Beppe Grillo

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Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo - Trento 2012 01.JPG
Leader of the Five Star Movement
Assumed office
4 October 2009
Personal details
Born Giuseppe Piero Grillo
(1948-07-21) 21 July 1948 (age 65)
Genoa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Five Star Movement
Spouse(s) Parvin Tadjik (m. 1996)
Children 6
Occupation Activist, blogger, comedian

Giuseppe Piero "Beppe" Grillo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈbɛppe ˈɡrillo]; born 21 July 1948) is an Italian comedian, actor, blogger and political activist. He has been involved in political activity since 2009 as founder of the Five Star Movement.

Early life and career[edit]

Grillo was born in Genoa, Liguria, on 21 July 1948.[1] He received a diploma as an accountant.[citation needed] After graduation, Grillo became a comedian by chance, improvising a monologue in an audition. Two weeks later, he was discovered and launched by Italian TV presenter Pippo Baudo. He subsequently participated in the variety show Secondo Voi for two years (1977–78). Later, in 1979, he participated in Luna Park by Enzo Trapani, and in Fantastico.

In the 1980s his success increased further, thanks to shows like Te la do io l'America (1982, 4 episodes) and Te lo do io il Brasile (1984, six episodes). In these shows, he narrated his experiences of visits to the United States and Brazil, with anecdotes and witticisms about the culture, lifestyle, and beauty of these places. As a result, his popularity steadily increased and he became the protagonist of another show, developed especially for him, called Grillometro (Grillometer). In 1986, he was the star in a series of prize-winning advertisements for a brand of yogurt.

Soon afterwards, his performances began to display an increasing level of political satire, often expressed in such a direct way that he rapidly offended some Italian politicians. In 1987 during the Saturday night TV show Fantastico 7, he attacked the Italian Socialist Party and its leader Bettino Craxi, then Italy's Prime Minister, on the occasion of his visit to the People's Republic of China (PRC). The joke was:

A member of the Italian Socialist Party asked Craxi: "If the Chinese are all socialists, who do they steal from"?

The joke alluded to the totalitarianism of the PRC, but even more to the widespread corruption for which the Italian Socialist Party was known. As a consequence, Grillo was effectively banished from publicly owned television.[2] He was vindicated a few years later when the Italian Socialist Party had to be disbanded in a welter of corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli, uncovered by the Mani pulite investigation. Craxi himself died in Tunisia, unable to return to Italy where he would have been jailed on several convictions.[3]

Exile from television[edit]

Consequently, from the beginning of the 1990s his appearances on television have become rare: according to Mark Franchetti, the reason for this is tacit ostracism by politicians offended by his revelations.[4] When one of his shows was finally allowed to be broadcast by RAI in 1993, it obtained a record share of 16 million viewers.[citation needed]

He currently performs on stage in Italy and abroad, often with outstanding success.[5] Grillo's themes include energy usage, political and corporate corruption, finance, freedom of speech, child labour, globalization, and technology. Recently Grillo started to encourage the use of Wikipedia as the future of knowledge sharing and generally he is a strong proponent of internet freedom.[6][edit]

Grillo maintains a blog (available in Italian, English, and Japanese) at which is updated daily. Comments on posts regularly number in the thousands (in the Italian version). According to Technorati, the blog ranks among the 10 most visited in the world. In 2008, The Guardian included Grillo's blog among the world's most influential.[7]

Grillo often receives letters of appreciation and support from prominent figures, such as Antonio Di Pietro (former Italian Minister of Infrastructures), Fausto Bertinotti (former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies), Renzo Piano, and even Nobel Prize Winners including Dario Fo, Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Dalai Lama and Muhammad Yunus.[8]

Political activism[edit]

Online activities and first activism
Beppe Grillo in Bologna speaking at V-Day.

On 1 September 2005, thanks to contributions from readers of his blog, Grillo bought a full page advertisement in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in which he called for the resignation of the Bank of Italy's then governor Antonio Fazio over the Antonveneta banking scandal. In October 2005, Time chose him as one of the "European Heroes 2005" for his constant battle against corruption and financial scandals.[9]

On 22 November 2005, Grillo also bought a page in the International Herald Tribune, again claiming that members of the Italian Parliament ought not to represent citizens if they have ever been convicted in a court of law, even in the first degree of the three available in the Italian system.[10] His blog now contains a regularly updated list of members of the Italian Parliament who have been convicted in all three degrees, in what he calls "Operation Clean Parliament".[11] Grillo claimed in 2007 that data suggested that even Scampia, the most dangerous suburb of Naples and one of the areas with the highest crime rate in Europe, actually had a lower proportion of criminals than the Italian parliament.[12]

On 26 July 2007, Grillo was permitted to speak to the members of the European Parliament in Brussels, where he drew attention to the dangerous, negative state of Italian politics.[13]

V movement[edit]

Beppe Grillo in Pistoia during electoral campaign.

Grillo has spearheaded several national and international political campaigns. On 8 September 2007, he organized a "V‑Day Celebration" in Italy; the "V" stood for vaffanculo ("fuck off"). During the rally, Grillo projected the names of two dozen Italian politicians who had been convicted of crimes ranging from corruption and tax evasion to abetting a murder. More than 2 million Italians participated in this rally.[14] Grillo also used the rally to urge Italians to sign a petition calling for the introduction of a "Bill of Popular Initiative" to remove from office Italian parliamentarians with criminal convictions.[15]

According to Internet scholars, V‑day was the first case in Italian history of a political demonstration developed and promoted via word–of–mouth mobilization on the blogosphere and the social networking services.[16] V-Day was followed by the second V-Day on 25 April 2008, in Turin, S. Carlo Square, dedicated, ironically, to the Italian press and the financial support it receives from the government. Grillo strongly criticized the Italian press for the lack of freedom, Umberto Veronesi for his support for incinerators, NATO bases in Italy, politicians (Silvio Berlusconi had recently been re-elected), and the TV channel Retequattro for still holding on to frequencies already assigned to Europa 7.[2].[dead link]

In August 2008, Grillo was the subject of a report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's international affairs program Foreign Correspondent. Titled "The Clown Prince" the report profiled Grillo's life, political activism, the V‑Day campaign, and use of the internet as a political tool.[17]

formed Five Stars Movement party[edit]

In 2010, he started a political movement called "Movimento 5 stelle" (the "Five Stars Movement"), without the desire to be a leader or to get elected, but only to bring together, via the Internet, people who share his ideals about honesty and direct democracy, and saying that politicians are the servants of the people and that they should work for the country only for a short time; that they should not have criminal records; and that they should focus their attention on the problems of the country without any conflict of interest. The movement became a party with real electoral prospects during the 2010 regional elections, with four regional councillors being elected. The party made further gains at the 2012 local elections, receiving the third highest number of votes overall and winning the mayoral election for Parma.

At the 2013 general election the party won 25.55% of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies.[18] The "Movimento 5 stelle" ("Five Stars Movement") thus became the largest party (but not the largest bloc) in the Chamber of Deputies.

Legal issues[edit]

In 1980, Grillo was found guilty of manslaughter for a car accident in which he was the driver; three passengers lost their lives.[19]

In 2003, he negotiated a libel suit for defamation filed against him by Rita Levi-Montalcini. During a show, Beppe Grillo called the 94-year-old woman, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Italian Senator for Life (2001-2012), "old whore".[20]

During his shows, Grillo never hesitates to name firms and personalities he considers corrupt. For this reason he has been sued several times for libel by many people and organizations which he had accused, including Telecom Italia.

When Italian judges were investigating the Parmalat scandal, which was then the world's largest corporate bankruptcy scandal, Grillo was called to testify as he anticipated the imminent collapse of the dairy conglomerate in one of his shows. When he was asked by judges how he had been able to discover that, he simply said that Parmalat's financial holes were so evident that anybody who had enough ability to see them would see them, since the corporate accounting was easily accessible.[21]


Grillo is often criticized for his lifestyle. In particular, critics blame him for owning a motor yacht and a Ferrari sports car, both being in contradiction with his well known environmentalist stance. In his blog he admits that he did, in fact, acquire both but has since sold them.[19] Grillo recently defended himself from similar attacks from the leader of the Democratic Party on this subject pointing out he earned his pay over the years and paid his taxes on them while the Hon. Pier Luigi Bersani made his fortune from public tax free money.[22]

Grillo was also criticized for having taken advantage of the Condono Tombale, a fiscal amnesty granted by the first Berlusconi government in 2001, which Grillo had publicly opposed.[23] Grillo commented on this issue during the V‑Day demonstration. He said that he had personally benefited by only €500.[citation needed]

Grillo has proposed that members of the Italian Parliament who have a criminal record should be banned from public office. As Grillo himself has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by a car accident,[19] he cannot run himself for public office[citation needed]. Grillo has always stated that he is not interested in becoming a member of the Italian Parliament anyway.[19] Despite this, in July 2009 he publicly expressed his intention to present himself as a candidate for the PD's primary elections,[24] which, however, does not imply automatic presence in the Italian parliament. Another of his proposals is that members of Parliament be limited to two government terms of office, after which they might not stand again. Detractors[who?] argue that this would shorten the political life of competent and expert politicians, usually drawing Alcide De Gasperi, Aldo Moro and Enrico Berlinguer as examples of brilliant politicians who served more than two terms.

Grillo is also criticized as being a mere demagogue who attacks politicians on superficial issues and their private lives while being unable to provide a valid alternative. For example, Daniele Luttazzi, a famous Italian stand-up comedian, criticized Grillo in 2007 in an open letter published on the website of the news magazine MicroMega. Luttazzi accused Grillo of being a "demagogue" and a "populist", suggesting Grillo should choose between satire and politics, asserting the two are incompatible.[25]

In 2007, Grillo criticized the instrumentalization by Giorgio Napolitano of "Memorial Day of Foibe Massacres and Istrian-Dalmatian exodus".[when?][26][dead link]

On March 2013 Der Spiegel called Grillo as "The most dangerous man in Europe", accusing him to be fascist and populist.[27] Accusations of undemocratic and even despotic behavior have since grown more frequent, as a number of members of parliament deemed unfit by Grillo were ousted from the movement.


Grillo has appeared in three movies:

In 2008, Grillo was featured in the documentary, The Beppe Grillo Story produced by Banyak Films for Al Jazeera English.[28]

Public shows[edit]

  • Buone Notizie ("Good News", 1991)
  • Energia e Informazione ("Energy and Information", 1995)
  • Cervello ("Brain", 1997)
  • Apocalisse morbida ("Soft Apocalypse", 1998)
  • Time Out (2000)
  • La grande trasformazione ("The Great Transformation", 2001)
  • Va tutto bene ("It's All Right", 2002-2003)
  • Black out - Facciamo luce (2003-2004)
  • (2004-2005)
  • Incantesimi ("Enchantments", 2006)
  • Reset (2007)
  • V-Day (2007)
  • V2-Day (2008)
  • Delirio ("Madness", 2008)
  • Monnezza-Day ("Trash Day", 2009)
  • Movimento a cinque stelle ("5-Star Movement", 2009)
  • Un Grillo mannaro a Londra ("A Werewolf Grillo in London", 2010)
  • Woodstock 5 Stelle ("5-Star Woodstock", 2010)
  • Beppe Grillo is back (2010)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Programma elettorale del MoVimento 5 Stelle per le elezioni politiche che si svolgeranno in data 24 febbraio e 25 febbraio 2013 per l'elezione della Camera dei Deputati e del Senato della Repubblica". Ministry of Interior. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Time Magazine: Seriously Funny". Time. 2005-10-02. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  3. ^ "la Repubblica/politica: Craxi, tutti i processi e le condanne". Repubblica. Retrieved 2012-12-29. 
  4. ^ Mark Franchetti, The Berlusconi Show, BBC Documentary, first aired March 17, 2010. Franchetti states: "it is telling that he [Grillo] has not been allowed back on the networks, dominated by Berlusconi and his allies."
  5. ^ "Grillo, l'eroe scelto da Time che batte tutti i record". Repubblica. 16 February 2006. 
  6. ^ "D'Alia’s "Shit Wall" against the Internet". Beppe Grillo. 12 February 2009. 
  7. ^ "The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs.". The Guardian. 16 March 2008. 
  8. ^ Dario Fo Joseph E. StiglitzMuhammad Yunus
  9. ^ Article on TIME Europe Magazine
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Clean Parliament", list of convicted felons in the Italian parliament.
  12. ^ Grillo storms L'Unità's party, from La Repubblica, 16 September 2007.
  13. ^ Video clip
  14. ^ "Beppe's Inferno: A comedian's war on crooked politics". The New Yorker. 4 February 2008. 
  15. ^ Beppe Grillo's Blog
  16. ^ Alberto Pepe and Corinna Di Gennaro. "Political protest Italian–style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo’s V–day". First Monday. Volume 14, Number 12, 7 December 2009.
  17. ^ "The Clown Prince". ABC News. 8 May 2008. 
  18. ^ BBC News - Italy election: Deadlock after protest vote BBC news
  19. ^ a b c d La paga di Giuda, from Beppe Grillo's blog, September 16, 2005; available in Italian (the first English post in Grillo's blog is from a few weeks later).
  20. ^ Gian Marco Chiocci. "Tra "vaffa" e condanne, Camere tabù per Grillo" (in (Italian)). Il Giornale. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Grillo testifies on Parmalat crack: "I brought also Fiat and Telecom [Italia]", from La Repubblica, 16 January 2004.
  22. ^ Beppe Grillo - ROMA "Tsunami Tour 22 feb 2013" 2/4. YouTube (2013-02-22). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  23. ^ Grillo, the "Great Moralist" seduced by the fiscal amnesty, from Il Giornale, November 18, 2005. Note that Il Giornale is owned by Silvio Berlusconi's brother Paolo.
  24. ^ Grillo announces he will be a candidate for the Italian PD's primary elections
  25. ^ Daniele Luttazzi talks about Beppe Grillo on Micromega, from Il Corriere della Sera, 13 September 2007.
  26. ^ [1][dead link]
  27. ^ Beppe Grillo of Italy Is the Most Dangerous Man in Europe - SPIEGEL ONLINE. (2013-03-15). Retrieved on 2013-08-24.
  28. ^ The Beppe Grillo Story

External links[edit]



Party political offices
New political party Leader of the Five Star Movement
2009 – present