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Sacha Baron Cohen’s Lightning Strike?

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The first episode of the new show “Who Is America?” doesn’t live up to the hype from the Earth-shaking NRA sketch. 

Blogmate Simon Balto brought your attention to the viral video that emerged to promote Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show “Who Is America?” where he poses as an Israeli colonel getting current and former officials to endorse a program to arm pre-schoolers.

It is darkly hilarious, genius, and, as Charlie Warzel from Buzzfeed wrote, perfectly suited for this moment in history.

Despite the awkwardness and ethical ambiguity, there’s a grim catharsis at play while watching Baron Cohen bait a gun rights advocate into making an infomercial to sell firearms to toddlers. Around the time Baron Cohen’s character tricks a former congressman to advocate on camera for 4-year-olds to familiarize themselves with the “rudimentary use of mortars,” it becomes clear that Baron Cohen — a consummate troll himself — is a perfect foil to the current political climate of grift and trolling.

That’s a pretty great review. But uh…what else is in the show?

As it turns out, all the rest of sketches (which I will not spoil) are a lot of bloviating potty humour. Apart from an interview with Bernie Sanders, Cohen spends most of the time on himself, sucking up all the oxygen in the room. More attention is paid to the cooky characters Cohen has created while the camera zooms in on the shocked faces of the interviewees. Only one seemed to sense there was a joke happening and gets in on the juvenile humour. Perhaps no ethical lines were crossed and none of the jokes are offensive, but its still far from funny. Nor does it lend anything to the central premise of the show, showing us the current reality of America.

The punking of the NRA stands in stark contrast to the rest of the show where the interviewees are giddily skewering themselves. It makes me wonder if this might be the only thing of value to have come out of the whole endeavour. Cohen has never really been that great at political humour, his ruse just got lucky a couple of times.

So I’m inclined to say, hold back on your “genius” labels for now. This might be a one-time lightning strike.

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