Putin is tickled by Stalin joke on television show
Vladimir Putin, known for his earthy sense of humour, made a rare appearance on a popular Russian comedy show, seeming to relish a vulgar gag about Stalin and wincing at a Lada joke.
Putin seemed to cry with laughter at some points and at other times looked deeply uncomfortable, as he sat in the front row at the show, aired as a recording on state television late Sunday.
Putin's appearance on the top-rated sketch comedy show echoed one by Dmitry Medvedev just before he was elected in 2008. Yet while his protege guffawed away, Putin appeared less relaxed at jokes at his expense.
He winced as a Putin lookalike mimicked his style of giving speeches with long dramatic pauses and risked a dig about the ailing Avtovaz car plant that turns out Ladas, shored up by Putin with protectionist policies.
"A lot of people think that Russia joining the WTO will mean the end for Avtovaz. ... I'd like to point out that's not the only advantage," the comedian said, to wry laughter from the audience familiar with the cars.
A closeup showed Putin in open-necked shirt remaining tight-lipped at the joke.
But the premier openly cracked up at a vulgar joke about Soviet dictator Stalin, covering his face with his hands.
"I want to get a tattoo of Stalin. The older I get, the wider he'll smile," dead-panned a plump comedian.
And he later wiped his eyes as a comedian mocked the tandem rule of Putin as strongman prime minister and Medvedev as a relatively weak president. The performer termed Putin the "premier-sident of our country.
Putin's attempts at humour have caused offence in the past, although at home his macho jokes about castrating opponents "so nothing will grow back" have only reinforced his strongman image.
But a comedy puppet show that depicted Putin as an ugly dwarf closed shortly after he became president in 2000.
© 2011 AFP