Hollywood

Comedy That Never Forgets

May 19, 2012

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Sacha Baron Cohen

Once you notice the pattern, the pieces fall into place: Baron Cohen never forgets. His four main characters have been animated by his weapons-grade animus against present or past foes of the Jews. At the pace he’s going, he might eventually get around to making a movie mocking the Amalekites, the Hebrews”€™ archetypal enemies since the Old Testament.

For example, Ali G, the “€œThe Voice of the Yoof,”€ started out as an assimilated British Muslim chav (note Ali G’s references to his Uncle Jamal), but was retconned into Alistair Graham because WASPs are always fair game.

Why is Baron Cohen’s gay fashionista Bruno an Austrian? What has any Austrian ever done to the Jews?…oh.

How about Borat, who is supposed to be a Kazakh? Why would a Jewish man hate Kazakhs?…oh. “€œKazakhs”€ equal (in Baron Cohen’s mind) “€œCossacks,”€ as in the pogrom right before the intermission in Fiddler on the Roof. (At Cambridge University, Baron Cohen played Tevye.)

Baron Cohen doesn”€™t portray Borat as an exotic Central Asian; he plays him as one long Polack joke. In an essay in the Jewish Daily Forward about the roots of Baron Cohen’s comedy perceptively titled “€œLife Among the Goyim,”€ Andrew R. Heinze, author of Jews and the American Soul, notes:

In Borat, we see the recycling of one of the most basic stereotypes in the Jewish imagination: the viscerally antisemitic Slavic peasant.

Humor’s chief engine is hostility, and Jewish hostility has driven comedy forward for much of the last century. It’s OK to allow yourself to finally get the joke.

 

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