"Insulting Takes Skills Too": Polish Parliament Speaker Is Viral Sensation

Szymon Holownia is no stranger to a wide audience as a former TV personality who notably hosted the Polish edition of the "Got Talent!" franchise.

'Insulting Takes Skills Too': Polish Parliament Speaker Is Viral Sensation

Szymon Holownia left showbusiness for politics four years ago. (File)


As Polish pro-EU parties prepare to take power, a new star has shot to fame: a parliament speaker whose wit has drawn thousands of new followers to the chamber's social media channels.

Szymon Holownia is no stranger to a wide audience as a former TV personality who notably hosted the Polish edition of the "Got Talent!" franchise.

The 47-year-old left showbusiness for politics four years ago and now enjoys the spotlight chairing plenary proceedings following his success in the October 15 parliamentary elections.

"Ladies and gentlemen, stock up on popcorn... because I suspect there will be a lot of action," Holownia said of the upcoming sitting during one of his now almost daily press conferences.

His quips and comebacks in the plenary have been going viral -- including an instance when he corrected a conservative lawmaker for mistakenly calling a colleague a "Jay-Z" instead of a member of Generation Z.

On another occasion, as lawmakers heckled him, Holownia retorted saying they were becoming "a tad monothematic".

"I encourage you to be more original, to do more intellectual work. Insulting takes skill too," he said, drawing applause from the pro-EU lawmakers.

In the matter of weeks that Holownia has spent as speaker, the parliament's YouTube channel streaming the debates saw its followers surge almost tenfold, from 45,000 to 435,000 subscribed users.

'Like Zelensky'

The sudden rise in popularity of the parliamentary proceedings prompted an unorthodox move by a Warsaw cinema to organise a screening of Monday's confidence vote for the conservative minority government.

"We've never done this before," Karolina Fornal, a spokeswoman for Kinoteka told AFP, adding the cinema had already run out of free tickets for the screenings.

"We allotted two rooms for the viewings, that means over 500 seats... and we've received around 1,500 requests," Fornal said, adding that the cinema would add parliamentary-themed snacks to its offer that day.

Holownia has been quick to capitalise on his own fame too: he has launched a behind-the-scenes podcast on the ins and outs of parliamentary life -- with the first episode hitting nearly a million downloads.

For experts, Holownia's fame as a celebrity-turned-politician follows a familiar pattern.

"It's a bit like (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky and how he made a name for himself. Holownia also stood out because he had the experience, he knew how media work," said Adam Szynol, a media analyst from the University of Wroclaw.

"He knows that he has to speak briefly, that he needs a punchline or a joke from time to time," Szynol said.

But Holownia's flashy style has also drawn criticism -- notably from the current conservative prime minister.

"Instead of real work we have the popcorn, a show and circuses. Is this what politics is about?" Mateusz Morawiecki said in a post on social media.

Szynol conceded there was a risk that young people are watching parliament sittings "just for fun, to see who landed a heavier blow or came up with a meme".

But he said an increased interest among a generation that often switches off from politics should not be dismissed. "The young people who went out and voted, currently want to see how their voice is acted upon -- and that will be the key part."

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)