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'Cool' or 'Better'? Iceland's surreal comedian politician


'Cool' or 'Better'? Iceland's surreal comedian politician


Jon Gnárr was a famous Icelandic comedian, but last year ago was elected as mayor of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. He is a co-founder of a satirical political party called ‘The Best Party’. Party members define themselves as anarco-surrealists and pacifists and say they want to run the city with imagination and creativity.

The financial crisis left people in Iceland shaken and depressed. Inspired by the philosophy of nonsense, Gnárr promised to get them a polar bear for the city’s zoo. And this father-of-five also surprised people with his appearance at the Gay Pride festivities. Well, he did promise to be a fun mayor!

He recently attended cultural forum Villa Gillet in Lyon, France where euronews spoke to him about his philosophy and plans.

Elza Gonçalves, euronews: “How did you do it? How did you end up in politics?”

Jon Gnárr: “I formed a political party with no ideology. I had two ideas in the beginning. One was to call it ‘The Best Party’ which would be better than all the other political parties. The other idea was to call it ‘The Cool Party’ which would be much cooler than all the other parties. We only do cool things and we will have a cool committee to decide what to do based on whether it is cool or not.

euronews: “It has been a year since you’ve been elected. Is Reykjavik becoming a sort of anarchic republic?”

Jon Gnárr: “No!”

euronews: “What are your plans for the city as ‘The Best Party’? Do you have the ‘best’ plans for the city?”

Jon Gnárr: “We want to bring a polar bear to Reykjavik, a live polar bear, not a dead one…”

euronews: “So you are keeping the promise you made before… about the bear?”

Jon Gnárr: “Yes, that is probably the only promise I was really serious about. Because I am an animal protection activist and I don’t think we have the right to kill a polar bear that comes to Iceland and I think it against many international laws.”

euronews: “Are artists capable of working within the political system or do you want to change it?”

Jon Gnárr: “I haven’t really decided on that one. I would really like to change people, the way people think and behave. And as a result of that the system will change but I don’t think we necessarily have to change the system first.”

euronews: “Crowds of young people in Spain have been protesting against high unemployment, mainstream politics and the banking system. They say Iceland is their role model. As a Icelander what would you tell them?”

Jon Gnárr: (Laughs) “Ah ah!”

euronews: “Some say ‘When we grow up we want to be Icelanders…’”

Jon Gnárr: “The EU is quite in trouble and Iceland is applying to join the European Union and I think maybe Iceland can save the European Union. Maybe they will become Icelanders if the EU decides in some years to join Iceland…”

euronews: “It’s the other way around…!”

Jon Gnárr: “It could be… maybe in three years the EU will apply to join Iceland…”

euronews: “Do you see Iceland as an example of democracy?”

Jon Gnárr: “I think it can easily become an example of democracy because we are so isolated and so small that we can do some democratic experiments, things that would not be possible somewhere else… for instance like in France.”

euronews: “Are you running for national elections?”

Jon Gnárr: “I haven’t decided yet. I am not seeking to be re-elected. I don’t care if people vote for me or not. People sometimes come up to me and say ‘We will not vote for you’. I couldn’t care less – ‘Vote for somebody else!’ I didn’t vote for me! I mean if people want me to do it I will consider it.”

euronews: “People from outside Iceland see the country as a laboratory where society is looking for new ways to do things. You even have a gay prime-minister…”

Jon Gnárr: “We have a prime minister who is a lesbian and I think we should be enormously proud of that because in many countries around the world gay people don’t even have human rights, which we consider a necessity. We should be enormously proud. I think she is the coolest prime minister in the world.”

euronews: “Should Iceland adopt the euro?”

Jon Gnárr: “If we could I think we should because we have the Icelandic króna, and we are having great problems with it because it is such a small currency. I would prefer the dollar because the dollar is much cooler than the euro. I mean the euro isn’t that cool. It’s bland. The graphics of it are quite dull, but the dollar is cool and it has that precedence and the coolness, so I would prefer the dollar. I mean you can call a movie ‘For a Few Dollars More’ or ‘Dollar something’ but it is hard to call it ‘Euro something’.

euronews: “Many people are unhappy with the euro…”

Jon Gnárr: “Nobody is unhappy with the dollar! Ah ah ah! Everybody that has a dollar is happy!”

Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.

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