Entertainment & Arts

Sacha Baron Cohen: More criticism and mixed reviews for star's new show

Sacha Baron Cohen between Ali G and Borat Image copyright PA/Getty Images
Image caption Sacha Baron Cohen (centre) is known for such comic characters as Ali G (left) and Borat (right)

Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen is facing mixed reviews and further criticism over his latest satirical comedy show.

Who is America?, which aired on Channel 4 on Monday, sees the British prankster assume a series of outrageous personas to pillory US politics and culture.

Rolling Stone said it was "toothless", while the Hollywood Reporter said the show was only "occasionally funny".

Meanwhile, a US politician interviewed in the debut episode said he had been the victim of "a sick fraud".

Dana Rohrabacher was seen in the programme appearing to endorse a fictitious scheme to train toddlers to use guns.

In a statement, the Republican congressman said he had only spoken "broadly" about self-defence and that he would have rejected the notion had it been put to him directly.

Image copyright Channel 4/Getty Images
Image caption Dana Rohrabacher (right) said he did not meet Baron Cohen in person

US network Showtime, which launched Who is America? on Sunday, has issued its own statement in defence of Baron Cohen, citing "widespread misinformation" about the programme.

It follows a claim by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin that the comedian had "duped" her by posing as a wounded military veteran.

"Baron Cohen did not present himself as a disabled veteran, and viewers nationwide who watched the premiere on Sunday can now attest to that," said Showtime's spokesperson.

"Baron Cohen never presented himself as a veteran of the US military to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during the booking process or during the filming of her interview."

In the first episode of Who is America?, Baron Cohen was seen quizzing Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders under the guise of "citizen journalist" Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr.

The comedian used this persona to issue his own riposte to Palin last week, denying he had claimed to be a war veteran and accusing her of "bleedin' FAKE NEWS".

The character was one of four Baron Cohen adopted in the first instalment of Who is America?, which Time said showed "a hint of genius" despite containing "too much filler".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bernie Sanders was among other politicians featured in the first episode

The 46-year-old was also seen - under heavy make-up - as an Israeli anti-terror expert, an ex-convict turned artist and an apologetic liberal.

Most critics are in agreement that the show's most successful segment is the one in which his 'Erran Morad' character proposes the widespread arming of children.

It was here, said the Telegraph, that the show "bared its teeth" and reconfirmed its star as "one of the most merciless and subversive satirists at work today."

According to Variety, Who Is America? "feels both as richly comic as anything Baron Cohen has done in the decade-plus since Borat and urgently resonant with our own era."

In her review, though, The Guardian's Lucy Mangan said it was "not always clear who or what the target is" and that its creator should "refine [his] scattergun approach".

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