Genre: Political Satire
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
Release Date: 15th July 2018 (UK)
Created By: Sacha Baron Cohen
Baron Cohen portrays a variety of characters who interview/interrogate, train and discuss pertinent issues with real persons from across the political and cultural spectrum of America. His creations include – Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, far-left lecturer on gender studies and activist who wishes to “heal the divide” in America between conservatives and liberals, Rick Sherman, an ex-convict artist, recently released after about 21 years, and Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and former agent of Mossad. Both characters have their own Twitter accounts!
I have been a fan of Baron Cohen’s work since his arrival on British TV in 2002, in the guise of Ali G, a drum n bass enthusiast with a poor education who’s childish questions and inability to grasp the fundamentals of politics, allowed him to reveal the flaws in those he ‘interviewed’.
And this is the basic premise of all Baron Cohen’s characters – they are either dull-witted, or extreme in their own views, or foreigners in an English speaking country, allowing him to behave and ask inappropriate questions, thus hi-lighting the hypocrisy of various individuals who represent the mind-set of certain groups.
In Who Is America? Baron Cohen in the guise of Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, dines with a South Carolina Republican and her husband, and not only pushes their buttons with his questions but tests their white, middle-class sensibilities to the hilt by talking about his daughter’s menstruation and how he won’t allow her to use sanitary products.
As Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire playboy and fashion photographer from Italy, he gets minor celebrities to endorse things like child soldiers, or to pose in a sexy manner for a supposed advert to help aid workers in Africa fighting Ebola.
Occasionally, an interviewee will refuse to continue with the interview – and this is to their credit. Baron Cohen pushes and pushes with more ludicrous or offensive questioning thus exposing an individuals biases, prejudices and idiocy. What sort of politician would agree to drop his pants in order to fend off terrorists? Or take up-skirt photos under a ladies burqa? Or repeatedly shout the ‘n’ word? Jason Spencer apparently! (Spencer has apparently resigned since filming.)
Who Is America? May be more of the same from Baron Cohen, but it is still hilarious, we Brits love seeing people knocked off their high horses or taken down a peg or two. But the fact that Baron Cohen is still able to produce such a programme says a lot about American (and British) society. We don’t listen, we don’t read the small print, we don’t pay attention, most of us – and especially those in high-profile positions – fail to question our own opinions and attitudes to those who are ‘not like us’. We can be so small-minded and bigoted and obsessed with how we appear that we are not listening to what is really going on.
Baron Cohen strikes me as one of those frighteningly intelligent people we so often see in comedy – think Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Chris Morris (all British) – who hold a mirror up to society and we either don’t ‘get it’, or laugh ourselves silly because we do, but with the added poignancy of feeling impotent to do anything about the issues highlighted. We need humour like this, we need people like Baron Cohen to show us what ludicrous monkeys we can sometimes be.
I give Who Is America?