Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)

Da Ali G Show star Sacha Baron Cohen, a chameleon who, masquerading as a series of absurd alter egos, conducts real interviews in which he volleys ridiculous questions at real-life luminaries who aren’t in on the joke.  Cohen’s remarkable series of guests includes Ralph Nader, Newt Gingrich, C. Everett Koop, Marlin Fitzwater, and James Baker, all of whom qualify as brilliant enough to rise to the top of their respective fields, but not quite savvy enough to see the satirist behind the façade. Da Ali G Show turns American luminaries into stooges, but Cohen disappears so effectively into his characters that it’s easy to see how they get duped.

Cohen also portrays Borat, a Kazakhstani reporter who runs roughshod over American taboos, and Bruno, an effeminate Austrian fashion reporter. Where the humor in Borat and Ali G’s segments draws from the gulf in awareness between the interviewer and the interviewee, the humor in Bruno’s pieces derives largely from the fashion world’s willingness to embrace the ridiculous fashion victim as one of its own. When Bruno refers to a fashion show’s glibly condescending “white trash” theme as being about “rubbish people,” a clueless fashionista burbles in agreement.

Da Ali G Show is both prototypical universal. Plenty of British exports get lost in translation, but the trip overseas has only sharpened the surreal culture clash at the heart of Cohen’s comedy.