Sacha Baron Cohen, the disguise-oriented comedian made famous by Da Ali G Show and Borat has been working on a new television show using recorded footage.
It’s a step away from his previous high-profile project, a 2012 fully-scripted movie called The Dictator which failed to make back its production costs from domestic receipts, and back toward the well-received hidden-camera mocumentaries. (Box Office Mojo)
His new show is to be called “Who Is America?” and it is debuting worldwide on Sunday. In the U.S., it will be aired on Showtime. In the UK, it will be on BBC 4. In Australia, it will be on Stan.
The target seems to be President Donald Trump and those who support him. In a teaser released on the fourth of July, Cohen played a expletive-laden rant in which Donald Trump said that Cohen should be punched repeatedly in the face and that he needed to go to school to learn how to be funny. At the end of it, Cohen indicates that he is going to be graduating soon… and indicates the school he has attended.
— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) July 4, 2018
According to the BBC:
Showtime said Who is America? “will explore the diverse individuals… across the political and cultural spectrum” in the US.
This would indicate that the show is going to expose not merely the Democrats and the Republicans but also independents to scrutiny and potential humiliation. It is being reported in venues that others who were interviewed for the program include Ted Koppel and Howard Dean. The previews and teases, however, have to date only displayed Republicans – and not merely Republicans, but prominent Trump promoters.
In the initial release, Dick Cheney signs a “waterboarding” jug. It does appear that Cheney might have recognized the joke, though, and merely been playing along.
One person who was absolutely not playing along, however, was Sarah Palin. She was quite upset to discover that she’d been targeted by Cohen.
From the Washington Times:
“For my interview, my daughter and I were asked to travel across the country where Cohen (I presume) had heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all,” she wrote. “Out of respect for what I was led to believe would be a thoughtful discussion with someone who had served in uniform, I sat through a long ‘interview’ full of Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm — but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out, much to Cohen’s chagrin.
“The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.”
Humor is a well-established method of undermining authority, and it is more effective when authority is assumed rather than earned. If Cohen has assembled a truly humorous show, it needs only publicity to become a factor on the pre-midterm political landscape. Sarah Palin’s response to Cohen – covered by media outlets ranging from The Sydney Morning Herald to The Guardian to Fox – is providing that publicity. Worse, the reason she gives for her outrage, that Cohen posed as a wounded veteran, allows her critics to remind people of her unwavering support for President Trump, despite Trump’s mockery of her former running mate (and wounded war veteran) John McCain and Trump’s mockery of a disabled reporter.
Cohen, rendered effectively irrelevant by repeated failures of scripted works like The Dictator and The Brothers Grimsby, has been thrust into the international spotlight by Sarah Palin’s reactions. Sunday’s ratings will determine whether Cohen can make the most of his opportunity.