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Romanian humour, like many other Romanian cultural aspects, has many affinities with four other groups: the Latins (namely the French and Italians), the Balkan people (Greeks, the Slavs, and Turks), the Germans and the Hungarians.
The earliest Romanian character found in anecdotes is Păcală. His name is derived from a (se) păcăli ('to fool oneself/somebody') and, since this word cannot be found in any other related language, we can safely assume that his name is part of the pure Romanian humour.
The Ottoman influence brought the Balkan spirit and with it, other characters and situations. Anton Pann's character, Nastratin Hogea, is a classic example of an urban tradesman. As Jewish people settled in many Romanian regions, two other characters joined Romanian humour: Iţic and Ştrul, a pair of cunning Jews, mainly seen as ingenious, but avaricious shopkeepers.
With modernization and urbanization, especially during the Communist regime, Romanians needed a new character, different from the traditional Păcală, and he was found in Bulă, the tragicomic absolute idiot. In 2006 Bulă was voted the 59th greatest Romanian.
With the fall of communism and facing capitalism, a new kind of joke became popular: that of Alinuţa, a sadistic and stupid 10-year-old girl. Example: Alinuţa: "Mum, I don't like grandma." Mum: "Shut up, we eat what we have!"
Other popular characters are Ion and Maria, a pair of young married or engaged innocent peasants, sometimes depicted as gypsies. Almost all jokes including them are sexually oriented. Another well-known character is Badea Gheorghe, mainly depicted as an old shepherd with a very simplistic view of life, death and material possessions. The newest character is Dorel, the archetype of a careless construction worker, engineer or electrician. Originally the name of a clumsy and ill-experienced worker from a series of TV adverts, Dorel is often depicted as the sole author of weird construction works as door-less balconies or even stairs leading to nowhere or as the cause of blunders leading to comic incidents.
Scotsmen are presented as stingy, mean, dumb and feisty kilt-wearing skulks, who act against common sense just to save a small amount of money.
Somalis are seen as underweight and hungry.
Albanians are seen as very technologically impaired.
One feature of Romanian humour is that, apart from the ethnic jokes, there are also jokes about people of other regions. They are usually told, setting examples of the way each region uses the Romanian language. For example, Moldavians pronounce /tʃ/ as /ʃ/ and /e/ as /i/, Oltenians make use of the perfect simple (rarely used in other regions) and the Transylvanians use some words of Hungarian and German origin such as 'musai' (meaning must) or 'fain' (meaning nice), as well as the start of most sentences with the interjection "No" (not as a negative answer, but meaning So or Well).
Policemen: Most Romanian people are not fond of the law enforcement institutions and try to avoid contact with constables. Romanian public opinion about policemen says that they are primitive, uneducated and totally corrupt. Some of these police jokes belong to the absurd genre.
Especially during the communist regime, political jokes were very popular, although they were illegal and dangerous to tell. In the democratic Romania, these jokes are still popular, although the themes changed: now the politicians are seen either, as hopelessly corrupt, greedy, or as nationalist madmen.
As Ben Lewis put it in his essay, "Communism was a humor-producing machine. Its economic theories and system of repression created inherently funny situations. There were jokes under fascism and Nazism too, but those systems did not create an absurd, laugh-a-minute reality like communism."
Radio Yerevan: just like in the most countries of the former Eastern bloc, Radio Yerevan jokes were popular during the communist times.