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Leonid Bershidsky

Didn't Get Putin's Viagra Joke? Your Fault.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to make jokes. What that says about his sense of humor is a matter of interpretation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to make jokes. What that says about his sense of humor is a matter of interpretation.

Putin's remark at a sporting event on Friday suggesting that Russia's critics might need some pharmaceutical virility enhancement raises the question, yet again, of what his attempts at humor tell us about the president and the people he addresses.

At times, the Russian leader seems to hit the mark, at least for his target audience. At a 2010 event for his United Russia party, functionaries laughed when he quipped, "What do we need to do to curb corruption? We need some hangings!"

Often, though, his attempts at humor fall so far below the waist that even his political allies keep a straight face.