As the news came out that Sacha Baron Cohen, best known from his characters Borat, Bruno and Ali G, would have a new show exploring current day America was announced it felt too good to be true. Cohen’s appeal as a shock artist is very much tied to his reign in pop culture in the early 2000s, but the ability to bring back that same style today might not have the same punch as it did back then.
WHO IS AMERICA not only delivers on overwhelming audiences with its brand of humor, but it also has an impact on the political spectrum. The show focuses on Cohen playing five new characters exploring America and interviewing controversial figures including Dick Cheney, Roy Moore, and Joe Arpaio.
The show has a type of humor that may not agree with some, but for those akin to Cohen’s previous work will feel it fits right in line with his established tone. Cohen brand of humor involved placing people in uncomfortable situations and seeing how they reacted to it all; with the new show Cohen has kept the same style but adjusted it to focus on the current political climate.
Whether it is a testosterone-fueled Israeli soldier or a Finnish Youtuber opening up children’s toys, Cohen new character’s feel like they could have come from his classic characters. There are some that do not match the same type of quality as others, but they’ve smartly brought in new characters that fit in better to swap with the ones that felt out of place.
Fans of Comedy Central’s NATHAN FOR YOU will fall in love with WHO IS AMERICA, thanks in part to Nathan Fielder contributing as a writer and director on Cohen’s new show. NATHAN FOR YOU always felt like the style of Cohen’s work adapted to match the popularity of reality television shows, so to see his expertise in use in WHO IS AMERICA is a major bonus.
With an age of streaming being king, WHO IS AMERICA returns the excitement that only comes from weekly television. While shows of the past kept audiences engaged with an intriguing plot, WHO IS AMERICA keeps viewers coming back with its humor and the intrigue what major political figure got played by Cohen.
WHO IS AMERICA at the same time is having a significant effect on the political system. Georgia lawmaker Jason Spencer resigned after engaging in a series of offensive actions under the assumption that it would help protect him from being kidnapped. Other politicians and figureheads have also come out to say they were duped by Cohen, but the outcome for them had yet to be seen.
In an age of Youtube and prank culture being pushed to unrealistic limits, it is refreshing to see Cohen’s craft of pranking individuals with the same effortlessness like his previous work. Prank videos today try to emulate Cohen’s style by immediately amping up the reactions that can only be fake, but with WHO IS AMERICA it feels realistic as Cohen slowly adjusts the dial to confuse the participants stuck in his grasp.
One aspect that feels off about the series is a lack of theme to each of the episodes. What made the original DA ALI G SHOW work as a whole was the use of theme to structure each of the episodes. While they would not be stuck entirely to the theme, it gave each episode something unique to wrap around.
With WHO IS AMERICA, each segment can feel random as they do not connect well together. The overall theme of ‘examining current day America’ works with the segments as individuals, but it would be interesting to see if each episode either covered a specific state or different part of the country.
While the series is only four episodes in, it feels like the show can only improve from this point. The series is scheduled to have nine episodes, and hope would be that Cohen gets more opportunities to unleash his comedic style on the masses. For those looking for something out of the ordinary will be satisfied by WHO IS AMERICA.