Beppe Grillo

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Beppe Grillo
Leader of the Five Star Movement
Assumed office
4 October 2009
Personal details
Born 21 July 1948 (1948-07-21) (age 71)
Genoa, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Five Star Movement
Relations Married
Children 6
Occupation Activist, Blogger, Comedian

Giuseppe Piero Grillo, better known as Beppe Grillo (born 21 July 1948), is an Italian comedian, actor, blogger and activist. He has been involved in politics since 2009 as founder of the Five Star Movement.

Early life and education

Grillo was born in Genoa, Liguria on 21 July 1948. He received his diploma as an accountant.


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 rose 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 his 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 grew more and more, and he became the protagonist of another show developed especially for him, called Grillometro (Grillometer). In 1986, he was the star of prize-winning advertisements for a brand of yogurt.

Soon after this, his performances began to be characterized by an increasing level of political satire, often expressed in such a direct way that he quickly offended a lot of 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 in the People's Republic of China. The joke was:

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

The joke hinted at 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 and silently banished from publicly owned television[citation needed]; yet, 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 for several convictions.[1]

Consequently, from the beginning of the 1990s his appearances on television became rare: according to many peopleWho?, the reason for this is a silent ostracism by politicians offended by his revelations about their hidden financial activities, frauds and false claims.[citation needed] 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 was later banned definitively from Italian television.[citation needed]

He currently performs in theatres in Italy and abroad, often with outstanding success.[2] 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.[3]

Political activism

Beppe Grillo in Bologna speaking at V-Day.
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.[4] Grillo also used this rally to urge Italians to sign a petition calling for the introduction of a Bill of Popular Initiative to remove members of the Italian Parliament who have criminal convictions of any kind from their office.[5] 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.[6]

This was followed by the second V-Day on 25 April 2008, in Turin, S. Carlo Square. This V‑Day was dedicated to the Italian press and the financial support it receives from the government. Grillo heavily criticized the Italian press for the lack of freedom, Umberto Veronesi, for his support for incinerators, NATO bases in Italy, the politicians (Silvio Berlusconi had recently been re-elected), and TV channel Retequattro, for still holding on to TV frequencies already assigned to Europa 7 [2].

Beppe Grillo in Pistoia during electoral campaign.

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.[7]

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.[8] 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".[9] 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 crime rate than the Italian parliament's membership.[10]

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 current Italian politics.[11]

In August 2008, Grillo was the subject of a report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC-TV) 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.[12]

In 2010, he started a political movement called "Movimento 5 stelle" ("Movement five stars"), without the desire to be a leader and to be elected, but only to join, by the Internet, people who believe in ideals like honesty and direct democracy, and saying that politicians are only subordinates of the people and that they should work for the country only for a short time and only if they are not condemned for crimes, and thinking about the problems of their country without any other interest. The movement will be truly a party chance only from the next (Date needed) political round, when (Date needed) they will purpose their name not only in some regions but also in the political elections.

Grillo maintains a blog (available in Italian, English, and Japanese) at which is updated daily. Comments to posts regularly top the thousands (in the Italian version). According to Technorati, the blog is ranked among the 10 most visited blogs in the world. In 2008, The Guardian ranked Grillo's blog among the world's most powerful blogs.[13]

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 like Dario Fo, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus.[14]

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.[15]

In 2003, he negotiated a libel suit for defamation filed against him by Rita Levi-Montalcini. During a show Beppe Grillo called the 94 years old woman Nobel prize in Medicine winner "old whore".[16]

During his shows Grillo never hesitates to name firms and personalities he considers corrupt, always supporting his views with data and documents.[citation needed] For this reason he has been sued several times for libel by many people and organizations which he had exposed, such as 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 has 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.[17]


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 ecologist stance. In his blog he admits that he did, in fact, acquire both but has since sold them.[15]

Grillo is also criticized for taking advantage of the Condono Tombale, a fiscal amnesty granted by the first Berlusconi government in 2001, which Grillo publicly opposed.[18] Grillo commented on this issue during the V‑Day demonstration. He said that he had personally benefitted by only €500.[citation needed]

Grillo has proposed that members of the Italian Parliament who have a criminal record should be barred from public office. As Grillo himself has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by a car accident[15] his criticsWho? say he has no right to represent Italians either. Grillo has always stated that he is not interested in becoming a member of the Italian Parliament anyway.[15] Despite this, in July 2009 he publicly expressed his intention to present himself as a candidate for the PD's primary elections[19] which, however, does not imply automatic presence in the Italian parliament.

Another proposal of his is that members of Parliament be limited to two government terms of office after which they might not stand again. DetractorsWho? 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 criticized as being a mere demagogue who attacks politicians on superficial issues and their private lives while unable to provide a valid alternative. For instance, 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 to choose between satire and politics, asserting the two are incompatible.[20]

In 2007 Grillo criticized the instrumentalization by Giorgio Napolitano of "Memorial Day of Foibe Massacres and Istrian-Dalmatian exodus".(Date needed)[21][dead link]


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.


  1. la Repubblica/politica: Craxi, tutti i processi e le condanne. Repubblica. URL accessed on 2012-12-29.
  2. "Grillo, l'eroe scelto da Time che batte tutti i record", 16 February 2006. 
  3. D'Alia’s "Shit Wall" against the Internet. Beppe Grillo.
  4. "Beppe's Inferno: A comedian's war on crooked politics". The New Yorker. 4 February 2008. 
  5. Beppe Grillo's Blog
  6. 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.
  7. Article on TIME Europe Magazine
  9. "Clean Parliament", list of convicted felons in the Italian parliament.
  10. Grillo storms L'Unità's party, from La Repubblica, 16 September 2007.
  11. Video clip
  12. "The Clown Prince", 8 May 2008. 
  13. "The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs.", 16 March 2008. 
  14. Dario Fo Joseph E. StiglitzMuhammad Yunus
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 La paga di Giuda, from Beppe Grillo's blog, September 16, 2005; available only in Italian (the first English post in Grillo's blog is from a few weeks later).
  16. Gian Marco Chiocci. Tra "vaffa" e condanne, Camere tabù per Grillo. Il Giornale. URL accessed on 29 December 2012.
  17. Grillo testifies on Parmalat crack: "I brought also Fiat and Telecom [Italia]", from La Repubblica, 16 January 2004.
  18. 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.
  19. Grillo announces he will be a candidate for the Italian PD's primary elections, from La Repubblica, 12 July 2009.
  20. Daniele Luttazzi talks about Beppe Grillo on Micromega, from Il Corriere della Sera, 13 September 2007.
  21. [1][dead link]

External links



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