Fun_People Archive
7 Oct
Political climate

Date: Fri,  7 Oct 94 17:55:46 PDT
To: Fun_People
Subject: Political climate

Forwarded-by: "" <>
Forarded-By: "Per H. Christensen" <>
Forwarded-By: Ariadna Santander <>
Forwarded-By: Kresten Krab Thorup <Kresten_Thorup@NeXT.COM>

The Wall Street Journal, October 6th 1994, front page

   * * *

Some People See Politicians As Jokers: This Guy Is One -- Jacob  
Haugaard Was Elected To the Danish Parliament Promising Better  

   * * *

By Dana Milbank, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal.

AARHUS, Denmark -- Jacob Haugaard swears it was just a practical  

He was only kidding when he launched the Party of Deliberate Work-Shy  
Elements. He was merely lambooning politicians when he ran for  
Parliament promising better weather, tail winds for Danish cyclists ,  
and the right to be impotent. He was only having fun, he says, when  
he spend campaign funds on beer and sausages for his voters. 

Then, a funny thing happened. After six election defeats, the  
42-year-old standup commedian actually was elected two weeks ago to  
the Danish parliament. Tuesday, Mr. Haugaard took his place in the  
nations first independent legislator in half a century.

Nobody finds this more amusing than Mr. Haugaard himself. In his  
first act as an MP, a visit to the queen, he wore a loud tie and a  
three-piece suit made from a burlap coffee sack. ``I dont know  
anything about politics,'' he say. ``Now, I get an education in how  
it works--with full salary.'' The job pays about $60.000 a year.

Mr. Haugaard, understandably, has become a celebrity. Weathermen talk  
about the Haugaard factor in their forecasts. College students invoke  
his name at protests. Haugaard T-shirts are available if not  
fashionable, and the comic appears regularly on television and on the  
front pages. ``He's more popular than the prime minister,'' says  
Michael Meyerheim, the host of a Danish TV talk show.

Political Oddities

Exotic characters are in politics all over the world. Italy had La  
Cicciolina, a former porn star, in its Parliament. And radio talker  
Howard Star won (and then relinguished) the Liberian Party's  
nomination for the governorship of New York this year.

But Mr. Haugaard could well be the first professional comic to win  
election to a national legistature as a joke.

Some sober Danes don't think it's a laughing matter. ``How is it  
imaginable that 20,000 people would vote for a clown like that?''  
Conservative Party chief Torben Rechendorff demanded in the Aarhus  
Stiftstidende, Mr. Haugaard's hometown paper. Steen Gade, socialist  
MP, also thinks the election shows that Denmark is in a rotten state.  
``It is sad that many voters have thought the work in the Parliament  
so unimportant as to use their vote on him,'' he told the paper.

Lighten up, Mr. Haugaards backers reply. ``The politicians have been  
in Parliament for many, many years and talked and talked and talked  
and done nothing,'' says Jens Richard Pedersen, a graying Aarhus  
buissnessman. Dansh voters are upset with incumbent politicians who  
have failed to fix the countried double-digit unemployment and do  
something about high taxes.

At the Cafe Jorden here in Aarhus, young Haugaard supporters recite  
favourite Haugaard promises: more Nutella chocolate-spread for the  
U.N. soldiers in Bosnia. Less sex in the teachers' room. Arming a  
17th-century frigate for service in the Persian Gulf.

``I voted for him just to get a kick out of it,'' says Peter Borring,  
a 25-year-old electronics salesman in Aarhus. ``Danish politics is  
very boring.''

The same clearly cannot be said about Mr. Haugaard. His suburban home  
has a dentist's chair and a huge water tower in the backyeard.  
Several mornings after his election victory, he comes downstairs in  
his underwear to greet a visitor. His rumbled coffee-sac suit (he  
calles it the ``Yves Sack Laurent'') hangs on a chair. he instructs  
his young daughter to ``light up the lady,'' a nightclub sculpture of  
a woman with neon breasts.

Mr. Haugaard's political philosophy is a simple proof of politicians'  
promises and evasions. ``If something good happens, I say it's me,''  
he says. ``If it's bad, I blame it on the opposition.'' His promises  
include more Renaissance furniture at Ikea (the Swedish warehouse  
furniture stores), bigger Christmas presents, shorter supermarket  
lines, carpeted sidewalks and a law giving disability payments to  
humorless people.

His policy on employments: ``If work is so healthy, give it to the  
sick.'' He also wowed a fight for the right to be ``ugly, lazy, rich  
and stupid.''

On the Cheap

One of his election posters features him with a cigar and a  
Rolls-Roycs and the slogan: ``An Honest Man.'' In his campaign (for  
which he spend all of $1,500) he was shown with his hand on a train's  
emergency brake, saying ``It's now or never.''

The son of a carpenter, Mr. Haugaard did factory and janitorial work  
before forming a bad called Sofamania in the 1970s. He plays a guitar  
mad from a garden spade. Since his hippie days, Mr. Haugaard says, he  
has given up all drugs -- even aspirin -- and is now a member of  
Alchoholics Anonymous.

The band, the comedy routines, appearances in two movies and a  
soft-drink commercial in his case added up to political liability. In  
1979, he accepted the nomination of some Aarhus University students  
to be their candidate for Parliament. He lost, then ran five more  
loosing campaigns before pulling off his stunning victory this year.

Nobody -- not even Mr. Haugaard -- ever took his candidacy seriously.  
Though Denmark's Parliament is elected nationally, an independent can  
appear on the ballot in his or her home district by gathering 150  
signatures, and all it takes to win a seat is 18,000-odd votes. On  
Sept. 21, he got 23,253 votes and became one of the 179 members of  
the exalted body.

Another `Aarhus Joke'

To Ane Dybdahl, the newspaper reporter who followed Mr. Haugaard for  
the Aarhus Stiftstidende, his victory is just another ``Aarhus  
Joke.'' People in Copenhagen make fun of their cousins in Aarhus and  
the rest of Denmark's Jutland-peninsula as slow-witted. One joke says  
Aarhus people take the door off when they go to the bathroom so  
nobody can peek through the keyhole. ``It's a special kind of Danish  
humor,'' she says of Mr. Haugaard's style, ``a bit childish.''

What made her think that? Mr. Haugaard told her his goals in  
Parliament would be to erect a giant statue of himself urinating on a  
windmill, and to get his ``virtual-reality'' hat past the  
parliamentary guards.

Pundits say that in Denmark's fragile coalition government, Mr.  
Haugaard's vote could be a tiebreaker. But not to worry. The comedian  
plans to use his position to jawbone his fellow politicians on causes  
he actually cares about: alcoholism, diability, the problems of old  
age. Mr. Haugaard, who won't sit on any comittees or propose any  
laws, intends, uncharacteristically, to be a quiet and respectful  
watchdog. ``In the beginning, I think I'll just take the cotton out  
of my ears and put it in my mouth,'' he says.

He admits some of his political promises, such as affecting the  
weather and assuring opportune tail winds, may be hard to keep. But  
he appears to have connections in high places. ``All Denmark was  
laughing the day after the election,'' Mr. Haugaard says. ``The  
weather was buitiful, the sun was shining, and a tail wind was coming  
from all directions.'' 

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []