Culture Guides

Sacha Cohen – Culture Hero

One of the most brilliant satirists of his time.

Sacha Cohen a.k.a Ali G a.k.a Borat a.k.a camp fashion guy is one of the greatest clowns of our time, exposing the holes in our culture with his brilliant impersonations and drawing out our prejudices through the characters he creates.

Although a Cambridge student from a Jewish family, Sacha Cohen became famous in the UK through his cult Ali G show where he took on the personality of a rather dim hiphop wide boy from a London suburb.

Dressed in tracksuit, gold rings and shades, Ali G became famous for asking stupid questions of intelligent people and making fools of them in the process. Somehow he even managed to get an interview with the ex US Secretary of State, James Baker and ask him about how does you get other countries to do what you wants them to do?

Oh, you mean foreign policy, Baker laughs, well it’s most a game of carrots and sticks.

But what if they doesn’t like carrots or… or.. even if it’s their most favourite thing in the world they might have enough carrots already… As Ali G pretends not to understand, the audience can’t believe that Baker doesn’t get that he’s being mocked.

Of course, it’s for Borat that Cohen really made his big splash and it’s hard to imagine how he was ever allowed to make the film. While Borat appears as a character on the Ali G show and is actually very funny, in the movie it seems that Cohen was determined to scrape the bottom of the cultural barrel and see just how far poor taste can be pushed. He exposes American jingoism brilliantly by singing the fictional Kazakhi anthem long after everyone has grown tired of hearing his reedy voice and makes American men feel utterly awkward by kissing them on the cheek. But no one who has seen the movie will forget just how painful it was to watch the naked wrestling with his fat ‘manager’.

Or maybe his mission was just to mock the audience for our supposed sophisticated tastes…

Delightfully, though, when the government of Kazakhstan publicly complained about the depiction of their country in Borat, they suggested that “Mr Cohen may be in the pay of neighbouring states seeking to undermine our reputation”. Cohen responded in the voice of Borat urging ‘his’ government to “sue this Jew” and cited recent improvements such as women now being allowed to sit down on buses and homosexuals no longer being obliged to wear a yellow hat.

Sacha Cohen has a third character, a camp Austrian presenter called Bruno, which he uses to great effect to rip the piss out of the American fashion scene but it’s for Ali G and Borat that he dragged the world down to his peculiar and brilliant sense of humour.