Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo
Leader of the Five Star Movement
Assumed office
4 October 2009
Personal details
Born Giuseppe Piero Grillo
(1948-07-21) 21 July 1948
Genoa, Italy
Political party Five Star Movement
Spouse(s) Parvin Tadjik (m. 1996)
Children 6
  • Activist
  • blogger
  • comedian
Religion Christianity[1]

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 politics since 2009 as the founder of the Italian Five Star Movement political party.

Early life and career

Grillo was born in Genoa, Liguria, on 21 July 1948.[2] He studied as an accountant but he didn't finish university.[3] After high school, he became a comedian by chance, improvising a monologue in an audition. Two weeks later, he was discovered by Italian television presenter Pippo Baudo. Grillo participated in the variety show Secondo Voi from 1977 to 1978. In 1979, he participated in Luna Park by Enzo Trapani, and in the variety show Fantastico.

In the 1980s he appeared in the shows Te la do io l'America (1982, four episodes) and Te lo do io il Brasile (1984, six episodes), in which he narrated his experiences of visits to the United States and Brazil. This led to his appearance as the protagonist of another show, developed especially for him, called Grillometro (Grillometer). In 1986, he appeared in a series of prize-winning advertisements for a brand of yoghurt.

Beppe Grillo with Pippo Baudo during 1970s.

Soon afterwards, his performances began to include political satire that offended some Italian politicians. In 1987 during the Saturday night television 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). As a consequence, Grillo was effectively banished from publicly owned television.[4]

Exile from television

Since the early 1990s Grillo's appearances on television have become rare; according to Mark Franchetti, politicians are offended by his jokes.[5] When one of his shows was allowed to be broadcast live by RAI in 1993, it obtained a record share of 15 million viewers.[6] Grillo often accuses the public broadcaster RAI is "public financing for the parties" that abuse it for their own propagandist needs.[7]

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 to participate in the popular late-night political debate talk show Porta a Porta as part of his campaign for the 2014 European Parliament election. The program attracted three million viewers.[8] As of August 2015, Grillo performs on stage in Italy and abroad.[9] His themes include energy use, political and corporate corruption, finance, freedom of speech, child labour, globalization and technology.[10]

Blog and Web enthusiasm

Grillo maintains a blog in Italian, English, and Japanese that is updated daily. 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.[11] He often receives letters 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 Nobel Prize Winners including Dario Fo, Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Dalai Lama and Muhammad Yunus.[12] As Grillo became more and more involved in Italian politics, the use of his blog to convey a political message was accompanied by a strong emphasis on the role of the Web as the harbinger of new possibilities for direct democracy and for a fairer society, making Grillo one of the leading popularisers of digital utopianism in Italy.[13]

Political career


Beppe Grillo in Bologna speaking at V-Day.

On 1 September 2005, Grillo used money donated by readers of his blog to buy 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 targeting corruption and financial scandals.[14]

On 22 November 2005, Grillo bought a page in the International Herald Tribune, saying that members of the Italian Parliament ought not to represent citizens if they have been convicted of a crime, even in the first degree of the three available in the Italian system.[15] He maintains a regularly updated list of members of the Italian Parliament who have been convicted in all three degrees on his blog.[16] On 26 July 2007, Grillo was permitted to speak to the members of the European Parliament in Brussels, where he drew attention to the state of Italian politics.[17]

V movement

Grillo has led several national and international political campaigns. On 8 September 2007, he organized a "VDay Celebration" in Italy; the "V" stood for vaffanculo ("fuck off"). During the rally, he projected the names of 24 Italian politicians who had been convicted of crimes including corruption, tax evasion and abetting a murder. More than 2 million Italians participated in this rally.[18] 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.[19]

According to Internet scholars, V‑day was the first political demonstration in Italy developed and promoted via the blogosphere and the social networking services.[20] The second V-Day took place on 25 April 2008, in Turin, S. Carlo Square, dedicated 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 television channel Retequattro for retaining frequencies assigned to Europa 7..

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.[21]

Five Star Movement

Main article: Five Star Movement
Beppe Grillo in Rome during the tour 2014.

In 2010, he started a political movement, Movimento 5 Stelle, the "Five Star Movement" to promote through the Internet his ideals about honesty and direct democracy. The movement became a party with 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.[22]

At the 2013 general election the M5S won 25.5% of votes, the second most popular one for the Chamber of Deputies,[23] but obtained just 109 deputies out of 630 due to an electoral system which favoured parties running in coalition.[24] In the European Parliament the M5S is part of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group, along with the UK Independence Party.

Grillo announced in 2014 that he was aiming to get four million signatures to support his attempts to get a referendum on Italy's membership of the Eurozone.[25]

Legal issues

In 1980, Grillo was found guilty of manslaughter for a car accident in which he was the driver; three passengers lost their lives.[26]

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 winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Italian Senator for Life (2001–2012) an "old whore".[27]

When Italian judges were investigating the Parmalat scandal, which was then the world's largest corporate bankruptcy scandal, Grillo was called to testify because he had anticipated the imminent collapse of the dairy conglomerate in one of his shows. When the judges asked how he had been able to discover that, he 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.[28]


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, in contradiction with his environmentalist stance. In his blog he said he acquired both but has since sold them.[26] He defended himself from similar attacks from the leader of the Democratic Party on this subject, saying he earned his pay over the years and paid his taxes on them.[29]

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.[30] Grillo said during the V‑Day demonstration that he had personally benefited by only €500.

Grillo has proposed that members of the Italian Parliament who have a criminal record should be banned from public office. Because Grillo was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by a car accident,[26] he cannot run for public office. He says he is not interested in becoming a member of the Italian Parliament.[26] Despite this, in July 2009 he announced his intention to present himself as a candidate for the PD's primary elections,[31] which does not imply automatic presence in the Italian parliament. He also proposed that MPs should be limited to two government terms of office, after which they may not stand again. Opponents say 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 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.[32]

In March 2013 a commentary piece in Der Spiegel called Grillo "The most dangerous man in Europe", described his rhetoric as anti-democratic, said he derived his energy from resentment, and cited the British writer Nicholas Farrell who has drawn parallels between Grillo and Benito Mussolini.[33]


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.[34]

Public shows

  • 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


  1. "Le mani di Dio".
  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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 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. 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."
  6. "Grillo pronto ad andare da Vespa:"Gli porto un plastico, se non l'accetta mi offendo"". La Repubblica. 19 May 2014.
  7. "The RAI is public financing for the parties". Beppe Grillo. June 2013.
  8. "Oltre 3 milioni in Tv per Grillo-Vespa". La Stampa. 20 May 2014.
  9. "Grillo, l'eroe scelto da Time che batte tutti i record". Repubblica. 16 February 2006.
  10. "D'Alia's "Shit Wall" against the Internet". Beppe Grillo. 12 February 2009.
  11. "The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs.". The Guardian. 16 March 2008.
  12. "Un Nobel per Milano".
  13. Natale, Simone; Ballatore, Andrea (2014-01-01). "The web will kill them all: new media, digital utopia, and political struggle in the Italian 5-Star Movement". Media, Culture & Society. 36 (1): 105–121. doi:10.1177/0163443713511902. ISSN 0163-4437.
  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. Video clip on YouTube
  18. "Beppe's Inferno: A comedian's war on crooked politics". The New Yorker. 4 February 2008.
  19. "Clean Up Parliament!" Beppe Grillo's Blog.
  20. 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.
  21. "The Clown Prince". ABC News. 8 May 2008.
  22. Ballottaggio Parma 2012, svolta epocale: il candidato del Movimento 5 stelle è sindaco (video)
  23. "Risultato elezioni 2013: con i voti degli italiani all'estero il Pd è il primo partito alla Camera". 2013-03-21. Retrieved 2015-06-08.
  24. Ministero dell'Interno - Scrutini Camera: Italia
  25. "Italy's Beppe Grillo calls for referendum on leaving euro".
  26. 1 2 3 4 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).
  27. Gian Marco Chiocci. "Tra "vaffa" e condanne, Camere tabù per Grillo" (in Italian). Il Giornale. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  28. Grillo testifies on Parmalat crack: "I brought also Fiat and Telecom [Italia]", from La Repubblica, January 16, 2004.
  29. Beppe Grillo – ROMA "Tsunami Tour 22 febbraio 2013" 2/4 on YouTube (22 February 2013). Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  30. "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.
  31. "Pd, Grillo si candida alle primarie "Offro un'alternativa al nulla" - Politica -".
  32. Daniele Luttazzi talks about Beppe Grillo on Micromega, from Il Corriere della Sera, 13 September 2007.
  33. Jan Fleischhauer, "Green Fascism: Beppe Grillo of Italy Is the Most Dangerous Man in Europe" – Spiegel Online (15 March 2013). Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  34. The Beppe Grillo Story.

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