Sunday, July 15, 2018


I watched the pilot of Sacha Baron Cohen's new show Who Is America? which premieres tonight on Showtime.  I didn't expect to like it and my expectations were fulfilled.

I have a basic problem with Cohen's act.  He does what he does well, but I find it hard to laugh.  He creates a character, fools others into believing it, and then makes them look foolish. He did this 20 years ago as Ali G, and most famously in his movie Borat.  This latest show has him trying out different characters for each bit (and generally being unrecognizable--I'll give him points for that).

The half-hour pilot has four bits.  Cohen starts by interviewing Bernie Sanders--he asks why can't everyone be in the 1% (actually, a deep question, not that Bernie or Cohen are interested in the implications).  He later shocks a Republican couple who have him to dinner with his stories as an NPR liberal who has his daughter menstruate on the American flag.

He then pretends to be an ex-con who makes feces art, quite interesting to a woman who's a gallery consultant.  Finally, he's an Israeli ex-commando who convinces a lot of Republicans and NRA types to support a program that will put guns into the hands of kindergarteners.

Ironically, I'm guessing a lot of people will be unhappy because he mocks both right and left.  At present we're inundated with political satire, but these shows generally have a consistent point of view (and almost all the same point of view) so the audience knows what it's getting, and can safely laugh at those it doesn't like.

But that's not the problem I have.  In general, I don't enjoy watching someone embarrassing real people, or putting them in a spot.  It's not quite as bad when it's done to a major public figure, since they're used to the limelight and can take it.  But even then, it doesn't usually strike me as particularly funny.

So that's Who Is America? (which, of course, doesn't tell us much about America, not that anyone should be watching it for that reason).

The show has already gotten a lot of publicity for an upcoming interview with Dick Cheney where he signs a waterboarding kit.  It's also made Sarah Palin angry because, she claims, she was duped by Cohen disguised as a disabled vet.

Since I won't be watching future episodes, guess I won't find out how these bits turned out.


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