fri 05/06/2020

Who Is America?, Channel 4 review - sudden return of Sacha Baron Cohen | reviews, news & interviews

Who Is America?, Channel 4 review - sudden return of Sacha Baron Cohen

Who Is America?, Channel 4 review - sudden return of Sacha Baron Cohen

Satirical mayhem in post-Trump USA

Loading the dice: Sacha Baron Cohen

Cunningly kept under wraps until the last moment, Sacha Baron Coen’s new show is a timely reminder of his gift for trampling the boundaries of good taste and decorum. But despite a certain amount of hyped-up pre-uproar, it doesn’t represent any notable advances from his previous greatest hits with Ali G, Borat or Bruno the cretinous fashionista, although the fact that it arrives in the post-Trump USA lends a certain additional resonance.

But, so far, not enough. The shtick remains the same. Cohen disguises himself – with painstaking attention to prosthetic detail and appropriate accents – as a selection of characters designed to goad apparently unsuspecting Americans into condemning themselves out of their own mouths. It was a strange tactical decision to open with a sequence which demonstrated that this approach doesn’t always work.

Who Is America?, Channel 4 Disguised as Billy Wayne Ruddick (pictured right), wheelchair-bound figurehead of an ultra-rightist conspiracy-watch website “”, he tried to befuddle former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders with a weird rant about Obamacare and an idiotic proposal to include America’s struggling 99 per cent within the richest one per cent. Sanders made an effort to listen sympathetically, but was forced to admit defeat. “Billy, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he concluded.

The joke, if that’s what it is, is to see how far he can push the envelope before it splits wide open, but the sense that his victims have been duped and scammed into taking part means there’s always a creaking floorboard of doubt lurking beneath the proceedings. Even if he gets his targets to behave like laughable buffoons or to spout detestable bigotry, you know the dice have been deliberately loaded against them. This seemed particularly regrettable in the sequence where he went to the South Carolina home of Trump supporters June Page Thompson and her husband Mark.

Cohen was purporting to be Dr Nira Cain-N’degeocello, “a cisgender white heterosexual male, for which I apologise”, a self-obsessed liberal super-snowflake who had been so devastated by Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat that he had to spend two weeks in bed. He sought to provoke the Thompsons with a nauseating account of how he encouraged his newly-menstruating daughter Malala to “free bleed” all over the American flag. That the clearly horrified Thompsons didn’t chase him off the premises at gunpoint proved that Southern hospitality really does exist.

Who Is America?, Channel 4 I suppose being shot by a crazed firearms fanatic would be the logical end-point of Cohen’s American adventures. He went to town on the gun lobby in the character of Erran Morad, a former Colonel in the Israeli army who had created the “kinderguardians” programme, teaching children aged from 3-16 to use firearms. His chief victim here was gun enthusiast Philip Van Cleave, who was delighted by Morad’s plan to teach American toddlers to use firearms. Van Cleave joined in enthusiastically with a series of fake commercials aimed at children, promoting kiddy-friendly “Gunimals”, like a teddy bear with a pistol inside it or “Dino-gun”, which “can stop an entire crowd of bad men” (Van Cleave and Morad pictured above left).

Terrifying, as were clips of various talking heads equally eager to weaponise America’s extreme youth. One of these was talk radio host and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh (not the guy in the Eagles), who told CNN that Cohen is “a funny guy because he gets people to say stupid things... because he lies to them.” But America’s systemic lunacy about firearms is endlessly discussed in the American and international media and causes a new gun massacre every few weeks, so we hardly need any reminding. Satire doesn’t seem an adequate tool for tackling the problem.

The joke is to see how far he can push the envelope before it splits wide open


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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post-Trump America? POST-TRUMP???! if only...

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