A Russian TV channel has pulled the plug on a popular Ukrainian comedy starring President Volodymyr Zelensky after an off-color joke alluding to Vladimir Putin’s private parts aired in the country, according to reports.
Before becoming embroiled in the political turmoil that led to impeachment efforts against President Trump, Zelensky was a comedian who played a disgruntled teacher in “Servant of the People,” where his viral rants catapulted him to a fictional presidency.
Partly due to the sitcom’s popularity, Zelensky swept to a real-life victory in Ukraine’s presidential elections earlier this year, according to the Moscow Times.
But with biting jokes directed against the Russian strongman, many wondered how long the show would survive on Russia’s airwaves.
Not very long, it turns out.
In the season’s premiere, Zelensky, playing the part of Ukraine’s new leader, is selecting a new watch and is told that Putin wears a Hublot, according to the Guardian.
“Putin’s a Hublot?” Zelensky responds.
The word Hublot resembles another that translates to male genitalia in Russian slang. The crude reference about Putin became a popular slogan in Ukraine after the outbreak of the conflict in southeast Ukraine.
After quickly editing out the remark made at Putin’s expense in the premiere, Russia’s channel TNT canceled its broadcast of additional airings of the 23-episode season.
TNT, an entertainment channel owned by the state broadcasting giant Gazprom-Media, did not reply to requests from the Guardian for comment.
It told the Russian business outlet Vedomosti that it had never planned to air the whole season — and that the broadcast was a “marketing ploy” for its online streaming service.
On Thursday, the Kremlin said it had nothing to do with TNT’s decision to move the political satire online, according to the Moscow Times.
When asked whether censorship has increased on Russian TV and Putin jokes were banned, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “the answer is negative to both parts of the question.”