Pathetic Excuse for Humor

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. --Mel Brooks

No one likes to be the victim of joke, while everyone will probably laugh at the misfortune of others. I still giggle whenever I see Moe smack the crap out of Curly, or watch a show like the original Candid Camera or the current version, Punk’d. Tom Green used a similar tactic on his show, but crossed the line of good taste and just became an obnoxious jerk. The new ‘comedy’ Borat (subtitled Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) takes a lot from Green, but goes so far over the line that I found myself simply feeling sorry for his victims, and wishing he would fall into an open sewer and die.

Borat is a “mockumentary” that follows the misadventures of fictional Kazakhi reporter Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his journey to America, and then across it. See the startled reactions of all those he meets as they react to his aggressive, racist, and over-sexed naïveté. Won’t that be funny?

Well, it could have been. The problem is that unknowing folks are first embarrassed by Cohen’s actions, and then humiliated when he won’t leave them alone. This is funny in tamer settings (as when he tries to greet New Yorkers on the street with a kiss), but when pushed to the extreme (he invites a prostitute to a formal dinner for example) it is painful to watch, and not in the least funny. Most of the movie is like this.

What is really disturbing is that Cohen is hiding behind his Borat character, knowing exactly what he is doing to these people. At least Green was just his obnoxious self. Cohen comes across as a coward since he can just play up his “stupid foreigner” shtick, which seems to make his actions okay. Granted, these people signed some sort of clearance (and were surely paid) to appear in the final cut of the movie, but so what? Even in interviews, Cohen will only appear as Borat to promote the film, never having to be responsible for (or answer any questions about) his objectionable and tasteless “technique”.

Borat is R-rated for good reason, as it’s a very vulgar movie. We see several instances of full male nudity (although Cohen has his own genitals blacked out--perhaps to hide something?), many references to the female anatomy, masturbation, etc., etc. The Borat character is all about sex, which culminates with his quest to Los Angeles to meet Pamela Anderson to make her his wife (which he attempts in another alarming setup).

If you haven’t guessed yet, I hated this movie. Any funny moments (and there are a few) are completely undone by the vicious prank tone. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think Cohen is a basically a bully, and his brand of confrontational comedy only left me with sympathy for his targets.


Robert said…
First of all this movie is a satire. Sasha Cohen himself is an orthodox Jew who mostly speaks a mix of Polish and Hebrew when he is in character in the movie. An anti-semitic Hebrew speaker. I hope you actually get that part. If you still hated it then that's fine but the entire point is to bring people's hypocrisy out. Its people (us) who are hiding behind a veil, not Sasha. He just brings the worst out of people who appear to be righteous just like the aholes in the USC bus who said America needs slaves.