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Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen

Biography

You might know Sacha Baron Cohen better as Ali G, the wise-cracking fake-Jamaican who's skewered pretty much every British public figure -- and quite a few American ones -- on his insanely popular BBC show. Cohen has other two alter-egos: Borat, a Kazakh television reporter who has drawn censure from Kazakhstan's government, and Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion show denizen. Born into a middle-class Jewish family, Cohen originally intended to pursue a PhD like his brothers, but comedy beckoned and in 1998 he got a huge break when the satirical late night program The 11 O'Clock Show booked him (as Ali G) to be the show's "Voice of the Youth." His on-street interviews with young people struck such a chord that he was offered his own show in 2000, which became an instant hit thanks to a string of hilarious interviews in which the interview subjects took him seriously, unaware that he was in character. Their befuddlement at his inane questions made for great television, but when he became so recognizable that the Ali G persona didn't work in Britain -- all his interview subjects knew it was a spoof -- the show moved on to HBO and American subjects in 2003. Though he's invited controversy and criticism, Cohen's unorthodox interview techniques often force public figures into rare and unexpected moments of honesty, and his willful flouting of social norms can expose -- humorously -- the racist, sexist and homophobic underpinnings of much of Western culture.
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