Volodymyr Zelenskiy is not interested in building a vision for the future, but on denigrating everything that came before
As a comedy writer, I tell myself lies to make myself feel better about my life decisions. “That two-star review reads more like a four!” “If I lived in the 1960s I’d definitely have been in Monty Python!” “My wife wouldn’t love me more if I were a lawyer!” The biggest of these is one I pull out at my most insecure (usually when surrounded by people with real jobs) – “comedy can change the world”. At my most pretentious, I believe that satire brought down Margaret Thatcher, that Jon Stewart stopped the worst excesses of the Bush administration, and that one day I will write a Twitter joke so nailed on that the ERG decides to cancel Brexit. Up until last weekend, this question of whether comedy could change the world was just a hypothetical one. But then, on Sunday, the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy became the president of Ukraine, and it all became frighteningly more real.
Admittedly, Zelenskiy is not your average comedian. He stars in Servant of the People, a massive sitcom about a teacher who accidentally becomes president after a video of him ranting about political corruption goes viral. It’s basically The West Wing if Jonathan Pie was President Bartlet – and yes, I did need to take a shower after typing that. Zelenskiy registered Servant of the People as a political party last year, and it’s tempting to think this whole presidential bid is just a PR stunt that has got wildly out of hand. It’s like if Top Gear’s Cenotaph stunt had somehow ended up with Chris Evans becoming foreign secretary. The big question for me is whether Zelenskiy will star in another season of the show while president. Every leader needs a hobby, and honestly, is starring in a meta-sitcom that blurs the lines between fiction and reality that much weirder than Theresa May’s walking holidays?