Standort: / Meldung: "The Punk-Mayor of Reykjavik "

Johnny Bliss

Disorderly artist, journalist, and late night moderator, with a fetish for microphone-based hooliganism.

13. 6. 2014 - 19:00

The Punk-Mayor of Reykjavik

Jón Gnarr is the comedian-punk rocker-anarchist founder of Iceland's satirical Best Party and Mayor of the capital city since 2010. The punchline is, he turned out a pretty great mayor!

In early May this year, after nearly three months on the road, I flew from Mumbai (India) to Reykjavik, with only a short stop-over in Vienna. Just long enough to unpack all my tropical gear, re-pack all my winter gear, catch a few hours of sleep, and head back to the airport.

Even for my standards, this was pretty crazy. Why did I do it?

There was only one explanation, for such rash behaviour.

I'd landed an interview with Jón Gnarr.

Jon Gnarr Poster

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

See, I have been a fan of Jón Gnarr since shortly before he ran for Mayor. Even before he entered politics, he was a well-known actor and comedian in Iceland. I am a longtime Icelandophile, so I knew some of his work.

When Jón Gnarr and his team (the Best Party) ran their satirical campaign back in 2010, with Iceland's financial crisis providing a bleak backdrop to the entire affair, they were a sort of foil to the tepid inauthenticity of 'business-as-usual' conventional politics, making absurdist campaign promises that could not (or would not) be fulfilled, such as "Disneyland in the Vatnsmýri area" and a "drug-free parliament by 2020".

* - When I first typed this, I misspelled it and wrote "I don't have many herpes".

Just thought I would share that. ^^

They caught everybody's attention with this art experiment, but very few expected them to win. When they did, they instantly became a sensation around the world, because this went against the narrative of what is supposed to happen. I don't have many heroes*, but I suppose his ridiculous election victory made Jón Gnarr one of them.

Over the last four years, I'd made repeated attempts to organize an interview. But somehow it never seemed to work, and I took it for granted that we could just do it "next time".

* - He will leave office this Monday. In three days. June 16th, 2014.

But then I heard his first term was almost up*, and that it would, in fact, be his last term as well, because he was not going to run for re-election, despite being massively popular among his constituents.

Time was running short. And so I decided (just a little less than) three months in the Tropics would have to do for now; I had a dream to turn into reality. So I organized a date for the interview, and I booked my flights.

Interview with Jón Gnarr-1

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

There we are!

Fun fact: I arrived in Iceland just as the Eurovision Song Contest was wrapping up, just in time to watch Conchita Wurst take a historic victory for Austria and LGBTQ rights.

Neither Jón Gnarr nor I care very much for Eurovision usually, due to the overwhelming cheesiness of the music and so on, but the unusual circumstances of Conchita's victory made this year's edition an exception.

Jón had an amazing metaphor for what had just happened:

Interview with Jón Gnarr-2

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

Yes, I'm wearing a penguin hat. My head was cold.

We also spoke about some of the difficulties Mayor Gnarr faced once actually in office; after all, campaigning ought to be the easy part. So how did he, as a comedian, deal with the transition from being simply a comedian to being the actual mayor of a capital city?

Interview with Jón Gnarr-3

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

Not convinced? Here's a clip from Friday's Reality Check, where we looked at the question of why the Best Party succeeded, where so many other protest parties, around the world, have failed:

Speaking of Reality Check, today (Saturday, the 14th) we devoted an entire hour to Jón Gnarr and the legacy that he, and the Best Party, are leaving behind. If you miss the program, you can still stream it via the Reality Check podcast or at

Interview with Jón Gnarr-4

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

Johnny Bliss, Jón Gnarr, and Banksy

Rosetta Lake Mills, 2014

Johnny Bliss, Jón Gnarr, and Banksy!