The coolest mayor in the world never went to university, is an ex-taxi driver and used to be in a local punk rock band called ‘Runny Nose’ before he became a comedian and actor. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Jon Gnarr is concerned, a man whose achievements in life are so bizarre that it is truly a wonder how he became the mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city and home to over half of the nation’s population.
You’d think that a goofy guy has the chance to be President for the day only in the movies, but it seems in Reykjavik anything’s possible. Jon Gnarr, who was diagnosed with severe mental retardation and ADHD as a child, started his own political party in 2010 after refusing to join up with any of the existing parties. Funny enough, he named his party ‘The Best Party’. Simple, yet brilliant, isn’t it? It had to be, because he won his very first election to the office of mayor with 34.7% of the popular vote. According to what Gnarr told the media, his first real challenge as a politician was deciding between the names ‘The Best Party’ and ‘The Cool Party’. He ultimately settled for the first because it sounds dorkier, which was the vibe he was looking for. Called ‘Besti Flokkurin’ in the local language, the party is a motley group of artists, comedians and punk rockers, none of whom have had any prior experience in city-planning or politics. The only thing they did do well before the elections was record an Icelandic take on the Tina Turner song ‘Simply the Best’ and use it as their official campaign song. With lines like “We want a city that’s cuddly and clean and cool,” and “Tell the squatters in-charge that it’s time to leave,” the song was both silly and attention-grabbing at the same time. If the goofy mayor is to be believed, the city was being run by ‘blathering loons’ and it’s no surprise at all that the Best Party won.
Photo: Roman Geraysmenko/Reykjavik.com
It’s not just the song; some of the promises made by the Best Party were equally bizarre, such as free access to swimming pools and free towels for everyone, a Disney-land in the capital airport (as promised to a kindergarten class), a drug-free government by 2020, and listening more to women and old people. They vowed to stop corruption by participating in it openly (as opposed to the other ‘secretly’ corrupt parties). It looks like the people of Reykjavik were really desperate for a change, because Gnarr won the election last June and in the process, caught the attention of the international press. Pretty soon, a documentary movie called ‘Gnarr’ was made as well, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie is so transparent and blatantly honest that you have Gnarr making declarations like, “I have done strip tease in the largest gay club in New York.” Everybody including director Gaukur Ulfarsson found his honestly refreshing. Fair enough, given that Iceland has been having its share of tough times. In the financial crisis of 2009, Iceland went from being one of the wealthiest nations in the world to a state close to ruin. And then in 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull eruption happened. I suppose Icelanders were badly in need of a few laughs when Gnarr stepped in. It didn’t take long for all the laughter to translate into votes.
It may be shocking to others, but Gnarr’s election isn’t too much of a surprise for the Icelanders. They do have a reputation of having a very dark sense of humor. “If we see someone slipping, we’ll laugh before we help,” is what most Icelanders say about themselves. But some people attribute Gnarr’s victory to his role as Georg Bjarnfreðarson in an extremely popular movie trilogy where he plays a hardcore Marxist and intense person who doesn’t get along very well with the people around him. The movie supposedly beat Avatar at the local box office.
Well, whatever the reason for his election, Gnarr sure has caught the world’s attention as one of the most unique politicians in history. How else would you describe a leader who refused to enter a coalition government with anyone who had not watched his favorite TV show (HBO’s The Wire)? He is also being called a ‘hands-on’ politician while making changes to the city. “I have become this weird guy picking up rubbish on daily walks,” reads one of his statuses on Facebook. He’s also probably the only mayor in the world who doesn’t hesitate to dress up like a drag queen at Gray Pride events, or to protest for the freedom of Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot. “Homophobia is not a phobia. They are not scared. They are just assholes,” he declares in another status message. I suppose it’s true that when the people really want you to be their leader, you can get away with pretty much anything. Anything.
via Twisted Sifter