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Berlusconi: The musical is real but phone calls from Macron might not be

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

If I was to tell you that early next year you could go to London and watch a musical based on the life, loves and litigations of Silvio Berlusconi that features songs such as “Bunga Bunga” and “My Weekend With Vladimir,” you would, quite rightly, assume that the annual who-can-drink-the-most-sherry-in-a-minute competition at POLITICO Towers had been held earlier than usual.

But it’s true. The musical — simply titled “Berlusconi” and described by its producer as like “Evita on acid” — is coming to the stage in London in March 2023.

Berlusconi once played a practical joke — and the word joke is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence — on Angela Merkel, jumping out from behind a monument and shouting “cuckoo” at the then-German chancellor during a summit in Trieste to discuss the economic crisis.

Pranksters are, as we all know, juvenile. But when they take aim at politicians, it can be revealing.

Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus managed to get hold of Polish President Andrzej Duda on the day a missile landed in Poland and pretended to be France’s Emmanuel Macron. In Duda’s defense, he must have been under such stress at the time that he didn’t spot the terrible French accent of the pretend Macron. The Polish president should, however, have been wary as the same pranksters tricked him in 2020 by pretening to be United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (and got Duda to admit that Donald Trump hadn’t called to congratulate him on his recent election victory).

Speaking of the former (and probably next) U.S. president, in 2019 Boris Johnson revealed that Trump tried to call him during a trip to the U.K. and Johnson hung up because he — incorrectly, it turns out — thought it was a prank (the call, not the Trump presidency, which was one giant prank on the world).

But the greatest success for pranksters can come when the victim knows of the person they are supposed to be talking to, but doesn’t know enough about them to realize they are been tricked. That’s why a series of pranks involving a fake Armenian prime minister were so successful for Vovan and Lexus.

In 2018, that man Johnson again held an 18-minute phone conversation with someone whom he believed to be Nikol Pashinyan (although as it was Johnson, at least half of that time was probably “errr” and “ahhhh”). The following year, the same jokesters got hold of Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini (then president of European Commission and EU foreign policy chief, respectively). Presumably all of this fakery made it very hard for the actual Pashinyan to speak to any senior politicians, as everyone assumed it was a prankster.

CAPTION COMPETITION

“You must be this week’s prime minister.”

Can you do better? Email [email protected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

Last time we gave you this photo:

Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our postbag — there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze.

“See, it’s lonely at the top,” by Ivan Declercq.

Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

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