The Ben Elton of Italy

I have discovered the Ben Elton of Italy. His name is Beppe Grillo.

Of course, this won’t mean a great deal to most of you.

Those select readers that I have from the UK will, I am sure, know who Ben Elton is. My limited (though I hope growing) Italian readership will almost certainly have encountered Beppe Grillo – and will, I am sure, either love him or detest him. Just as folk back home either love or detest Ben Elton. Arrogant. Brash. Loud. Just a few words used to describe this Cambridge lefty. The same words that might be applied to Beppe Grillo.

Few, though, would have encountered both comedians. Dare I say that, out of everyone who reads this blog, I am the only one?

I encountered Beppe Grillo a long time ago, when I first met Violetta (who is something of a fan) – although, back then, have to admit that I could not understand a single word he was saying. So I encountered him some years back, but it was only a few days ago, when curled up with a Beppe Grillo video, that I thought of this blog entry. It is kind of relevant, too. Beppe Grillo is in town, doing one of his stand-up gigs. I had really wanted to go, but we bought a guitar instead and, finances stretched to the limit, curling up with a Beppe Grillo video was kind of a consolation compromise.

Beppe Grillo has a fascinating show style. First he jumps into the audience. And then he stays there. For the whole show. Screaming and ranting about corruption in the country, and extolling the virtues of being a lefty.

What British expat fan of Ben Elton wouldn’t warm to him?

I love him. Both for his comedic style (although I would be slightly intimidated to attend one of his shows and find him suddenly among the audience, for fear that he should pick on me and get me to recite the Italian national anthem; the memory from Australia still haunts me – Ash will appreciate this one) and for his determination to take on the establishment. Countries need folk like Beppe Grillo and Ben Elton.

And yet…

There is always a problem with left-wing comedians such as Beppe Grillo and Ben Elton. They start off meaning well. Ranting against the ills of society and such like. Really kicking up a stink. And it is all good. Politicians start to sweat. As well they should. To burn off all the calories of their leisurely lunches.

But then they reach a point when they start to realise that they are actually quite admired. In fact, they are admired so much that people start queuing up to throw cash at them. Which makes them… well… rich. Kind of what they had been ranting against in the first place. Those rich bastards.

Still, we need them. We can accept a little hypocrisy if it means those that rule our world have to walk on hot coals. If you are interested at all in Italian politics, I would seriously urge reading Beppe Grillo’s blog (the link of which is on the right hand side of my blog). He makes a good case for the Italian left, and really can be quite cutting with his words, which is all great fun. Beppe Grillo’s blog is also available on his site in English, although the Italian makes for a better read.

It’s all funny, though, this left and right milarky. The left launch frightful attacks on the Berlusconi government, and the right respond in equal measure (I have a slew of emails, which I will not publish, that show what the left and right are prepared to say about each other). And then one casts one’s mind back to Berlusconi’s rise to power. Why is he there (to answer one of the questions that I rhetorically asked a few days ago)? Because the left supported him during the early nineties, to combat the government that was already in power.

Politics is a funny game.

Anyone seen Prodi these days?


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