When I heard that Sacha Baron Cohen was coming out with a new prank-interview show, I wondered the same thing you probably did: Won’t his targets recognize him as Borat? It’s only been 12 years since Cohen’s priapic Kazakhstani character became an international celebrity. Nothing he’s done since then has been nearly as successful*, so now he’s back to his old tricks. But how can he pull off the same act, now that everybody knows who he is? Won’t they take one look at him and say, “Hey, you’re Borat”?
The answer, as viewers of Who Is America? learned this week, is heavy makeup. To play “Billy Wayne Ruddick,” the disabled redneck veteran who pissed off Sarah Palin, Cohen donned a fat suit, prosthetic jowls, and a blond wig and facial hair. As Israeli anti-terror expert “Erran Morad,” they made him up to look like a late-era Freddie Mercury crossed with a Neanderthal. His other new characters, pussy-hatted liberal stereotype “Nira Cain-N’Degeocello” and British ex-con and, um, artist “Ricky Sherman,” also look like they involved spending some time in the makeup chair.
But apparently there was at least one character who didn’t make the final cut. Bill Melugin, KTTV in LA:
A Riverside gun store owner has harsh words for Sacha Baron Cohen after he says he caught the actor showing up to his business in disguise and under false pretense, and it was all caught on surveillance video…
It happened at Warrior One Guns & Ammo in February 2017. That’s when owner Norris Sweidan told FOX 11 Cohen and a camera met him while claiming to be filming a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant wanting to buy a gun.
“Get the f*** outta here, Borat!” #NorrisSweidanForPresident
Yeah, that’s definitely Cohen. Apparently he assumed a gun shop owner would be just another dumb hillbilly who couldn’t see through a fake beard and a crappy accent. Then, when it didn’t work, he ran away. Guess he didn’t think it was… VERY NICE!!!
Several of Cohen’s other would-be targets saw through him before they ever even saw him. For example, Cameron Gray and Dana Loesch from the NRA:
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) July 15, 2018
I got the same email. Sketchy and ignored 🙄
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) July 15, 2018
But if you do get fooled by Borat or someone like him, if your hunger for publicity makes you ignore all the warning signs that you’re being conned, the worst thing you can do is complain about it. I understand why Sarah Palin was upset, getting tricked into a prank interview by someone she thought was a disabled veteran, but she just ended up giving Cohen more publicity. She should’ve been more like former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, who also fell for Cohen’s act but then self-deprecatingly laughed it off. If you get pranked by one of these guys, the worst thing you can do is be a poor sport. You’re only giving them what they want.
Yes, it’s true that Cohen didn’t do any of this stuff when Obama was president. He didn’t humiliate left-wingers the same way he’s doing now with right-wingers. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. You don’t need Sacha Baron Cohen’s approval, do you? If you cared what these guys think, we’d be talking about President Hillary right now.
You won. Get over it.
*I really liked The Brothers Grimsby, and it has one of the single funniest, grossest scenes in any movie ever. All I’ll say is that it involved a female elephant, and I have no idea how Cohen talked Mark Strong into participating. But the movie bombed hard. That’s why his new stuff is on Showtime, not in movie theaters.