Thursday 14 November 2019

Kim Bielenberg: From Mrs Brown to McSavage – is it time for a comedian to take power?

An activist looks at Five Star Movement leader and comedian Beppe Grillo on the screen during a rally in Rome.
An activist looks at Five Star Movement leader and comedian Beppe Grillo on the screen during a rally in Rome.
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

A comedian, a philanderer, a communist, and an economist walk into a bar.

In Italy they call that an election, and the economist finishes last.

That is the quip that is doing the rounds on the Internet after the stunning victory of comedian Beppe Grillo in the Italian elections.

The funnyman won't form a government, for better or worse, but he now has the strongest single party in parliament.

So, could an Irish comedian emulate Grillo, run for office and have a fighting chance of winning? Of course, the obvious argument will be made that we already have our fair share of clowns in the Dail with such rib-tickling talents as Luke Ming Flanagan and Mick Wallace.

And we should not forget Enda Kenny, who has a knack of looking befuddled in a Mr Bean kind of way.

Many young people probably know him as the man on YouTube who had them rolling in the aisles when he fiddled with his phone during an audience with the pope.

Gerry Adams has also done a few comic turns recently with his tweets about teddy bears, but he may be more suited to children's TV than stand-up.

The possibility of a genuine Irish comedian running for high office is not as far fetched as it seems, and a remarkable number have a political pedigree.

If any comic is likely to be Taoiseach it is Brendan O'Carroll, who has already declared that he wants to run for the Dail at some point in his life.

His mother Maureen was a Labour TD for Dublin North-Central in the 1950s. He has registered his own grouping, the Social Justice Party.

In an interview, O'Carroll said he would like to have Michael O'Leary on board.  That would certainly have even more comic possibilities, but if the party won a lot of seats, TDs might worry that they would have to pay to reserve their seats in advance.

If O'Carroll stands he would have the option of standing as himself, or meet new gender quotas as Mrs Brown.

Other comedians with a strong political pedigree include Ardal O'Hanlon, whose father Rory was Health Minister, and Dave McSavage, son of former Foreign Minister, David Andrews.

McSavage would probably cut it as a dictator in the Mussolini mould, and one could imagine him haranguing a crowd in knee high boots.

It is all very well standing, but how could an Irish comedian match the Italian Beppe Grillo in winning votes? Grillo promised free tablet computers for schoolchildren, free internet for everyone, and a reduction in the working week to just 20 hours.  These are policies we can all support, but how would these comic overlords pay for them? They'll tell you it's all about timing.

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