Sacha Baron Cohen

By: David Smay
October 13, 2009

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The world’s foremost contemporary comic theorist led a teenage breakdance crew, and wrote his Cambridge thesis on the American Civil Rights movement before he planted his ass in Eminem’s face. After university SACHA BARON COHEN (born 1971) supported himself as a model and developed a series of characters — Ali G, Borat, Brüno — that draw on his erratic resume as a suburban hip hop fan, a student of antisemitism, and a fashion industry hanger-on. Like Andy Kaufman, Baron Cohen explores that squirm-inducing place where comedy might not be funny at all. Whereas most comedy reflects a comic distortion, Baron Cohen doesn’t work as a mirror, but as a blank screen. His unwitting participants project their anxiety about class, race, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, and celebrity onto his characters. That’s the genius of his particular, discomfiting method.

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HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God

READ MORE about the Reconstructionist Generation (1964-73).

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