The first two episodes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s new satirical/character comedy show have aired, and they’ve revealed some terrifying things about some elected American politicians.
Cohen’s trademark style of comedy is one which attempts to let the crazy speak for itself. He lures his “guests” under false pretences, where it appears as though they’re going to be interviewed by a generic man in a suit, only for one of Cohen’s many characters to come marching into the room.
He then acts out a scenario designed to bait his “guests” into saying things they otherwise wouldn’t say to a liberal comedian, and behave in ways that they only would around their closest friends. The “guests” are fully aware that they’re being filmed for a TV show, they’re just under the impression that it’s for local news, a foreign TV network, or an online video series — basically, they think that nobody will see it.
It’s hard to review this show as regular comedic television, as many of the interviews are pushing beyond the realms of satirical comedy, and into real-world politics and opinion. For example, Georgia state representative Jason Spencer stepped down from office today, due to his actions in the most recent episode.
Cohen baited him into saying and doing a lot of the things that he did — but Spencer took them to his own extremes. Also it’s important to remember — as we’ve seen in other interviews Cohen has conducted — people can walk away at any time. Some “guests” reach a moral line when interacting with Cohen, or they realise it’s for a comedy show, and they walk away. Jason Spencer did not do that.
Under the guise of an anti-terrorist training class, he did the following things:
- Screamed the N-Word at the top of his voice, in an attempt to clear a hypothetical crowd of people.
- Pretended to be a Chinese tourist — Cohen told him to act it out, but he didn’t tell him to do an incredibly racist accent by just repeating the capitals of Asian countries and naming Asian foods as his way of communicating.
- Put a selfie-stick up a Burqa and took a photo.
- Pulled down his trousers, exposed his buttocks and backed up into Cohen (playing the presumed terrorist) in an attempt to scare him with “homosexual behaviour”
Before the episode aired, Spencer claimed he had been tricked into doing those things and therefore he refused to step down. After it was broadcast on Sunday, and people could see the footage for themselves, they realised his actions were abhorrent and (largely) voluntarily carried out.
Cohen is targeting left-wing politicians with a character that’s a little bit Alex Jones, and a little bit your regular MAGA supporter. He’s infuriating them just as much, and even getting enraged reactions out of the usually placid Bernie Sanders, but they’re not saying ridiculous and offensive things in defence of their belief system. I’ll let you decipher that however you will, and decide which party really is the “party of morality”, especially in light of today’s Trump tapes…
Another of Cohen’s characters is a parody of an extreme leftist, someone who is travelling around the country to “heal the divide” between Americans. In his first sketch he sat down for a dinner with a Republican official and her husband, and honestly I was impressed with how she behaved.
Cohen kept saying crazier and crazier things, the sorts of things that MAGA are told that the far-left believe, but the couple remained tolerant and listened to him. Which meant the sketch fell flat. However, its inclusion proved that people have the free will to keep a level head, and make Cohen look like the crazy one.
In the latest episode, Cohen took this same character to a town-hall style meeting, in Kingman, Arizona. Here, Cohen’s character pitches the idea of building a gigantic mosque in their town. The reaction is less than positive, prompting residents to yell out a hell of a lot of racist remarks. He even baits them by saying that the mosque will be partially paid for by the Clinton foundation, which gets a hilarious reaction. One man comments that, “I can see why they asked us not to bring firearms in here!”
The structure of this scene reminded me of Nathan For You, and sure enough Nathan Fielder was revealed to be one of the directors on Who Is America? If you enjoy this kind of comedy, but want it without the political angle, then I highly recommend Nathan’s show.
I think if Who Is America? had been made or released at any other point in the last fifteen years, we wouldn’t see any real-world changes as a result of its broadcasting. There’s just a certain air of corruption and stupidity in the ruling political party at the moment, and some of its members are foolish enough to think that it’s okay to project their prejudices on camera.
When satire is done correctly, it has the ability to change the political landscape, and to offer an outsiders voice. Satire is the dude who shows up to the debate, sits in the corner and writes down exactly what both sides are saying. Satire then turns the language of both sides back on themselves, exposing the ridiculousness of it all, before leaving with the coffee and donuts.
Watch this show, if only to let the crazy speak for itself. Some of the interviews are misses, but they add to the authenticity of the interviews that hit. I’ll leave you with the most damning clip so far, in which Republican lawmakers lobby for guns to be put in the hands of toddlers.
Today is Wednesday, July 25th and I hope Castle Rock lives up to my lofty King expectations.