It’s taken a lot of deep thoughts, and two movies, but this critic has finally figured out what makes Sacha Baron Cohen “funny”. Now, I’m not talking about hilarious in the traditional sense. Only a juvenile would chuckle out loud at the kind of stilted shock tactics the British comic offers up as jokes. After all, if you’ve seen one flopping phallus or anti-Semitic cartoon, you’ve seen them all. Nor am I commenting on the always offered “skewering social commentary” angle to his supposed wit. Running into the woods with rednecks and exposing their narrow minded proclivities is the intellectual equivalent of challenging babies to chess. No, Cohen is funny because he offers up ideas that are tired, obvious, and completely calculated, and then gets those recently born suckers that PT Barnum loved to mention to buy into it freely and openly. He’s not laughing with you. He’s laughing at you!
Let me explain. If you were to walk into a room of right wing politicians and find a couple of complete nimrods that believe the world is flat, evolution is a myth, and that God created man, woman, and organized sports, you’d giggle - but not out of surprise. Many people wear their beliefs so fully on their rolled up sleeves that it’s almost impossible not to see them. No, your titter comes from seeing stupidity so blatantly exposed. For Cohen, this is the foundation of his brand of “funny”. He goes to a meeting of NOW and degrades women. He heads to the Middle East and mocks a known terrorist. He takes a trip to Texas and gets a beer-ed up bar to sing along with a song about dropping Jews down a well. He walks directly into the line of fire and then screams - usually in character - about how horribly hot it is. Now, this is not novel. Anyone could do it. As long as you have the guts, finding hate in a hotbed of prejudice should be a slamdunk.