empty promises

The Comedian Who Won An Election By Promising Nutella

You've heard stories before of people who parlay their fame as comedians into serious careers in politics—Al Franken for instance, or Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy. You've also heard of comedians who run for office totally as a joke, and these campaigns never succeed—Dave Barry has claimed to have been running for president for decades now, and Stephen Colbert said he was running in 2008, but the Democratic Party did not put him on the ballot.

Jacob Haugaard is a Danish comedian born in the Faroe Islands who jokingly ran for parliament over and over, starting in 1979. He had no plan to actually win. His campaign was totally ridiculous. 

A classic slogan of the labor movement demanded "8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, 8 hours of rest." Haugaard's platform mockingly demanded "8 hours of free time, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours of sleep." He offered better weather and stronger tailwinds for cyclists; like most politicians, he had no plan for how to fulfill his promises. Vote for him, he said, and there would be better Christmas presents for all and more Renaissance furniture at Ikea. The most realistic of his promises was to add Nutella to soldiers' field rations, but this wasn't exactly a matter of general interest. He also said he'd recognize a right to impotence, and this was a joke that might have made more sense in the original Danish. 

Every election cycle, Haugaard ran for office, blowing all his donations each time on a beer-and-sausage cookout in the park. Then in 1994, he actually won. Over 23,000 people voted for him, which was enough to put him in office for a four-year term. He was the first politician since the signing of the nation's constitution to enter parliament without representing a political party. While running, he claimed to represent the Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements, but he had to put himself down as independent after he won, since that party didn't actually exist. 

Once in office, he didn't do a whole lot of anything, though he claimed to be highly pursued by both parties for his vote (he first assumed they were pursuing him for his body, he joked). He did manage to fulfill at least one campaign promise, though. He did add Nutella to soldiers' field rations.

Top image: Chris Liverani
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