Who Is America?Latest News and Opinion
Posted Friday 7/20/18 at 5:44AM EDT
Who Is America? art gallery consultant said "a ton of stuff" was edited out, including her critical remarks
Fine-art consultant Christy Cones has only one regret about the interview: "I would have never worn that freakin’ Cavalli dress. I would’ve worn my Wolford dress if I’d known it was" for American TV, she says. (Cones was told the interview was for British public television.) Cones says she considers what Sacha Baron Cohen does as being "art." "Let’s face it," she says, "the guy is in the tradition of, oh, let’s go all the way back, Aristophanes and Horace and Petronius and Jonathan Swift and Voltaire and Colbert. We need our comedians and our satirists, even when it’s dark, to hold the mirror up to us as a culture." As for the editing, Cones says, "there were a couple of times...where I would make a critical remark that they didn’t show in the final version. When that happened, I would see a kind of flare of anger in his eyes and I worried that he might be a violent, impulsive person. I guess it was all feigned, but certainly I was like, He might freak out, better not say that. For the sake of art, not for the sake of my own ego—although it would probably appease that too—I wish I had the full footage of that interview, because we went on for like an hour and a half." ALSO: Cones doesn't think she was manipulated into cutting off her pubic hair.
Posted Wednesday 7/18/18 at 11:21PM EDT
Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America? victims face an uphill battle if they take legal action
Cohen has a lot of experience with litigation since lawsuits over his Borat and Bruno movies were tossed out early on. "This is due in part to clever lawyering by Cohen's attorneys, and in part due to longstanding legal doctrines protecting free speech and expression," says attorney Zachary Elsea. "The failed lawsuits against Cohen and his collaborators illustrate why." As he points out, it would be even harder for a public figure like Judge Roy Moore -- who has threatened legal action -- to because public figures have less legal protection.
Posted Wednesday 7/18/18 at 1:42PM EDT
Gun store owner: Sacha Baron Cohen tried to trick me, but left after I realized he was "Borat"
Norris Sweidan, the owner of Warrior One Guns & Ammo in Riverside, California, showed surveillance video to local TV news of Cohen allegedly in disguise as a Hungarian immigrant coming into his store with a camera crew in February 2017 sporting a beard and dressed in "tight ass leather pants." "I just kept looking at the guy and I was like you’re Borat, as soon as I said that his eyes just looked at me like, and he did a turn right out the door," said Sweidan.
Posted Tuesday 7/17/18 at 9:09PM EDT
Why did Sacha Baron Cohen hire disgraced comedian Kurt Metzger for Who Is America?
Former Inside Amy Schumer writer Metzger is considered a "virulent misogynist" -- so much so that Schumer distanced herself from him two years ago. Now he works on Who Is America?, which happens to have an all-male writing staff. "While Metzger should absolutely be blamed for being a virulent misogynist, he can’t be blamed for taking a job that was offered to him," says Madeleine Aggeler. "The blame there lays squarely on the shoulders of the Who Is America? creators, who could have chosen literally anyone else to write for them. There has to be at least seven comedy writers out there who are very funny and haven’t openly and repeatedly belittled rape accusers. Who knows, maybe a couple of them are even women!" ALSO: Who Is America? art gallery has a connection to a Las Vegas murder trial.
Posted Tuesday 7/17/18 at 1:20PM EDT
Despite all the hype, Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America? debuts to just 327,000 viewers
A 10-minute clip from the premiere has surpassed 10 million views on YouTube, but all the hype over Cohen's series didn't translate to big ratings on Sunday night. Still, Showtime says four additional airings added 375,000 viewers to the premiere's 327,000. An additional 301,000 watched via streaming and on-demand (Who Is America? was released online early Sunday, hours before its premiere), surpassing 1 million viewers.
Posted Tuesday 7/17/18 at 1:20PM EDT
Who Is America? gun-rights activist Philip Van Cleave wrote in February he feared that Michael Moore or Sacha Baron Cohen had pranked him
Van Cleave, arguably the star of Cohen's "Kill or Be Killed" segment, posted on his group's Facebook page on Feb. 20 that “EXTREMELY WELL FUNDED PROFESSIONALS” had “laid out the red carpet, by providing luxury accommodations, limousine service, and providing a generous monetary allowance to cover meals and other expenses for two days...They use psychological manipulation, as well as lies and tricks to put their victim into comedic situations that subject them to public shame, embarrassment, and ridicule. I believe the intent is to destroy reputations and even lives.” He added: "Because of this and various other odd things I noticed during the interview, I was now convinced that something wasn’t right. This wasn’t real and probably some sort of a set up. I could only think of Hollywood’s threat. At a minimum, it could be a comedy which would play only in Israel, but it could be a more damaging attempt to make a ‘mocumentary,’ by someone like Michael Moore, or, even worse, a Sacha Baron Cohen-esq ‘Borat’-type of shock comedy meant to be devastatingly embarrassing and humiliating to the victim in the crosshairs.”
Posted Monday 7/16/18 at 8:37PM EDT
Showtime to Sarah Palin: Sacha Baron Cohen never pretended to be a disabled veteran on Who Is America?
Palin made headlines last week when she accused Cohen of interviewing her posing as a disabled U.S. veteran, which has led to accusations of stolen valor. A conservative street artist responded over the weekend by putting up a billboard and ads accusing Cohen of "a touch of stolen valor" on Who Is America? Showtime this afternoon released a statement explaining that, no, Cohen didn't pose as a veteran: “There has been widespread misinformation over the past week about the character of Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., performed by Sacha Baron Cohen on the Showtime comedy series Who Is America? Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that. In Sunday’s episode, during an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders, Baron Cohen in character as Dr. Ruddick was asked by the Senator if he is disabled, and he stated that he is not and uses a mobility scooter to conserve his energy. In addition, Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the U.S. military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview, and contrary to her claims he did not appear in a wheelchair. In both the interview with Governor Palin and the interview with Senator Sanders, he did not wear military apparel of any kind.”
- U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher claims he was unfairly edited in “Kinder Guardian” video: "This was fraud…And its intention was to deceive the American people for political purposes"
- Who Is America? should be shocking, but it confirms how trollish American politics have become
- Who Is America?'s premiere was must-see even though three of the four segments were subpar
Posted Monday 7/16/18 at 8:37PM EDT
Surprise releases are suddenly all the rage on TV
From UnReal's fourth and final season that was released today with no advance warning to Sacha Baron Cohen's Who Is America?, which was officially announced less than a week before its premiere, TV networks and streaming services are finding that surprises releases generate buzz. Netflix did something similar in May when it released Arrested Development and 13 Reasons Why with just a few weeks of advance notice. But don't expect the surprise release trend to continue working. "If everyone starts to take that approach, the wow factor will fade quickly, and the fanfare about each surprise will overshadow the others," says Jen Chaney. "Pop music has already been wrestling with this problem, having been inundated with so many surprise releases over the past few years that it’s hard to process or appreciate one before another comes along. It’s easy to imagine the same issue arising in TV. The most important thing a good series can do these days is stand out and seem fresh, but an unexpected arrival can only help a show do that as long as every other show isn’t doing the same thing."
Posted Monday 7/16/18 at 3:05PM EDT
Sacha Baron Cohen's "Kinder-Guardians" segment was horrible and skin-crawling, but it likely won't have an impact
Who Is America?'s segment on preschoolers using guns was unquestionably distinct from the rest of the episode, says Kathryn VanArendonk. At that moment, she says, "the show suddenly feels barbed and bracing in a stomach-twisting way. It taps into an undercurrent of not just idiocy, but indictment. Not just shock, but real threat. It almost feels like a protest. Except it also raises the same questions as every other comedy that gets lauded for 'destroying' or 'eviscerating' or 'crushing' its target. If Baron Cohen’s goal with the Kinder-Guardians segment is portraying a specific, harmful, outrageous stupidity, then … so what? We already live in a world where the idea of giving guns to preschool teachers is apparently debatable. Is giving the gun to the kids actually absurd enough to shake up popular opinion? Does Baron Cohen’s comedic reach have more cultural sway than John Oliver or Jimmy Kimmel? Is that even the intent? Whatever else Who Is America? may be doing, it’s also proving a potentially inadvertent point: The distance between Baron Cohen’s shock comedy and the world we live in has gotten much smaller since the last time he put on a mustache and traipsed around the country."
- Art gallery owner thinks Cohen's fecal artwork was real because it stunk, adding: "I thought he was a psychological time bomb. I was like, this guy could blow up, so I should just be as respectful as I can."
- The Israeli Weapons Guy is the best comedy character since Chappelle's Show's Blind Black Klansman
- Who Is America? doesn't feel like a completed project: "It feels like the first phase of a big, weird experiment about how this country will react to a show like Who is America?"
- Israeli newspaper Haaretz: "Israel Does Not Actually Arm Preschoolers"
- Trump defender Jeffrey Lord didn't mind being set up by Cohen, saying it will ultimately benefit the president
- Controversial former Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger is among Cohen's writers
- Who Is America? reveals that we are a culture that is puts a premium on attention
- Sarah Palin should learn from her Who Is America? experience what real "fake news" is
- A conservative street artist put up an L.A. billboard accusing Cohen of "a touch of stolen valor"
- Who has the most damning appearance on Who Is America?'s first episode?
Posted Monday 7/16/18 at 7:14AM EDT
On Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen's characters feel right at home amid 2018 absurdities
Cohen's new Showtime series had a tough task in 2018 America because the ridiculous and absurd have become mainstream. "Given the tone of American politics these days, getting audiences to laugh at their eccentricities is a tough ask," says Alison Herman. "Merely sharing Cohen’s disgust may not be enough for character comedy to play in 2018, when the average internet user is subjected to a torrent of equally outrageous, disturbingly non-satirical figures every time they open their browsers." Yet Who Is America? manages to work, she says, especially when it's not funny, like in the first episode's segment advocating that kids carry guns. "To ask whether what follows is 'funny' feels almost besides the point," says Herman. "I can’t blame anyone who decides that a nauseating illustration of America’s psychosis is not what they want out of their Sunday night entertainment. Those who stick around, however, are treated to proof positive that the world has finally caught up with Cohen’s oeuvre. The twist is that Cohen’s guises no longer feel hilariously out of place when inserted into everyday life. They feel right at home, baring what ails this country better than any anthropological trend piece about Trump supporters. Just don’t expect a barrel of laughs."
- When Who Is America? is on point like in the "Kill or Be Killed" segment, it's a reminder that some of our emperors have no clothes
- Cohen was the ultimate George W. Bush-era comedy star, so it's a pleasant surprise that Who Is America? is "urgently resonant with our own era"
- Shame was the secret ingredient on Da Ali G Show, but shame is missing on Who Is America?: "It's the difference between shocking and not shocking, between hilarious and simply fleetingly funny"
- Cohen's antics are out of place in 2018 America because "we’re fresh out of shame in this country right now"
- Cohen's political provocations are exhausting and dangerous
- Cohen's Da Ali G Show characters were innocent, but his Who Is America? characters are biased and aggressive with a fierce partisan agenda
- Only the Erran Morad segment worked, and it wasn't shocking because the people interviewed have already said insane things in public
- Who Is America? "exposes toxicity of accommodating what is wrong, or foolish, or weird, or totally insane, because there’s a camera there"
- The opening credits showed Trump mocking a disabled reporter -- perhaps a rebuttal to Sarah Palin saying Cohen "mocked disabled Americans"
- Former GOP congressman Joe Walsh tells CNN how he was tricked: “He’s a funny guy because he gets people to say stupid things. He gets people to say stupid things because he lies to them"
- Reed College didn't know it would be associated with Cohen's fictional Professor Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello
- Ranking Cohen's new characters: Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello is a pastiche of everyone ever on Portlandia
- Nathan for You's Nathan Fielder is listed as a Who Is America? consulting producer
Posted Friday 7/13/18 at 11:36PM EDT
Republican congressman: I'm a diehard Da Ali G Show fan -- and even I got duped by Sacha Baron Cohen
"They totally got me...I can't wait to see it," says 36-year-old Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who isn't upset that he is among Cohen's Who Is America? victims. In fact, Gaetz is such a fan of Da Ali G Show that he likes to copy Borat's accent and show clips to his fellow colleagues. “It’s very consistent with his model, beginning with a seemingly normal interaction and then the brilliance of his comedy is that he accelerates the awkwardness of it to some usually ironically humorous end,” he says. ALSO: Here's Stephen Colbert's take on Cohen fooling so many Republicans.
Posted Friday 7/13/18 at 3:19PM EDT
Sarah Palin told Good Morning America more details of Sacha Baron Cohen's prank on her
"It was supposed to be this big time Showtime documentary and it was passed on to me by a speakers’ bureau, which, you know, I would assume had done some vetting," Palin told Robin Roberts. Palin added that "he started showing me these graphs and statistics that had typos in them and that just didn't quite look right. Part of this propaganda, this data, that he was showing me had something to do with sex changes and transgenderism."
Posted Friday 7/13/18 at 2:51AM EDT
Sacha Baron Cohen's victims are sure doing a good job promoting Who Is America?
"So far, the comedian has been promoting Who Is America? with videos parodying Trump University and asking Dick Cheney to sign a 'waterboard kit,'" says Marissa Martinelli. "He needn’t have bothered, though, because the best advertisements for the show so far are very public complaints by conservatives like Sarah Palin, Roy Moore, and Joe Walsh, all of whom admit to having being duped by his latest characters."
- Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is "pissed" at Cohen, who duped him as a Trump-loving Finnish comedian
- Conservative radio host Austin Rhodes: I was duped last summer when Cohen's people pitched me on a CBS show called Bridging the Divide
- Cohen has created his own Infowars-style conspiracy website for his show
Posted Thursday 7/12/18 at 5:29PM EDT
Sacha Baron Cohen demands an apology from Sarah Palin via his Who Is America? character -- "Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr. PhD"
"Dr. Ruddick" tweeted out a letter refuting Palin's claims that Cohen misrepresented himself as a disabled war veteran, addressed to "Vice-President Palin." Rather, he said, he said he was “in the service—not military, but United Parcel.” He added that he “only fought for our country once—when I shot a Mexican who came onto my property.”
- Judge Roy Moore admits Cohen duped him with a fake award -- and he's threatening to sue
- Ted Koppel, who didn't sign a release, explains how he got duped: "Everybody loves seeing well-known people get duped. I relish it too, when it's done well."
Posted Wednesday 7/11/18 at 9:21PM EDT
Sacha Baron Cohen may have also tricked Bernie Sanders, David Petraeus and Ted Koppel
According to the Drudge Report's Matt Drudge, Showtime's Who Is America? will feature interviews with former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, former CIA director David Petraeus and former Nightline host Ted Koppel. Those are in addition to the previously revealed Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and Republican former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh. "Lots of tricks played," tweeted Drudge. "Both Republicans and Democrats are getting caught up in the madness." None of the new people Drudge named have confirmed their unwitting participation on Who Is America? ALSO: Palin reportedly walked out on Cohen after he asked a "horrible" Chelsea Clinton question.