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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 06/22/2009

The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen

By Liz Kelly

How did edgy British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen find mainstream success? By exploiting stereotypes ranging from a hapless Kazakh to a delusional London hip-hopper to a gay Austrian fashion reporter.

As his latest movie, "Bruno," prepares to open stateside (July 10), some are crying foul, likening Cohen's portrayal of a gay reporter to performing in blackface. But that may not stop the movie from recapturing the success of 2006's "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," a surprise success that eventually grossed $129 million in the U.S. alone.

Today, we take a look at Cohen's emergence as an entertainment industry heavyweight, his recent roles and get a glimpse of the man behind the makeup: LAUNCH GALLERY.


(Getty Images)

By Liz Kelly  | June 22, 2009; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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Comments

The most overrated celebrity of all time is Mr. Cohen. Borat should have only been funny to 10 year old boys because of how juvenile it was, (a fat naked guy sitting on someones face stopped being funny when I hit 11) and this new character is offensive, unfunny, and has no appeal at all.
I know others such as Liz will disagree.

Posted by: Iowahoosier | June 22, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Sacha Baron Cohen has many faces.
And he seems to delight in having someone sit on every one.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 22, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

OK, I read the post and viewed the Gallery. May I have the last two minutes of my life back now? I don't get his appeal at all.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | June 22, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I was almost afraid to look at the second post after last Friday. Thank-you Liz for a non-nauseating photo.

Says alot about our world that people still find him funny. :(

Posted by: hodie | June 22, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

He's funnier than Conan O'Brien. Not sure that's saying much.

Posted by: memphis1 | June 22, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

A gay couple I know and respect in WeHo thought "Borat" was falling-down hilarious. So I'm curious to hear what they think of "Brüno," once they see it (IF they see it). As for me? I gather SBC's not my cuppa.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | June 22, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Liz -

Can you tell whoever is in charge of the captions for these things that Sacha Baron Cohen is not married to Isla Fisher - they've been engaged for a while.

As for Mr. Cohen? Just not a fan. His humor is one-note and derogatory and not more than a little bit cruel. He delights in making fun of every other cultural norm except his own Orthodox Jewish customs (though he's quick to make fun of antisemitism).

Because he's supposed to be funny and he's supposed to be making a point about other people's failings, it's okay. Until he focuses that same level of criticism on himself and his world (look at Richard Pryor turning his self-immolation into a classic comedy routine or almost any episode of Dave Chappelle, where anybody was a target for his brand of humor, including himself), I think his shtick is nothing more than glorified, bawdy racism.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 22, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I think he's actually quite brilliant in some ways. Try to think of Borat as less a comedy and more a comentary on us. In some of the more cringe-worthy moments of Borat - I found myself appalled at what people were completely willing to say, when invited to by a 'sympathetic' ear. He's exposing us, not himself so much. Ali-G - was another study in politician and celebrities' behavior when confronted with an entirely believable 'character', who wasn't following the script.

Sure some of it is stupid juvenile humor, so's every single Jude Aptow movie that's come out these past few years. Yet I laugh when not covering my eyes and groaning.

I've got to think there is a really bright, incredibly sarcastic mind that is the creator of these movies - challenging our view of ourselves and our supposed tolerance for others.

Posted by: LTL1 | June 22, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I would say he makes fun of cultural ignorance by exaggerating it to the extreme. I loved Borat and probably will see Bruno and am a well educated 30 something, politically liberal female (with apparently the sense of humor of a 10 year old boy). I am a little tired of all the Bruno promotion, though, and think it's more likely to fizzle at the box office. There was more mystery around Borat when that came out which I think gives it a cult following.

Posted by: kvs71 | June 22, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the appeal in ambushing people either. Even if it is supposedly to uncover hidden racism, etc., it doesn't come across that way to me. Just looks mean. I could get behind Michael Moore because he was going after representatives who put themselves up for that more than an ordinary person would.

Posted by: sarahabc | June 22, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't find him funny at all. Didn't bother to look at the pictures. If I don't enjoy his humor, seeing more of him won't be a good use of my time.

Posted by: epjd | June 22, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

LTL, I think you are right but it doesn't help it become funny for me. There are so many out there who won't get it, or worse, laugh entirely for the wrong reason, that it makes this kind of comedy too provocative. I know that's his point but I prefer comedy to be funny for funny's sake, not to make a social point.

Posted by: hodie | June 22, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Baron Cohen is fantastic. I've been a fan of his work through the Ali G Show for years. Not real happy he's taken his work so mainstream, as most easily offended Americans just won't get it.

The man is a comedic genius, though, and anyone who's seen his old show could proably attest to that. Also see his roles in Sweeny Todd and Talladega Nights (a crappy film save for his portrayal of Jean Girrard)--he was a stand out performer in both films, despite his minor roles.

Posted by: cdamore1 | June 22, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't find him funny at all. I doubt I would find hime funny even if I was an 11 year old boy. Wow, you got people to clap at a rodeo while you said things in broken English, which they probably couldn't hear that well.

They probably just didn't want to be rude and they wanted your unfunny butt off the floor.

Posted by: supersonic2 | June 22, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Brilliant guy and I must admit an aquired taste but look at all the celebs out there and some of there work like madea goes to jail or vampire movies or horror shows friday 13th series the wayans it is all about taste

Posted by: lildg54 | June 22, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I love how people try to justify juvenile movies and behavior by saying the rest of us just don't get it.
No, we get it, and we see if for what it really is, juvenile, racist, low brow crap.
Brilliant people are trying to find a cure for cancer, studying quantum physics, looking for ways to obtain world peace, etc., not coming up with obnoxious characters.
I am not trying to be high brow, I sometimes like to be silly and enjoy brain candy movies like Role Models or Caddyshack, but Sacha Cohen is just not funny and way too condescending to everyone but himself to be funny.
Funny is good, patronizing, snot nosed brat acting is not.

Posted by: Iowahoosier | June 22, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Too many faces, if you ask me . . . and butts, as well . . . and arm pits . . .

Get a burqa, Sacha!

Your friend,

Curmudgeon

Posted by: bmschumacher | June 22, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I love how people try to justify their own opinions by telling others that theirs are wrong.

Posted by: memphis1 | June 22, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Sasha Baron Cohen holds court with Sarah Silverman in the Land of Unfunny. Pray that the Comedy gods do not them reproduce. The only thing more unholy than a Cohen-Silverman progeny would be the foul monstrosity springing forth from a Carrot Top - Margaret Cho union.

So to summarize, no, I do not find Sasha Baron Cohen funny.

Posted by: MStreet1 | June 22, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"I know that's his point but I prefer comedy to be funny for funny's sake, not to make a social point."

Wow, that's too bad. You're closing yourself off a ton of brilliant comedians who do scathing social commentary.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 22, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I liked the Ali G movie, but Borat I could only watch one time. Too cringe-inducing for me.

Saw The Hangover this weekend. . .it was hilarious.

Posted by: jelo97 | June 22, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

cdamore:

I admit I liked him in Sweeney Todd - he made a surprisingly good Pirelli. But there, he was being an actor playing a part someone else scripted - he wasn't doing his comedy.

It's not that I get offended by him per se. It's just a certain quality of his work is tinged with malice, and I just can't find that funny. It's dismissive to say that you "get" him, or you're too easy to offend. I'm actually pretty difficult to offend (the side effect of being trained as a paleontologist and spending months at a time as the only woman among men), but here's the thing: just because he's an actor playing a part, that doesn't mean that, say, bringing a bag of feces to a real, unsuspecting person's dinner table isn't actually offensive.

He wants to wrestle naked on camera? Whatever. He wants to spout off some anti-American rhetoric? Get in line with the rest of the globe (and a chunk of this country for that matter). But elaborate "poop" jokes? Sorry, don't see the brilliance. Production value, commitment to a scene and a certain fearlessness, I'll grant you, but not brilliance.

If we're talking British comedians, I love Graham Norton...and he's hardly nice to his audience (or his guests on occasion). He will humiliate them whenever he can. But you can tell he loves his audience. Not the case with SBC - I sometimes think he has *a lot* of contempt for his audience. Which makes him no better than the people he's "exposing" (or whatever you want to call it).

I'd rather watch Eddie Izzard or Monty Python reruns.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 22, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that's too bad. You're closing yourself off a ton of brilliant comedians who do scathing social commentary.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 22, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

No, just the ones who aren't funny.

Posted by: hodie | June 22, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I understand that folks don't find him funny and that's fine, I am not criticizing you, our different tastes are something to be celebrated (for the record I hate Woody Allen). Maybe I haven't watched closely enough, and I'll confess I don't recall the whole movie, so maybe there are parts that I am not recalling but I don't see how you can say he's being cruel. What stands out for me are those college boys and the homophobic old man (at the rodeo maybe?).

Those folks didn't have a gun to their head in Borat when spouting their own personal biases. The only problem is afterwards their opinions were exposed alot more broadly than they anticipated.

Doesn't sound cruel to me, just sounds like it's forcing honesty. Say what you mean and mean what you say and if you think you are right then you shouldn't be ashamed of it being said in front of the world.

As for folks 'just going along' with something... There are many bad things that folks excuse by 'just going along with the crowd', so I am not a big fan of that justification...

Anyway, interesting that this has sparked more lively debate than we've had here in a while...

Posted by: LTL1 | June 22, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

PS Hodie - totally get what you are trying to say. These films are billed as comedy and they are instead some sort of weird hybrid and if it aint your cuppa, well then it aint your cuppa...

For everyone else out there, I'd say opinions are being solicited in this blog but not criticisms of each other, seems a simple enough rule to honor, no?

Posted by: LTL1 | June 22, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry I don't find him engaging nor funny, much like Conan. And I love to laugh, but I draw the line on innane and folly that evokes memories of a young Jerry Lewis. Sorry Jerry, you were funnier. Personally, I believe his visa should be 'held' until he goes through a psychological profiling because this man is dangerous. Just ask Eminem! The man is definitely twisted byond recognition.

Posted by: jakesfriend1 | June 22, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see any humor in anything he's done. He exploits prejudices and hatred for so-called humor. NOT FUNNY!!!

Posted by: rlj1 | June 22, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I, like LTL1, am a woman in her early thirties, who enjoys Sacha Baron Cohen. Unlike her, I have been told on many occasions throughout adulthood that I possess the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy at times, and I don't see it going anywhere. It's unfortunate that his comedy isn't appealing to more folks on this blog, but we absolutely have the right to our own opinion.

Keep in mind that it could be worse. While I may occasionally have juvenile humor, I don't resort to the grammatical atrocities of luvlinsey. Sure I can tyoe too fast and and miss spell thingzz, butits moderately coherent.

Posted by: MzFitz | June 22, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Anyone in love with SBC's comedic "style" (Liz included) should therefore love the Jackas* series (show and movies), as they brought into the mainstream the ambush style of comedy that takes advantage of unsuspecting passersby.

Although I expect most lovers of SBC won't admit to a love for Johnny Knoxville. Hypocritical?

Posted by: hithere1 | June 23, 2009 2:36 AM | Report abuse

LOVE me some Sasha Baron Cohen. Da Ali G show was one of the funniest things on TV ever. His movies don't reach that same level of brilliance but still have their moments.

Posted by: msame | June 23, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I freely admit to liking Johnny Knoxville, Viva La Bam, Wildboys, Bevis and Butthead and Team America World Police...

Posted by: LTL1 | June 23, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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