When your mayor is a former punk bass player, chooses to protest the incarceration of Russia’s Pussy Riot by riding on top of a van wearing a pink dress and balaclava and calls those in France protesting the gay marriage bill ‘assholes’, you can only hope that Iceland’s Jon Gnarr is also running a finishing school for would-be politicians.
While Gnarr’s roots may be in comedy as he rightly points out, ‘Just because something is funny doesn’t mean it also can’t be serious’ and his bio serves up exactly that as a veritable gumbo of travails and triumphs.
Misdiagnosed with severe mental retardation at the age of five and treated in a psych ward in his formative years, Jon determined at the age of 11 that school was of absolutely no consequence to his intended future as a circus clown or pirate and essentially went on strike, refusing to learn anything further.
By 13 he’d joined Reykjavik’s punk scene, graduated to vocals and playing bass with The Dripping Noses, and along the way becoming pretty tight with members of Bjork’s early band The Sugarcubes.
By the 90s he’d swung into comedy radio, tv and film writing, a stint as creative director at Icelandic ad agency EnnEmm and then starred as a bad-tempered Marxist in his hit television series Night Shift, Day Shift and the final installment Prison Shift. Having had the rare privilege of watching all three series I can vouch for it being some of the best television comedy I’ve ever seen.
Gnarr’s foray into politics in 2009 was driven in equal parts by satire and an unsettled country upended by a financial crisis, political cronyism and four old parties that had dominated Iceland’s political scene since the 1930s but no-one was more surprised than Jon when Gnarrs’ Best Party won comprehensively on what was essentially a comedy ticket.
The Best Party’s election campaign included:
- To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
- We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
- Cancel all debts.
- Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
- Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that!
Upon being elected, Gnarr announced that he would not enter a coalition government with anyone who had not watched the HBO series ‘The Wire’, he posted a video holiday greeting wearing a Darth Vader outfit and regularly posts memes to his official Facebook page.
Two words Jon …. Totally Gnarrly.