Beppe Grillo

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Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo 3.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 67)
Genoa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Five Star Movement
Spouse(s) Parvin Tadjik (m. 1996)
Children 6
Occupation Activist, blogger, comedian
Religion Christianity[1]

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

Early life and career[edit]

Grillo was born in Genoa, Liguria on 21 July 1948.[2] He received a degree as an accountant.[3] After graduating, he 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. Grillo subsequently participated in the variety show Secondo Voi for two years (1977–78). In 1979, he participated in Luna Park by Enzo Trapani, and in the variety show Fantastico.

In the 1980s his success increased further, thanks to shows such as Te la do io l'America (1982, four 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.[4] 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.[5]

Exile from television[edit]

Consequently, since the early 1990s his appearances on television have become rare; according to Mark Franchetti, politicians are offended by his jokes.[6] When one of his shows was finally allowed to be broadcast live by RAI in 1993, it obtained a record share of 15 million viewers.[7] Grillo often accuses that public broadcaster RAI is "public financing for the parties" that abuse it for their own propagandist needs.[8]

Despite this "exile," excerpts from Grillo's Five Star Movement political rallies are often broadcast on television, especially on political debate talk shows. On 19 May 2014, Grillo returned to Italian public television, RAI, after a twenty-year absence, to participate at the popular late-night political debate talk show Porta a Porta as part of his campaign for the European Parliament election, 2014. The program attracted 3 million viewers.[9]

He currently performs on stage in Italy and abroad, often with outstanding success.[10] 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.[11][edit]

Grillo maintains a blog (available in Italian, English, and Japanese) that 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.[12]

Grillo often receives letters of appreciation and support from prominent figures or had the chance to meet and discuss with them, such as Antonio Di Pietro (former Italian Minister of Infrastructures), Fausto Bertinotti (former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies), his friend Renzo Piano, and even Nobel Prize Winners including Dario Fo, Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Dalai Lama and Muhammad Yunus.[13]


On 16 July 2005 Beppe Grillo on his blog proposes the adoption of social networks to communicate and coordinate Meetup locally. The coordination of activists through Meetup had already been adopted in 2003 by Howard Dean during the primary campaign of the Democratic Party of the United States. This is how the first 40 Meetup Friends of Beppe Grillo, initially with the goal, according to the same Grillo, "having fun, get together and share ideas and proposals for a better world, starting from their own city (Genoa), discussing and developing, if you believe, his posts. "Within the Meetup you create thematic working groups on topics including "Technology and Innovation", "Press-communication", "Critical consumption", "Studio Money", "No Incinerators", etc. It is from these experiences that asks Grillo to stand for the primary election for the choice of the candidate for prime minister of the Union of the center-left, scheduled for October next. On three occasions - 17 December in Turin, 26 March in Piacenza and from 16 to 18 June in Sorrento - the representatives of the meetup "Friends of Beppe Grillo" hold national meetings the presence of the comedian. In these circumstances, are discussed proposals mostly related environmental issues such as the use of mechanical-biological treatment of waste in place of the use of incinerators. During the fourth national meeting, held in Genoa 3 February 2007, Beppe Grillo announces his desire to leave the activists of local Meetup an autonomous space within the shows of his tour. On 14 July 2007, the representatives of some civil lists participating in local elections the previous spring meet in Parma for the establishment of a national coordination between 'associations, movements, organizations, civic lists that practice, promote, experience direct democracy and participatory' , and share a document of intent that among the priorities will include the establishment of purposive and repeal referendum, direct election of the Ombudsman, the institution of the participatory budget, mandate bound for public administrators and the open primary.

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.[14]

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.[15] 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".[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

V movement[edit]

Beppe Grillo in Rome during the tour 2014.

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, he 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.[19] He 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.[20]

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.[21] The second V-Day took place 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.[1].[dead link]

In August 2008, Grillo was the subject of a report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's international affairs program Foreign Correspondent. Entitled "The Clown Prince", the report profiled Grillo's life, political activism, the V‑Day campaign, and use of the internet as a political tool.[22]

Five Star Movement[edit]

In 2010, he started a political movement, Movimento 5 stelle, the "Five Star Movement", in order 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.[23] The Five Star Movement thus became the largest party (but not the largest bloc) in the Chamber of Deputies.

Referendum on the Euro[edit]

Grillo announced in 2014 that he was aiming to garner 4 million signatures, to support his attempts to get a referendum on Italy's membership of the eurozone.[24]

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.[25]

In 2003, he settled 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".[26]

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.[27]


Beppe Grillo in 2012

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.[25] He defended himself from similar attacks from the leader of the Democratic Party on this subject, pointing out that he earned his pay over the years and paid his taxes on them, whereas the Hon. Pier Luigi Bersani made his fortune from public tax-free money.[28]

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.[29] Grillo commented on this issue during the V‑Day demonstration. He said 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 he himself has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by a car accident,[25] he himself cannot run for public office.[citation needed] He has always stated that he is not interested in becoming a member of the Italian Parliament anyway.[25] Despite this, in July 2009 he publicly expressed his intention to present himself as a candidate for the PD's primary elections,[30] 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 him 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.[31]

In March 2013 a commentary piece in Der Spiegel called Grillo "The most dangerous man in Europe", described his rhetoric as anti-democratic, claimed that he derived his energy from resentment, and cited the British writer Nicholas Farrell who has drawn parallels between Grillo and the fascist Benito Mussolini.[32] 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.[citation needed]


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.[33]

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)
  • Te la do io l'Europa (2014)

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "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" (PDF). Ministry of Interior. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Dinmore, Guy (2013-03-01). "Beppe Grillo, the man out to sack Rome". Financial Times (London: Pearson PLC). Archived from the original on 2013-03-04. Retrieved 2015-02-12. 
  4. ^ "Time Magazine: Seriously Funny". Time. 2 October 2005. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "la Repubblica/politica: Craxi, tutti i processi e le condanne". La Repubblica. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Mark Franchetti, The Berlusconi Show, BBC documentary first aired 17 March 2010. Franchetti states: "it is telling that he [Grillo] has not been allowed back on the networks, dominated by Berlusconi and his allies."
  7. ^ "Grillo pronto ad andare da Vespa:"Gli porto un plastico, se non l'accetta mi offendo"". La Repubblica. 19 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "The RAI is public financing for the parties". Beppe Grillo. June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Oltre 3 milioni in Tv per Grillo-Vespa". La Stampa. 20 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Grillo, l'eroe scelto da Time che batte tutti i record". Repubblica. 16 February 2006. 
  11. ^ "D'Alia's "Shit Wall" against the Internet". Beppe Grillo. 12 February 2009. 
  12. ^ "The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs.". The Guardian. 16 March 2008. 
  13. ^ Dario Fo Joseph E. StiglitzMuhammad Yunus
  14. ^ Jeff Israely, "Seriously Funny" (article on Beppo Grillo), TIME Magazine, 2 October 2005.
  15. ^ Beppe Grillo's Blog.
  16. ^ "Clean Parliament", list of convicted felons in the Italian parliament.
  17. ^ Grillo storms L'Unità's party, from La Repubblica, 16 September 2007.
  18. ^ Video clip on YouTube
  19. ^ "Beppe's Inferno: A comedian's war on crooked politics". The New Yorker. 4 February 2008. 
  20. ^ "Clean Up Parliament!" Beppe Grillo's Blog.
  21. ^ 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. Vol. 14, Number 12, 7 December 2009.
  22. ^ "The Clown Prince". ABC News. 8 May 2008. 
  23. ^ "Italy election: Deadlock after protest vote", BBC News.
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b c d La paga di Giuda, from Beppe Grillo's blog, 16 September 2005; in Italian (the first English post in Grillo's blog is from a few weeks later).
  26. ^ Gian Marco Chiocci. "Tra "vaffa" e condanne, Camere tabù per Grillo" (in Italian). Il Giornale. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  27. ^ Grillo testifies on Parmalat crack: "I brought also Fiat and Telecom [Italia]", from La Repubblica, January, 16 2004.
  28. ^ Beppe Grillo – ROMA "Tsunami Tour 22 febbraio 2013" 2/4 on YouTube (22 February 2013). Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  29. ^ "Grillo, the 'Great Moralist' seduced by the fiscal amnesty", from Il Giornale, 18 November 2005. Note that Il Giornale is owned by Silvio Berlusconi's brother, Paolo.
  30. ^ Grillo announces he will be a candidate for the Italian PD's primary elections.
  31. ^ Daniele Luttazzi talks about Beppe Grillo on Micromega, from Il Corriere della Sera, 13 September 2007.
  32. ^ Jan Fleischhauer, "Green Fascism: Beppe Grillo of Italy Is the Most Dangerous Man in Europe" – Spiegel Online (15 March 2013). Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  33. ^ The Beppe Grillo Story.

External links[edit]



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