“Who is America” puts a new spin on political satire

Have you recently been approached by Anti-Terror Expert Erran Morad? Or perhaps former convict Rick Sherman? What about any other suspicious people that seemed too outrageous to be real? No? Then you are probably in the clear from Sacha Baron Cohen’s slew of pranks on his hit TV show “Who is America?”

Cohen’s show, which aired July 15, 2018, on Showtime, takes aim at various aspects of the social and political makeup of modern-day America. When you really look at it, Cohen’s comedy is not that comedic at all– it is scary. His interviews with politicians like Roy Moore, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Bernie Sanders, and other controversial Americans like OJ Simpson and reality star Corinne Olympios, unveil some truth about prominent Americans.

Political comedy takes on many forms from “Saturday Night Live” to other programs, like Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” and Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” to something more revelatory like “Who is America?” These other shows often use comedy to lighten the political situation, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s goal is different. His brand of comedy uses shock value to cause discomfort and humiliate his guests. Cohen is clear with his intention: he wants viewers to know that these people are America because we give them a platform, whether it is through representing their constituents or entertaining the masses through “The Bachelor.” However comedic the results may be, the show has had very real consequences.

Georgia state representative Jason Spencer was resigned in shame after using racial slurs in a mock terrorist protection video. Former Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore was tested for pedophelia using what Cohen’s character, Morad, presented as a new piece of “Israeli technology.” When the detector repeatedly went off when waved near Moore, Morad offered that it may be a malfunction. Moore is now suing Cohen and the show for $95 million for allegations of intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.

Conservative commentator Joe Walsh, former senate majority leader Trent Lott and California congressman Dana Rohrabacher all voiced their support for arming kindergarteners, in a segment called “Kinderguardians.” Former vice president Dick Cheney signed a waterboard kit. Cohen disguised as an Italian photographer attempted to get OJ Simpson to admit to murder.

The comedy juxtaposed with the outrageous reality reveal just how twisted our country’s social and political landscape really is. And whether you like the answer or not, it forces us to ask the question: “Who is America?”

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