All jokes aside, a comedian may lead Italy

The head of the populist Five Star Movement, comedian Beppe Grillo, addresses supporters during a rally on February 12, 2013 in Bergamo, northern Italy.

What city do you think of when you hear the following: Lawmakers in gridlock, the economy paralyzed, comedians in charge.

The answer isn't Washington. It's Rome.

Following an election over the weekend, Italians have elected an actual comedian, Beppe Grillo, to the leadership of the one of the country's largest political parties. Disgraced former premier Silvio Berlusconi has risen from his political grave. And all that raises the distinct possibility of fresh instability involving Europe and European debt.

 "Once again we've surprised the world with one buffoon who actually had another job title to one whose has the real job title of comedian," Alessandro Valera lives in Rome and works for a human rights group. But he's not talking about the actual comedian -- he's referring to Silvio Berlusconi and the scandals that marked his time at the helm of the country.

Valera says the last few days have been "confusing and hectic," in part because election polls got the results so wrong. There's a bit of surprise in the air today. And he says, perhaps the election of Beppe Grillo would be appropriate.

But jokes aside, the havoc in Italy's political system could mean problems for Europe's economy. Valera acknowledges the election is part of a wider crisis -- social, economic, and moral -- the country is facing.

"I'm worried because there's a whole generation that's looking for a future. It seems very difficult at the moment," he says.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.

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