Sacha Baron Cohen’s New Show Is So Much Darker Than You Think

With jokes about rape and arming kindergartners, the Borat star hits a nerve.

Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

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Washington has been buzzing for a week about the upcoming new Showtime series by Sacha Baron Cohen, Who is America? after news leaked that the Borat star had tricked a host of politicos from Dick Cheney to Sarah Palin into appearing on the show. On Sunday, Showtime released an extensive clip from the forthcoming series, and if it’s any indication of what the rest of the series will be like, it’s a lot darker even than advertised.

In the 10-minute clip, Cohen masquerades as an Israeli anti-terrorist expert hoping to convince Congress to embrace a program designed to arm kindergarten students to defend against mass school shooters:

Among those he recruits to support the program is Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby group that’s more extreme even than the National Rifle Association.

On the show, Pratt buys into the idea of arming children, which perhaps isn’t surprising. What is surprising is his belly-laughing response to a joke from Cohen, who tells Pratt that his wife, who has a gun, shot him in bed in the middle of the night because he got “horny.”

“But it’s not rape if it’s your wife, right?” Cohen tells Pratt knowingly, before reaching over and shaking his hand as Pratt laughs hysterically.

“That probably won’t be on the video we send to the Hill, right?” Pratt asks. Once Cohen says no, Pratt busts out laughing some more, red in the face, clearly enjoying the joke. Afterward, he offers to help Cohen make contacts with members of Congress to promote the armed kindergartners program.

The provocative sizzle reel is making the rounds today, and it’s already eliciting strong reactions on Twitter. Here’s Shannon Watts, founder of anti-gun-violence group Moms Demand Action:

From the father of a victim of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida:

And this:

https://twitter.com/katystoll/status/1018515421178179584

The Atlantic‘s David Frum wasn’t laughing:

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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