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Blast from the Past: The Comedy Ban of 1940

Blast from the Past: The Comedy Ban of 1940

Published March 15, 2017

Like most countries, Iceland has a long and illustrious history of censorship. A fun example can be found in the annals of 1940, when chief of police Agnar Kofod-Hansen announced that after having spoken to witnesses who had attended the dress rehearsal of the play ‘Stundum og stundum ekki (“Sometimes and sometimes not”), he had decided that the play was not fit for production and would be banned. The expert witnesses included a former bank clerk and a couple of doctors.

The Reykjavik City Theatre called for a new review, and staged a new run-through for a new expert panel, which included three government administrators, a judge and a principal. Only one of these, the principal, called for a ban. The chief of police relented and the premiere was allowed to proceed.

But what was it that so angered the authorities? Perhaps the clue is to be found in the review, published the day after in the newspaper Morgunblaðið. There, it said that the play was set in the Prime Minister’s office, and portrayed the horse-trading of high posts among loyal party members, their extramarital affairs, and so on. The review concluded that even though the play was harsh, it was probably not very far from reality.

See our other “blast from the past” piece here.


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