Sanremo 2023, Benigni and the Festival: from Wojtylaccio to the Constitution, laughter and controversy

Fonora five were Roberto Benigni’s ‘guests’ at the Sanremo Festival

Starting with the Pope and ending with the Bible, Roberto Benigni was ‘guest’ five times at the Sanremo Festival, to which the sixth has now been added, on the occasion of the first time of a President of the Republic at the Ariston Theater, dedicated to the Constitution in 75th anniversary of entry into force. All accompanied by great laughs, unforgettable moments of entertainment but often also by great controversies. The first time of the ‘Little Devil’ dates back to 1980 and more than a hosted one it is a real co-hosting alongside Claudio Cecchetto and Olimpia Carlisi. And it’s a debut that still remains in the annals: not so much for the showgirl’s kiss lasting almost a minute – exactly 45, endless for TV, seconds – but for the ‘Wojtylaccio’ uttered referring with a mischievous air to none other than Pope John Paul II, future saint.

He justifies everything by explaining that in the Tuscan vernacular there is no derogatory meaning to the suffix ‘accio’ but the explanation does not spare him criminal charges, parliamentary questions, indictments for contempt of religion, payment of heavy fines, even the threat of ending up in jail and finally the final acquittal. Differently scandalous was also Benigni’s second performance, this time in 2002 and which sees another icon, albeit a secular one, of the Italian people as a ‘victim’, namely the presenter Pippo Baudo, with a touch without escape, at least immediately, to the private parts of the Sicilian conductor praised live by the Tuscan comedian. Dedicated to political satire, involuntary protagonists Silvio Berlusconi and Walter Veltroni and spectator the conductor Paolo Bonolis, is his speech in 2009.

Two years later, in 2011 at the Sanremo hosted by Gianni Morandi, Roberto Benigni makes his triumphal entry onto the Ariston stage and the adjective is not redundant, given that he enters nothing less than riding a white horse, in homage to the 150 th anniversary of the unification of Italy, also garnering the applause of the President of the Republic at the time, Giorgio Napolitano. From the profane back to the sacred: for the Amadeus Sanremo 2020, the Oscar-winning actor with ‘Life is beautiful’ focuses his chat with the Ariston audience and with the television audience on his particular reading of the ‘Canticle of the Canticles’, a text of the Bible sacred to both Jews and Christians. With Roberto Benigni’s final exhortation to Italians to “make love more”. And now, all waiting for the sixth devilry of him …

(by Enzo Bonaiuto)