For the writers and cartoonists of Italy’s satirical monthly newspaper ‘Il Vernacoliere’, no target is off-limits, whether it’s a prominent cleric or self-aggrandising politician. We meet the team behind the gags.
Livorno possesses a unique lineage in Italy. “We hail from outlaws, dangerous intellectuals, persecuted religious minorities, immigrants and radicals,” says Mario Cardinali, the 85-year-old godfather of Il Vernacoliere, a now-satirical newspaper he has steered since 1982. In the 16th century the Medici family chose Livorno as Tuscany’s free port and declared that whoever chose to live there would be nearly immune to the law. Today it’s where Il Vernacoliere is based.
Infamous across Italy for the headlines on its posters at every newsstand, Il Vernacoliere proudly speaks a profanity-laced Livornese. But don’t take its writers and cartoonists for an uneducated bunch: among them are university professors and even a Grammy-nominated conductor. “We created a new journalism in Italy that reappropriates the language of the people to use their own voice against the powers that be,” says Cardinali. “The ‘high’ language of newspapers is a classist choice. We are ennobling ‘low’ language here.”
Il Vernacoliere’s tagline is, “A monthly of satire, humour and lack of respect.” When Catholic and right-wing figures crushed an anti-homophobia bill in Italy, Il Vernacoliere responded with the headline, “The Church Concedes: Boys OK to Go to Bed with Priests (but only after evening prayers).”
The approach has earned Il Vernacoliere more than its fair share of lawsuits but Cardinali fights them off good-naturedly. “This paper is an instrument of freedom,” he says. Throughout its 60-year history he has refused to accept any advertising. “No one’s going to tell me that I should cover my mouth.”
Circulation has fallen from a peak of 80,000 in the 1990s to 20,000 today and Cardinali disdains online publishing. But the framed awards on his office wall show that the paper’s irreverence has won plaudits.
Daniela Mazzoni, Newsroom secretary,“Accounting, shipping, customer service – a jack-of-all-trades.”
Valter Cardinali, Graphic layout artist, “The founder’s right hand – and nephew.”
Fabio Nocchi, Columnist, “Maker of ‘Devoti con Brio’, a fake first page of a clerical magazine.”
Patrizia Salutij, Columnist,“Ridicules school from a teacher’s point of view.”
Founder, owner and editor Cardinali established Livornocronaca as a “regular” newspaper but reshaped it as the satirical Il Vernacoliere in 1982, in response to other papers using literary voices that many Italians couldn’t understand. The content is his team’s method of knocking the establishment. “We’re Livornese and we respect neither popes nor kings,” says Cardinali. “We make fun of everyone.”
Giacomo Cardinali, Administrator,“Valter’s son. Takes care of the website and subscribers.”
Andrea Camerini, Author, artist,“Has drawn ‘Il Troio’, a racy political and satirical cartoon, for 30 years.”
Federico Sardelli, Cartoonist and writer,“The polymath mastermind behind countless cartoons, fake newspaper covers, columns and more in a decades-long collaboration.”
Pardo Fornaciari, The newspaper’s self-described theologian,“Investigates the phenomenology of the revealed religions by asking important.