When I think of Turkish national humor, the first thing that comes to my mind is the “Laz” joke. The people of the eastern Black Sea region in Turkey are called Laz. They speak a dialect of Turkish called “Lazca”. Laz people have often been the targets or mockery for the Turkish people. They are actually known to be clever, but sometimes they make major mistakes which become the subject of many jokes. Laz jokes can be compared to Irish jokes told in England and Polish jokes told in the U.S.
“Temel” is a prominent character of Laz jokes. “Temel” means in Turkish “basic,” but in this case, it connotes more of a stupid person. Temel also has friends called Dursun and İdris and a wife named Fadime. Here are three well-known Laz jokes:
One day Temel, the truck driver, while driving down a hill realizes that his brakes are not working. The truck is going faster and faster, until he reaches an intersection. Temel looks around. On his right, there is a child; on his left, there is a bazaar with more than 100 people. As a “clever” man, Temel chooses to drive towards the child instead of the bazaar. However, the next day, newspaper headlines read “TEMEL DROVE HIS TRUCK INTO THE BAZAAR, 40 KILLED, 35 INJURED”. They ask Temel: “How come you commit such an act?” Temel answers: “Everything happened when the child started to run towards the bazaar”.
Another one: Temel is a watchmaker. One day, his friend Dursun comes to him with a watch, an heirloom from his grandpa, who has stopped working. Temel shakes it, puts it to his ear, turns the knob and stares at it for a while. Then, he opens it up and finds inside a dead ant. “Uyy, Dursun!” he exclaims, “Of course your watch has stopped. Can’t you see, the machinist is dead!”
The last one: Temel gets himself a flea and begins conducting experiments on it in the laboratory. He cuts off one of the flea’s legs and orders it to jump, and it does. He cuts off a second leg and orders it to jump again, and it does. Eventually, Temel cuts off all the flea’s legs. He orders it to jump, and after he sees that it does not jump, he records the results: “If you cut all the legs off of a flea, it can’t hear.”