Offbeat Interviews: Jón Gnarr

Shawn Bailey

"Hooray for all kinds of things!"

This is my favorite party chant ever. It was used by comedian Jón Gnarr when he was celebrating as the newly elected mayor of Reykjavík, Iceland. The name of his winning party: The Best Party. Turns out it was.

Jón Gnarr ran a satirical platform with promises including free towels at the pools, building a Disneyland, and doing away with all debt. In other words, he lied like all politicians; the difference being he told us up front he was lying. His political parodies and harmless-fun philosophy was refreshing to a populace drowning in financial crisis and conformist, boring politicians. And the Best Party won.

After four years, Gnarr feels it's time to move on from the time consuming and soul sucking position (my words). He's promoting his new book and coming to the U.S. for a stint. He even joked about moving to Texas. Of course, with Gnarr, you can never tell.

If you want a play by play, behind the scenes account of how Gnarr pulled this off, you can catch the movie Gnarr on Netflix or buy it online. If you want to crawl inside of Jón's head and see what it was like to be the Mayor of Iceland's capital, then you can read his recently released book Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World.

I asked Gnarr some of my offbeat questions:

[SB] "Hooray for all kinds of things" is by far my favorite party chant ever. Shouldn't you copyright that? That way, if anyone decides to overgeneralize their happiness, you can cash in on it.

You easily slide into the simpleton when you deem necessary. It's funny to me because I'm shaking my head like 'yeah, yeah' and then I realize it's the simpleton making fun by oversimplifying some complex idea or situation. The funny thing to me is that serious, or very literal people, can't tell when you do this. Do you do it on purpose, to misdirect, or does it come naturally from your comedic core?

[Jón Gnarr] the simpleton is a poker player. sometimes he's bluffing but not always. it depends a lot on the other players. when you think he's bluffing he definitely isn't. Jeet kune do of poker it is.

You mentioned having no ideology meant not having ideas that someone could misinterpret. This would also make it near impossible to have philosophical points for opponents to latch onto during the election and argue against. Did anyone successfully nail down a party philosophy during the election?

the best party is the ideology of no ideology. so far everyone has been wrong in trying to define what the best party is. it's not a left or right anything. it's enter the dragon meets being there

Your philosophy seems like a sensible approach to life in general. Why do you think politicians rail against such ideas? Was your time in office proof positive that these approaches work?

i proofed something but i'm not sure what it is.

I've thought a lot about creating my own religion. It's where the money's at. A Sci-Fi writer did it, so I guess a horror writer can, too. I would call it The Church of Good Tithing, Inc. If you were to invent a religion that you knew millions of people would follow, what would it be?

the religion of no religion. the church of Nothing

A quote from Bill Gates reads "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." People have accused you of delegating too much, but it's hard to argue with Bill Gates. You didn't micro-manage. Did that work? And as you began to understand a good deal more of what was going on inside the machine, were you tempted to take more control of it?

i work with people on equal terms. time the of the leader is over. cooperation produces best resault. it's collective intelligence

Speaking of temptation, what were the most tempting pitfalls? Did you ever listen to a Darth Vader and think for second 'Well, the dark side's not so bad in this one instance?'

i have never been tempted to join the dark side

I've watched people like John and Yoko, Marilyn Manson, and yourself defend your positions with eloquence and equanimity against blathering idiots, hatemongers, and self-righteous fundamentalists. One thing I admire about you guys is your ability to take it all in stride and keep your cool. You mention Judo and the Chinese philosophical principle Wu Wei as a means to this end. Aren't you kind of like a Jesus for Atheists. WWGD?

hahahaha! jesus for atheists. i like that! i've been taking sh!t all my life. mostly from people. but i still like people and want to help them. race, nationality, religion, language, gender is all false. we are all one species, one family. one brain.

Are there any loose ends you couldn't tie up before you left?

i did what i intended to do. i like to think of the best party as the first little mammal in a world of dinosaurs. i may sound like an oxymoron but by ending the best party it gives birth to the best party. it's not like is was and is now over. this is just the beginning.

What note will you leave on the desk for the next mayor?

i would leave deep thoughts by jack handey on the table

Are you ever curious about the influence you have as a rock star mayor comedian? I mean, I bet you could post something that doesn't even make sense and you would get at least 200 likes. Would you mind posting a pic of an empty tin can, just so we could see?

I once posted on fb: "this is not a post. please don't like it" it got a lot of likes though

Questions from the book...

You talk about the ubiquity of pools and how they facilitate a relaxed degree of equality. How Björk has to wait in line like everybody else. Do stars from other countries flee to Iceland to blend in? Do Icelanders fawn over anyone at all?

i once met the guy who was tom cruise's driver/guide during his time in iceland during oblivion takes. he told me one day they were sight seeing. tom noticed that people were looking at him so he asked the guy if they knew it was him. "no they are just staring at you because you're the only one wearing sunglasses at 9 oclock in the morning" but all this is changing

It appears having an educational alternative greatly impacted your quality of life. Did you make any kind of changes within the educational system while you were in office?

it was not in my power as mayor to make the necessary changes so badly needed. it's up to the government. but i did raise awareness and fought bullying.

You end one chapter uncharacteristically pessimistic concerning the ability to change the educational system for the better. That makes me sad. You know what would make me happy? Gnarr's School for Gifted Youngsters. Any chance?

the law forces teachers to teach useless things and kill creativity. the whole educational system is stagnant and out dated and it's just sad. it's also killing the language. i could not open a school :(

After interviewing for a job one day, I left feeling that something was out of place. I couldn't put my finger on it for hours, and then it hit me. The entire time I was in their building, I had only seen one person smile. It had subconsciously creeped me out, and I was kind of happy I didn't get the job. It reminded me of how you described the political environment surrounding you. When you talk about the importance of humor, you mention that in the future, it won't be good enough to be good at your job; you'll have to be entertaining, too. Do you think it's possible to weed out people with no sense of humor from the workplace? Society? The planet? Maybe instead of overbearing job interviews, five minutes of standup?

humor is a vital part of the human intelligence. there is also something feminine about it. it has a lot to do with our ability to communicate with others, create security and well being. humor is probably what comes closest to free will so if you can combine whatever you do with humour you have something unique. seriousness is very overrated. in many ways it's a part of the male power game and dominance in the world

One of the most inspiring things in the book was when you spoke of having a dream that you knew would never come true. Despite this, you said you would continue to pursue it anyway. Isn't that a faith of sorts? Is it faith in yourself, or in humanity as far as the hope that someone else will water the seeds?

i have faith in humanity. i like to hope for the best but at the same time be prepared for the worst. behind a pile of horse manure there is maybe a pony :)

You suffer from a specific disease called Facebook Multiple Personality. How long has this wonderful charade been going on?

i am a diy philosopher not academic. i study by doing. i did scam baiting for a long time pretending to be different people. i was woody allen and rod stewart among others. and tiny tim! i really enjoyed being him. did you know that Maryam Abacha and Tiny Tim got married and adopted Woody Allen? i had such a good time. with facebook i just started making up new people. like this lady:

https://www.facebook.com/gudridur.petersen?fref=ts

this is just me having fun :)

You're an advocate of direct democracy, and I love that idea. Inform and empower. But I live in Alabama. The last time citizens of this state voted directly on amending our state constitution to remove blatant, racist language, it was voted down by over 1 million people [http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Alabama_2012_ballot_measures]. What happens when direct democracy is implemented in places like this?

we can never give up trying to make democracy better, direct or not. it is far from perfect but it should be fun. voting is not just voting. when you vote for something you are also voting against something else. we must try to find ways to have people vote. vote lottery? vote and you might win an iphone!

Hi, Jóga. No question. Just saying hi to your grounding wire. (Jón's wife, Jóhanna Jóhannsdóttir)

Images via Facebook

Book image via Iceland News

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