'At a Soviet-era circus theatre just days before Ukraine's presidential election, the front-runner in the race held his audience rapt with a mix of "boob" jokes and vaguely patriotic songs.
"What's my favourite sex pose?" comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked, supposedly testing the ability of a "body double" to impersonate him. "Missionary style. Because you like to help people," the body double quipped.
Zelenskiy, 41, shunned stump speeches in favour of skits about ditsy female football referees on a tour of Ukraine with his comedy troupe.
Full preliminary results from the election are expected to be announced tonight NZT.
But exit polls indicated that Zelenskiy would lead with about 30 per cent of the vote, well short of the absolute majority to win in the first round.
Most exit polls showed incumbent Petro Poroshenko in second place, meaning he would face Zelenskiy in a second round on April 21.
Combined with the popularity of his television show Servant of the People, in which he plays a teacher who becomes president, Zelenskiy's approach, heavy on humour, light on policy, has charmed an electorate jaded by corruption, war and two revolutions in just two decades.
Some have called it Populism 2.0 - like US President Donald Trump, Zelenskiy has run on the strength of his tough-talking on-screen character.
But rather than a border wall and trade tariffs, he only promises that "everything will be okay".'
Read more: Fictional Ukrainian president poised to become the real thing
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28 March 2019
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