20 years ago ‘L’Ottavo Nano’: the swan song of satire on TV

On January 16, 2001, the first episode of the last show was aired which made fun of politics and customs in prime time on generalist TV. Featuring a gallery of memorable characters

It was the last example, one of the brightest, of a television genre that is simply no longer there. The Eighth Dwarf – the first episode of which was broadcast on Rai2 twenty years ago, Tuesday 16 January 2001 – it was the last political satire program broadcast in prime time on a generalist TV, even more so on state TV, which from then on more and more often it would have been held back by absolutely bipartisan political constraints and precautions. The genre would have been confined to the late evening, perhaps mixed with talk-shows or information, and then would have slowly disappeared from our screens, replaced over the years by comedy increasingly oriented towards cabaret, terrified of dead times or simply too long, up to the sweet drift of Youtube and memes on social networks, ever more immediate and ever easier to forget.


Corrado Guzzanti in the cast of I Delitti del Barlume

The Eighth Dwarf was the swan song of a great season that began in 1988 with Girls TV and continued with Leftover, Tunnel and the Goofy Chennedy Show: all programs conducted by the author and radio presenter Serena Dandini, who from the end of the 1980s brought a biting and original satire of costume on TV, enhancing in over a decade a large number of still unknown comedians such as the brothers Corrado, Sabina and Caterina Guzzanti, Francesca Reggiani, Cinzia Leone, Tosca D’Aquino, Neri Marcoré, Ale and Franz, Ficarra and Picone and many others. Broadcast in the midst of the torrid electoral campaign for the 2001 Politics, The Eighth Dwarf – cryptic and mysterious title, preferred to alternatives such as Aridanga, Love me do And Save Private Rai – he is remembered today for a long series of characters and even premonitory jokes. Here’s a rundown of him.


The soul of the program, and one of its main authors, was Conrad Guzzanti, who at the age of 35 was experiencing the moment of maximum artistic splendour. We inaugurate the gallery of her characters from Vulvia, blonde and ditzy announcer of Rehabilitation Channelthe phantom RAI channel dedicated to scientific dissemination and documentaries, obsessed with ‘mbuti.

Francis Rutelli

In the winter of 2001, political satire could not ignore Francesco Rutelli, the outgoing mayor of Rome and prime minister candidate for the centre-left. He is one of Guzzanti’s most ruthless characters, who paints him as a caricature à la Alberto Sordi (in this video, in which Guzzanti also doubles as Walter Veltroni, he expressly mentions himself London smoke), mainly engaged in “bringing water with the ‘recchie” to the adversary Berlusconi. As often happens, Guzzanti saw very clearly: Rutelli’s Ulivo faced a tough electoral defeat.

Silvio Berlusconi

The political “counterpart” was played by his sister Sabina, who while engaged in the theater appeared only in the last two episodes to give her version of Berlusconi, who in those weeks appeared in all Italian cities on huge electoral billboards which perhaps represent the earliest form of memes that appeared on the Italian Internet (with the slogan “Less taxes for all” crippled into “Less taxes for Totti” or “Less taxes for Titti”…)

Umberto Bossi

In the first episode of the show Guzzanti also tried his hand at a parody of the secretary of the League Umberto Bossi, who had returned to ally with Berlusconi after years of frost and personal dislike. The sketch quoted The silence of the lambs And Young Frankenstein: to appease the wrath of a “bestial” Bossi and beside himself the violinist Pier Ferdinando Casini, the leader of the more moderate and Catholic wing of the center-right coalition, played by Neri Marcoré, thought about it.

Doctor Arma

Even the fragmentation of the television offer and the appearance of many small satellite broadcasters did not go unnoticed by Guzzanti’s attentive gaze, summed up in the character of Dr. Armà, a scoundrel dealer in paintings who tries to foist his crusts on the viewers of “TeleProboscis”. loosely based on the art dealer Francesco Boni.

Brunello Robertetti

The nonsense side of Guzzanti, always capable of dry and lightning quips, was sublimed in the character of the poet Brunello Robertetti, who declaimed his verses in broken Italian, often eating the endings of the words, sitting on a bare chair in the center of the stage: “If I were dog woof, if I were cat meow, if it were late bye”.

Antonello Venditti

But the most famous and popular imitation of that Guzzanti 2001 remains that of Antonello Venditti: eternally at the piano, with the street directory of Rome open on the lectern, he sings the mystique of the Grande Raccordo Anulare. Memorable parody, particularly adored in the Capital, so much so that Guzzanti/Venditti took the stage next to the real Antonello on the evening of 23 June 2001 at the Circus Maximus, during the party for Roma’s third Scudetto.

Father Pio

In the middle of the electoral campaign, many sketches were taken as a pretext by the various political forces to mount instrumental polemics. This gag in which Guzzanti, Francesco Paolantoni and Giobbe Covatta, all three in the unlikely role of Padre Pio, made fun of the excess of religious fiction that flooded the generalist TV channels at that time caused much discussion: a certain politician accused them – in a completely unfounded way – even of blasphemy.

Alberto Angela

The Ottavo Dwarf was the program that also imposed on the national scene the 34-year-old Neri Marcoré, hitherto known above all for his skills as an imitator. The most famous character of him is the parody of Alberto Angela, the son of the great Piero (at the time not yet so well known) who exchanged everyday objects for the traces of ancient civilizations of the past.

…and everyone else

Regular guests of the program were also Giobbe Covatta (in the role of the slimy entrepreneur Ciro), Rosalia Porcaro (who played the neo-melodic singer Natasha, a character already played on local Neapolitan TV), Caterina Guzzanti (in the role of the dancer Blondic, freely inspired by Nina Moric ), Marco della Noce (in the role of the studio assistant Larsen), two very young Ficarra and Picone in the role of two leftist militants who try in vain to communicate their requests to the upper floors of the Party, Lillo & Greg, Marina Massironi, Germana Pasquero and finally Marco Marzocca, Guzzanti’s future sidekick for years, as in this sketch in which he plays the annoying little robot Sturby.

20 years ago ‘L’Ottavo Nano’: the swan song of satire on TV