HOUSTON, TX-- What do you do when your country's falling apart financially? If you're Icelandic actor/comedian Jón Gnarr, you run for mayor. That's what he did in Reykjavik in 2010, and he won! Now he's contemplating running for president of that country in 2016.
When he decided to jump into politics, Gnarr, a jokestar in the Monty Python vein, started his own political party-- the "Best Party" (because who wouldn't want to go to the best party?). "We had like, the 10 values, but the 10 values were actually 12. And honesty was twice," he explains with a laugh. "And we always tell the truth except when we find it necessary to lie."
Gnarr admits he never thought he would be elected, but Iceland was a mess at the time. The three largest banks had collapsed under foreign debt, and the people wanted a change. He won the election with nearly 35% of the vote.
"In a way, I feel that fate was playing with me," he explains. "I was making a joke, but when I had delivered the punchline, I realized that the joke was kind of on me." Now he actually had to run the city.
Despite initial inclinations to apologize and step down, he stayed all four years, bringing humor to the office with stunts like dressing in drag at the gay pride parades but also raising taxes, cutting jobs in the government and merging schools-- tough decisions, he says, that needed to be made. He believes his tenure as mayor changed the way a lot of people worldwide think about politics and expects we'll see many more "regular people" follow his lead.
Academia has also taken interest in this political pioneer's story. This semester, Gnarr accepted a position at Rice University as writer-in-residence and guest lecturer. He is also working on scripts for a 'fictional' sitcom about a comedian who becomes mayor of a city in Iceland and the idiotic situations that arise. Expect that to be a big hit back home!
A poll was done recently asking Icelanders who they would like to see as their country's next president. Guess who made the list. "I was quite emotional and touched to learn that people wanted me as president," Gnarr says, hedging a bit when asked if he will go for it. "I won't say, 'No, I won't run for president,' and I won't either say, 'Yes! I will run for president!' But I will take the time to think about it and contemplate it."
Hmmmm... thought before action. That's something we'd like to see all politicians do more of!
Read more about Jón Gnarr in this month's Houstonia.
UPDATE: Since we published this story last week, Jón Gnarr announced he will not run for president of Iceland in 2016, though he does not rule out a future run.