a person entering government, but then they suddenly, mysteriously, oh-my-god-how-could-this-be-happening, come to the conclusion that governing wisely is hard to do. I have nothing against Gnarr, but his earlier conclusion that politicians are evil and stupid was just blind, unthinking prejudice.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:31am

    France actually had a very familiar comedian run for the Presidency some time ago. When the polls started giving him as the winner he dropped out with a comment along the lines of: "You guys have got to be nuts."

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    "It makes my brain sort if implode every time I read about a person entering government, but then they suddenly, mysteriously, oh-my-god-how-could-this-be-happening, come to the conclusion that governing wisely is hard to do. I have nothing against Gnarr, but his earlier conclusion that politicians are evil and stupid was just blind, unthinking prejudice."

    There are no shortage of people on this board who share that blind, unthinking prejudice.

     

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  15.  
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    aperson (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 11:35am

    hunter s thompson ran as a gonzo party candidate. and i would probably vote for colbert/stewart.

     

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  16.  
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    Dave, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 11:42am

    Re:

    his earlier conclusion that politicians are evil and stupid was just blind, unthinking prejudice.

    Right! When in fact politicians are either evil or stupid, but rarely both.

     

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  17.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: A theory

    "Perhaps it's because the best comedians actually observe the real world around them, unlike the majority of politicians."

    Then Minnesota hired Al Franken.

    That was a poor joke they played on the US.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: A theory

    Funny, when I first saw the headline on this article I thought it was going to be about Al Franken.

    I can't wait to see the Giant Bjork in the harbor.

     

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  19.  
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    Cameron Meeks, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    Not so funny

    How about Al Frankin now that I look at it has to be seen as sad not funny

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    "I have realized that the politicians, or most of them, are not evil, stupid people like I thought they were." [citation needed]

     

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  21.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    Sharks With Laser Beams

    "We should have this huge statue of Bjork at the harbor...she would shout out...and she would be revolving."

    Good ideas, but I'm afraid he things too small. Statue? Why not just Bjork? She can be there in 10, and she brings in the warm, human element. Canadians had similar success with Corey Hart on the Canada side of Niagara Falls from 1988-1994.

    I'm sure with some minor surgery, they could even arrange for eyes that "shoot lights on interesting tourist spots in Reykjavik." I mean, if they can do sharks with laser beams, they can do this.

     

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  22.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re:

    Wow. It sounds like it's been "babelized":

    http://tashian.com/multibabel/

     

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  23.  
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    Luk, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

    There was a good article about this a while ago on Spiegel.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,759333,00.html

     

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  24.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:09pm

    Re: Re:

    there's also no shortage of polticians who's actions support the attitude, whether it's Actually what motivates those actions or not.

     

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  25.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re:

    the Dave has a point.

    those who are both evil And stupid work in the ministries instead.

     

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  26.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 9:16pm

    we have/had some joke parties here in NZ. the Wizard used to run one of them. the Imperial something or other party. i forget the exact name.

    the depressing thing is, when you read it's four pages of basic philosophy/policy/goals/whatever, it's not until you get 3/4ths of the way through the 4th page that you realise there's something wrong with it and look back, then notice it started getting strange about 1/3rd of the way through the 4th page (this is the section about forming a new empire and taking over the world, basically. (if i remember rightly)). the worst part is, even taking that part into account, it's Still Better Than The Equivilant From Our Actual Real Political Parties. (well, most of them most of the time, anyway.) and if you ignore the last page is actually the most sensible platform i think anyone's run on in decades.

    i seem to remember a country in eastern europe (poland? maybe someone else) had a 'free beer party'. their entire campaign was that if they won they'd buy every single citizen one beer each.

    they did, and they did, and proceeded to be the best government the country had had in a very long time, for about two terms, before deciding they'd done everything useful they could and had better things to do. (i may be misremembering the details. pretty sure it's on wikipedia somewhere though)

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:07pm

    Does Al Franken fall into this category? He's been doing absurd things since he took office.

     

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  28.  
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    crashsuit (profile), Jun 15th, 2011 @ 10:40pm

    Hello?

    Can't believe Dave Barry didn't get a mention, he's been "running" for prez for quite a while.

     

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  29.  
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    Shaun, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 3:39am

    Re: Same in London

    That's because Ken Livingstone was a slimey little man with plenty of his lefty cronies on the payroll. Boris has done a lot for London despite his oddity and seeming like he hasn't the foggiest

     

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  30.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 4:49am

    Re: Same in London and Hartlepool

    Where a monkey mascot was elected

     

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  31.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 16th, 2011 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: This should not be surprising

    I hope those Bushes were not incestuously related.

     

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  32.  
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    D S, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Umm... We have a bigger joke

    I think Al Franken in the Senate has to be the biggest joke ever.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    Re: Umm... We have a bigger joke

    Clearly you've not read a transcript of a Michelle Bachmann speech.

     

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  34.  
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    iBelieve, Jun 18th, 2011 @ 6:36am

    They must count the votes in Iceland..

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2012 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re:

    Right, it's only when there's more than one that you get evil and stupid, like cheney and bush.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2012 @ 9:18am

    Re: Umm... We have a bigger joke

    "I think Al Franken in the Senate has to be the biggest joke ever."

    You had GW Bush as President but you think the biggest joke was Al Franken in the Senate --- WOW!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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