The provocateur and comedian has indeed returned to the screen with a new seven-episode mockumentary “Who is America?” on US cable channel Showtime – and it’s already making waves.
The prankster took aim at a number of Trump-era politicians, as he took on a new fictional character – Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick, a conspiracy theory enthusiast, who is also the founder of a fake right-wing news site, Truthbrary.org, and whose sole purpose is to take down the “mainstreme [sic] media.”
Starring as another fictional character, Erran Morad, a tough Israeli anti-terrorism expert, rooting for the “Kinderguardians” program, Baron Cohen managed to get a number of politicians to voice their support for arming kindergarten kids.
Sacha Baron Cohen has outdone himself with "Who is America?"— Victor Stoddard (@VicStoddard) 15 июля 2018 г.
The Wiz Kalifa part made me snort. pic.twitter.com/XLE7EeARxO
In addition to Ruddick and Morad, Cohen also took on two other characters, including freed criminal Ricky Sherman and Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, a Trump supporter.
How Did Those Duped React?
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Alabama politician Roy Moore lambasted Cohen for duping them into giving interviews for his show.
In a Facebook post, Palin dismissed Cohen as “evil, exploitative” and “sick” after he posed as a “disabled US Veteran” in a “fake wheelchair” to get the interview with the former Republican vice-presidential candidate.
Cohen struck back in his casual semi-sarcastic, semi-mocking manner from Ruddick’s parody Twitter account, labeling her remarks as “Fake news” and demanding an apology from Palin:
Republican Roy Moore, who has had quite a year after being accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, also admitted to having been deceived by Cohen.
Upon realizing that the interviewer was in fact a comedian, Moore lashed out at Cohen, accusing him of “trickery, deception and dishonesty” and claimed that the new show sought to “embarrass, humiliate and mock.”
INBOX: Statement of Judge Roy Moore on Sasha Cohen’s CBS/Showtime series, Who is America? pic.twitter.com/uVBthwN6cQ— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) 12 июля 2018 г.
But not all of those tricked were offended by Cohen’s antics: ex-Congressman Joe Walsh laughed at being “got” by the prankster.
What can I say Bradley? @SachaBaronCohen got me. Do I believe kindergarteners should be armed? Hell no.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) 15 июля 2018 г.
But, it's on me. Sacha fooled me good. Flew me out to DC for some made up friend of Israel award. I gotta live with it. https://t.co/r4juubOG9l
Internet Goes Wild
“Who is America?” has been the talk of the internet ever since the Ali G Show star teased it with a cryptic message from Trump on Independence Day and footage of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney agreeing to sign a waterboard kit.
Many fellow celebrities congratulated Cohen on the premiere:
I’ve seen every episode of this wonderful and horrifying show and I recommend you watch it as well. https://t.co/DIOz46Ytlj— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) 15 июля 2018 г.
Former Congressman David Jolly suggested that those who were duped into the interview with Cohen should be banned from access to classified data:
Going out on a limb here, but probably safe to say — any elected official who was duped to appear in the new @SachaBaronCohen series #WhoIsAmerica on @Showtime should be permanently disqualified from ever receiving classified information.— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) 16 июля 2018 г.
Meanwhile, Twitterians have largely praised the “insane episode,” with many saying that Cohen has outdone himself:
#WhoisAmerica is a fiercely funny reminder that comedy is a powerful form of activism. My goodness. I need time to process what I just witnessed.— Molly (@isteintraum) 16 июля 2018 г.
Holy hell #WhoIsAmerica. What an insane episode. Sacha Baron Cohen is the best….Please get these republican freaks out of congress and away from any type of influence on this country— B Sny (@Bennett_Sny) 16 июля 2018 г.
Others said that Cohen didn’t trick anyone into supporting the program, he just laid out the idea, and those politicians were quick to pick it up:
Sacha Baron Cohen didn't "dupe" anyone in #WhoIsAmerica He merely put an insane idea in front of bought-and-paid-for NRA shills. They considered it only through the prism of the NRA, then responded the way they knew the NRA would want them to respond. Period.— Randi Mayem Singer (@rmayemsinger) 15 июля 2018 г.
Fellow netizens emphasized that Cohen had raised the very relevant issue of gun violence and disinformation in the country:
#WhoIsAmerica is an interesting watch.@SachaBaronCohen brilliantly displays our issues of gun violence, divisiveness, and misinformation in this country.— Ryan Deitsch (@Ryan_Deitsch) 15 июля 2018 г.
Maybe someday we will train the next generation of kindergardians…
#whoisamerica reveals the soullessness of many of our representatives. They will literally say anything. This show through characters reveals more truth than any cable news outlet https://t.co/IXYDJolQAU— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) 15 июля 2018 г.
Watch as they mindlessly recite the script placed in front of them without any regard for reason whatsoever. How many @NRA scripts have they read in the exact same way?— Dennis Magnasco (@Dennis_Magnasco) 15 июля 2018 г.
We should thank @SachaBaronCohen and his team for exposing this. #WhoIsAmerica #VetsForGunReform pic.twitter.com/nwSoMuqUyw
This is insane.— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) 15 июля 2018 г.
Joe Walsh, Dana Rohrabacher, Trent Lott advocate for a first responders course on high-powered weapons….for toddlers.
Seriously. Watch this.
Truly exposes the INSANITY of the gun lobby.
This is from @SachaBaronCohen’s new show on @showtime: Who is America? pic.twitter.com/tusfOEaryt
I just watched a few episodes and it is equally hilarious and disturbing. Really holds up a mirror to the current state of our country and it ain’t pretty. But it is really funny. https://t.co/htCxDILxPv— nick kroll (@nickkroll) 15 июля 2018 г.
There were, however, those, who suggested boycotting the cable channel Showtime for promoting Cohen, who “impersonated [a] disabled military veteran”:
Impersonating disabled military veterans to score interviews is despicable. Did you do it for your own profit or his?— Beverly (@SnowyEvergreen) 11 июля 2018 г.
Canceling my subscription… hope more do… #boycottShowtime— Alan Baggott (@DarthDraconus) 11 июля 2018 г.
Cohen is a disgrace. Full boycott of showtime and cbs for allowing this piece of shit impersonate and commit stolen valor in the name of making fun of idiot politicians. Its a shame when @CBS allows people to take advantage of our vets for viewers. #boycottshowtime #boycottCBS— J Purps (@Jaypurple1) 11 июля 2018 г.
Shame on you for promoting this POS as a wounded veteran. The families of the wounded are not amused. #BoycottShowtime— onesoldiersmom (@onesoldiersmom) 11 июля 2018 г.
In the meantime, Cohen is promo-ing his show via Ruddick’s fictional Twitter account, in a way trolling the claims made by the politicians that appeared in the mockumentary:
Forced myself to watch sad, irrelephant Sasha Cohens’ show WHO IS AMERICA, which i was DUPED into apearing. Garbage, apart from Patriot who slipped this clip past #fakenews Showtime sensors. Finally a solution to bad guys with guns! https://t.co/XFuHYplma3 #boycottSashacohen— Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., PhD (@BillyWRuddick) 15 июля 2018 г.
Baron Cohen is known for provocative PR stunts: in 2006, he sported a bright green “mankini” while promoting his movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” In 2012, Cohen, dressed as his character from “The Dictator,” turned up at Cannes Film Festival with a camel and two model bodyguards.