From Focus World, the hilarious true story of the comedian who ran for mayor of Iceland’s largest city. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? You can’t be working for a peace camp in the Middle East during the day and then in the evening have an argument with your family over the phone.”, “What is hip and cool? We’re so focused on success that we’ve forgotten how to enjoy things. He was born in hardship in a turf house in 1918. "I said I was sorry and he cried. ", The humour, the subversion and the silliness are part of Gnarr's appeal. Jón Gnarr Kristinsson was the mayor of Reykjavik from 2010 to 2014 without any previous political experience. "I – uh, well, we, because I don't like to take all the credit – completely changed the financial situation of the city. Britain sent all its military ships, and Nato said, 'Oh, we're busy.' He carried this pain within him." But the reason the Best Party sustained a successful full term of government in Reykjavik is that it was a tool for his essential seriousness of purpose. The second British Icelandic cod war of the 1970s, that is, which drew this response from Gnarr: "Well, we were in Nato at the time and they didn't do anything to help us. It was pretty much a one-man band. Iceland used to be a Danish colony, he explains, and so the ruling class had "fancy Danish last names", which they were allowed to keep, whereas the common people have to take their last name from their father's first name (occasionally their mother's), with a -sson or -dottir suffix. So he took them on. "As a child, I suffered from domestic violence for years, in the form of psychological abuse from my father, and I would never agree to inflict it on others," he writes in his book. In his closing speech Gnarr said: 'All you need is love, love is all you need', Gnarr says: 'I'm funny, I try to be funny, except when it's impossible. It should be required reading for the 99% of Americans who got screwed by the economic crisis of 2008 and is still trying to recover. Our advert appeared in the classified section of a greasy rag: ‘The Best Party is looking for men and women who want to change things.’ We were almost overwhelmed by the number of replies.”, “What else are you going to talk about with your coalition partners – socialism?”, “I’ve set myself the goal of making Reykjavik the ‘City of Peace’. That’s what’s happened with politics. And, although he became a punk at the age of 13, he has always abhorred violence. He was allowed to change his middle name from Gunnar to how his mother used to pronounce it, but rails against the unfairness of the Icelandic naming system. He is proud that his 27-year-old son texted him recently to congratulate him on winning the Lennon-Ono Grant for Peace award this year. His son said: "Congratulations, you deserve it Dad. Another factor might be that Reykjavik is so small – a city the size of Gloucester in a country with the same population, about 325,000, as Coventry. ©2017 Village Voice, LLC. He has no patience either with some of the main tenets of the Social Democrats, and opposes Iceland's membership of Nato – "It's ridiculous, we don't have armed forces, why should we be part of it? Of course, in typical Jón fashion, he required the leader of the Social Democrats to be familiar with his favorite television show, The Wire, so they would have something to talk about other than politics. He would say: "Come on, I've raised five children, I've buried both my parents, I wasn't laughing about that. He says: "Most political parties, except perhaps for fascists, have nice, intelligent, good people in them. He formed the Best Party in 2009 and became the mayor of Reykjavík in 2010. Reading Gnarr! It's value number three and number nine.". And won. "The translator called me. The kids turned out OK. ", At this point it is possible that I might have mentioned the war. "I said I was very sorry. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? But what starts a joke suddenly becomes serious when people start to believe - against all odds - that he might just be the best man for the job. Gnarr refuses to accept my assumptions. Rúv was first to report the story. He compares the Best Party to a social worker intervening in a family: "You try not to take sides with family members." They are confusing depression with seriousness', An island view: In a post-political life, Gnarr's political views are still forthright, including rejecting membership of Nato and ambivalence towards EU membership, Have you heard the one about Jon Gnarr, the comedian who saved Iceland, You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully, Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable, Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties, We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification. Should Iceland be a member of the European Union, then (the country is in accession talks)? He’s the mayor of 320,000 people and, according to the New York Times, he’s the man. It wouldn't change anything. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. That might make the Best Party's success hard to repeat in bigger places. Jon Gnarr, Reykjavik Mayor, Joke Candidate ... (despite Mr. Gnarr’s suspicion that party leaders had assigned an underling to watch “The Wire” and take notes). ", Gnarr says: "I have tried to not pass my things on to my children." Yet his collaborative style meant that most people accepted that hard decisions were needed. He had to work for his food from the age of six. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. Description - Gnarr by Jon Gnarr It all started when J n Gnarr founded the Best Party in 2009 to satirize his country's political system. But there are many things about which Gnarr does care, deeply and seriously. was a breath of fresh air from other political memoirs. Many of its members – anyone could call themselves a member – have set up a more conventional party called Bright Future, which has gone into coalition with the Social Democrats, Iceland's main left-wing party, in the city's government. He founded the ‘Best Party’ in late 2009. and won the city council election six months later. The whole ideology of a united Europe. More than a third of Icelanders live in the capital, so he was almost "mayor of Iceland", as Björk called him. His father was a police officer, and he has an instinctive impatience with those who simply want to tear things down. Hann sá um útvarpsþáttinn Tvíhöfða á X-inu , Radíó , Radíó X og Rás 2 ásamt Sigurjóni Kjartansyni . Mr. Gnarr, born in Reykjavik as Jon Gunnar Kristinsson to a policeman and a kitchen worker, was not a model child. Gnarr had no background in politics…While rival politicians ruthlessly went for him…voters were by and large charmed.” —the Guardian’s G2 magazine (UK) “ Gnarr! Could the 'clown' who saved Reykjavik now provide the rest of the world with a manifesto for a better life? Prison Memoirs: The New York Women’s House of Detention. Þar áður stjórnaði hann öðrum útvarpsþætti, Heimsenda á Rás 2 árið 1994 . A deadpan humorist with equal doses of Jon Stewart understatement and the is-he-punking-us irreverence of an Andy Kaufman sketch, Gnarr essentially charmed … The Best Party’s platform included bringing a polar bear to the zoo, free towels at all public pools, a drug-free parliament within ten years, and a promise to break all of its promises. A ‘drug-free Parliament by 2020. We are indirectly part of the EU through the EEA [European Economic Area] and Schengen [the passport-free agreement]. Now that he has stood down, he is no longer a threat to established politicians, so they can afford to say nice things about him. ", "Oh. I was terrified of this man. The Best Party has now disbanded. Bit by bit, 'Raising Kane' becomes an excuse to lower the boom on Orson Welles so as to resurrect the reputation of the late Herman J. Mankiewicz.”, “When the iron door was opened, sounds peculiar to jails and prisons poured into my ears — the screams, the metallic clanging, officers’ keys clinking. In 2014, at the end of Gnarr’s mayoral term, the Best Party will be dissolved. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. He pauses: "I honestly have to say…" another pause for effect "…that I don't care." Elections in Reykjavik, Iceland resulted with 34.7% of the vote going to a group called the Best Party — really — founded only in December. He served as the mayor for four years, until this summer, then wrote his book, and is now working out what to do next. : How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, says his Best Party started as a comedy sketch, but it has some quite strict rules, including no smoking or drinking, and some terribly earnest reflections on "responsibility". Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. With Iceland falling on hard times, Jon Gnarr decided to invent a new political party - the subtly named "Best Party" - and run for office in order to mock the squabbling left and right. What’s wrong? If people are never funny, then they are just worried, they are depressed. "No.". Elections in Reykjavik, Iceland resulted with 34.7% of … Jón Gnarr is an Icelandic actor, comedian, and politician who served as the Mayor of Reykjavík from 2010 to 2014. Craig Ferguson, host of the popular talk show The Late Show with Craig Ferguson, hosted his very last show on Friday, with actor Jon Hamm among his guests. They are confusing depression with seriousness. But be prepared to invest a bit of time and make sacrifices.”, “During the Reykjavik elections, the main parties took out glossy adverts in the main newspapers. Gnarr recounts an episode from when he was 12 as if it were yesterday. His campaign—in which he promised to build a Disneyland in the city and refused to talk to his opponents if they hadn't watched "The Wire"—was filmed, from start to finish, by Gaukur Úlfarsson for his feature documentary Gnarr . In other words, people are fed up with the status quo in a very serious way. Literally. Meeting him in person, though, I realise that the Icelandic sense of humour is as dry as subzero ice. A celebrity with jokes is a breath of fresh air, and he also sends a message, from the Best Party’s punk rock party members to its serious moral standings. I wasn't sure if I had understood Jon Gnarr's sense of humour. That is something social democrats care about. Jón Gnarr Kristinsson was the mayor of Reykjavik from 2010 to 2014. is an entertaining reflection on life, politics, and human nature by an original and creative individual…It’s a tribute to, and manifesto for, participatory democracy in the 21st century. Start your Independent Premium subscription today. I can be serious when it's needed, but it's not needed now, not with you.". It is as vital as emotional intelligence but it’s often derided. I've known you for 27 years and I've never known you for anything else than peace. Jon Gnarr was at the forefront of that bloodless revolution and this book is his story of how that happened. As you can imagine, he didn’t have a background in the Icelandic political establishment. Its promises? This was something for which I was not prepared. What is surprising is that he stayed popular after the unenviable task of balancing the city's books. It depends on every individual. And, as we are saying goodbye, he says something lightly that is deadly serious. "I really don't care. We would never work with a party like that.”, Previously, he promised a group of kindergartners he would build a Disneyland at the airport. His official campaign slogan (or as official as anything got for the Best Party) was: “Hooray for … You don’t need special training or any special skills. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. It didn't make a difference then that we were in Nato. With Iceland falling on hard times, Jon Gnarr decided to invent a new political party - the subtly named "Best Party" - and run for office in order to mock the squabbling left and right. '” On the strength of these policies and many more seemingly hilarious non sequiturs — and after a catastrophic financial collapse — the Best Party, headed by comedian Jon Gnarr, is taking charge. His acting work includes the movies The Icelandic Dream and A Man Like Me and the television series The Night Shift, which aired on BBC4.In 2014, at the end of Gnarr’s mayoral term, the Best Party will be dissolved. He held my hand and he cried. If people are never funny, then they are just worried, they are depressed. He didn't speak to me for many days." We’ve neglected democracy, we haven’t been paying attention and we’ve let ourselves get taken for a ride.”, “As soon as something is no longer fun, it’s worthless, pointless and sick. If you don’t have a sense of humour, you’ve got problems. All rights reserved. So, to be one step ahead, you’ll need humour.”, “You don’t need to be a politician to have the right to participate in political life. "He was not a bad person. Gnarr suggested that in the process of negotiating a coalition—aside from continuing to insist Eggertsson get caught up on The Wire—the Best Party’s priorities were focused on making the city “more human, more welcoming, and more modern” while the social democrats prioritized labour and education policy, which the Best Party endorsed in principle as well. He refuses to use the name derived from his father, Kristinsson, but is not allowed to disown it formally. After Heath, Wilson, Thatcher, Major, Maastricht, Lisbon, Ukip, David Cameron and Douglas Carswell, here was a political leader in a country outside the EU saying that none of it mattered. I was so nervous that I started laughing. What bugs you? And Björk is, of course, a friend of Gnarr's wife, Joga. Comedian and Mayor Jon Gnarr Runs Iceland’s Best Party, Loves The Wire by Joe Coscarelli. Want an ad-free experience?Subscribe to Independent Premium. 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