The Joker’s Wild

My profile of Beppe Grillo has just been published by Time.

The comedian Beppe Grillo, the leader of the party that won the most votes in Italy’s February election, sits in his beachfront villa in Tuscany as Italian journalists crowd outside, desperate for a sound bite. “They film me while I eat, while I fart,” says Grillo, with characteristic vulgarity. “They point their cameras at me 24 hours a day. If I need to pick my nose, I first need to go hide.”

Nobody, least of all Grillo, expected his Five Star Movement to do so well. Campaigning on a radical platform, the 64-year-old satirist led what he dubbed a Tsunami Tour, visiting 76 towns in 45 days to urge Italians to vote for a slate of candidates who had never before held office. He triggered, if not a tsunami, then a sizable wave. Almost 26% of the vote flowed to M5S, as the party is widely known on social media, giving

its wild-haired, foulmouthed founder significant influence over the fate of the euro zone’s third largest economy. “This thing here, it’s like a virus,” Grillo says of his movement.

Read the rest.