The man known as Borat ditched his signature shtick for a spell.
Sacha Baron Cohen became a star after pretending to be a foreign journalist touring the “U.S. and A.” for the 2006 smash “Borat.”
Cohen’s flair for disguises served him previously on “Da Ali G Show.” It was “Borat,” though, that transformed him into a movie star, and a recognizable one at that. That made his shtick tougher to pull off.
Something else stopped him from going undercover, though.
Cohen chatted with fellow Showtime star Don Cheadle about Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump in a new Variety feature. They talk about the first time Cohen found his Borat inspiration as well as why he returned to his undercover routine for the poorly received “Who Is America?” series last year.
Under Obama, there was no motivation to do it. I thought I would never do this kind of undercover stuff again, because it’s exhausting. It’s terrifying for me. It’s occasionally dangerous. And then Trump gets in, and I immediately felt disappointed and angry. This was a guy who I’d had no respect for. I’d interviewed him as Ali G. And in “Borat,” I defecated in front of Trump Tower.
So for eight years, Cohen stood down. Meanwhile, the Obama administration weaponized the NEA and the IRS, spied on journalists, droned innocents and terrorists alike and, we’ve recently learned, may have played a role in SpyGate.
As Lt. Frank Drebin cries in “The Naked Gun” — “Nothing to see here, move along!” That’s actually what Cohen did. He wasn’t alone, though.
Former “Saturday Night Live” star Jay Pharoah told a radio station two years ago about his frustration with his biggest show role — President Obama. The “SNL” version of Obama popped up occasionally, unlike near constant uses of Alec Baldwin as President Trump. Toward the end of Obama’s second term, he all but disappeared from the show.
They gave up “on the Obama thing,” Pharoah explained.
It’s similar to how political humorists “gave up” mocking Obama. The jokes, when lobbed, were tepid or fawning. Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” made cultural waves by defending Obama with their “anger translator” routine.
They mostly claimed Obama proved too challenging to mock. He’s so smart, measured and competent. Buy a conservative a cup of coffee for five minutes, and you’d learn plenty of comedic angles to pursue, starting with an ego that thinks giving the Queen of England an iPod filled with your speeches is cool.
So now Cohen is one of many “brave” comedians speaking “truth to power” about President Trump. Chances are he’ll put the latex and wigs away once more if a Democrat takes the White House next year.