A lacklustre half-hour, Who Is America? Episode 4 remained funny and watchable, but Baron Cohen’s willingness to settle for low-hanging fruit is working to his show’s detriment.
I’ve been watching Sacha Baron Cohen play dress-up since I was a child, and I’ll probably never tire of ignorant, hateful people being tricked into embarrassing themselves on television. It’s cathartic. It’s funny. But Who Is America? Episode 4 began to feel a little tired. Cohen obviously has no shortage of outlandish ideas, but themes are beginning to repeat themselves, outcomes are becoming predictable, and the targets are easier to hit.
Who Is America? Episode 4 opened with Erran Morad and another of his anti-terror workshops, this one designed around defending an office against Islamic attack. On the receiving end of the ridicule were Shaun McCutcheon, an “outspoken conservative commentator”, which could be anyone Twitter, really, and his bodied-up pal. Strategies including brandishing pork and images of gay sex like riot shields, charging at potential terrorists while alternately shouting, “Pork, you’re gay! Pork, you’re gay!”
It was funny, as always, but these are low-hanging fruits. It must be said, though, that disguising the regular white-collar office as a mosque by putting a magic lamp on the desk and charming a snake from a wicker basket was a particularly inspired bit of ignorance-baiting. These people are so terrified of Muslims, yet know so little about them. I suppose that’s the point.
Next up was Cohen’s Italian fashion mogul Gig Monaldo, who in Who Is America? Episode 4 sought to purchase a yacht from a money-hungry broker who was quite willing to outfit the vessel with military-grade weaponry for gunning down Syrian refugees, and plush rooms for trafficking women. All the while, Monaldo received a handjob then a blowjob from his girlfriend; the baffled salesman barely batted an eye, even when it became clear that his product was to be used for explicitly illegal purposes. I can’t imagine that company will be doing good business in the foreseeable future.
The most noteworthy target in Who Is America? Episode 4 was Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the notorious former law-enforcement officer and politician who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump – he admitted in this skit that he’d perhaps be forced to accept a blowjob from Trump, if such a thing were to be offered.
The sketch, for what it’s worth, was an unboxing of toys led by an enthusiastic Finnish YouTuber by the name of OMGWhizzBoyOMG! At one point Cohen turned the debate to gun control, and Arpaio aggressively lectured a plastic donut about Second Amendment rights.
The milquetoast liberal warrior Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello made a triumphant return this week, talking pornography with David Pyne, the national director of the Utah Republican Assembly. This was, again, funny, but it went on far too long, and confirmed that the character should really be deployed against a Democrat or similarly left-leaning figure who would be forced to at least pretend to embrace his ludicrous ideas, rather than a Republican who immediately refused to participate at all. There were some gloriously funny bits, such as when Cain-N’Degeocello tried to reclaim the word “paedophile” by repeatedly referring to himself and Pyne as such, and when he pulled out an educational book that depicted graphic sex scenes between rabbits of all ages. He even suggested making Pyne a co-author, which prompted threats of a lawsuit.
On balance that might have been the funniest sequence in Who Is America? Episode 4, but it was also the least effective, which is becoming a problem. Cohen’s willingness to settle for less important victims and instead veer towards easy gags keeps the show entertaining, but not lacerating in the way that the first couple of episodes were. His ability to maintain a straight face and a performance despite all these shenanigans remains impressive, but at some point you have to wonder why he’s gone to all the trouble.