Plot: After the immense success of his previous characters like Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, it seemed as if Sacha Baron Cohen wouldn’t be able to produce similar content again, as the world knew him and as such, would recognize him and thwart the attempts at outlandish interactions. But in Who is America, Cohen returns and dons a variety of heavy makeup and prosthesis to become a new panel of characters, though his goal is the same. Cohen interviews various political and social figures, trying to bait them into looking foolish or making outrageous remarks, which most of his guests manage to do, in one form or another. His new characters include a reformed ex con Rick Sherman, Israeli commando Col. Erran Morad, right wing conspiracy theorist Billy Wayne Rudduck, and outlandish activist Nira Cain-N’degocello, all of whom have a lot of wild and wacky situations to lead their subjects into.
Entertainment Value: Who is America is a seven episode series on Showtime and while Cohen has done similar content before, he pushes more of an agenda this time around and aims at conservative politicians in particular. When Cohen interviews the right wing leaning subjects, he has more venom and aggression, so the humor dampens and feels more forced, but there are some still humorous moments at times. When he drops the political activist routine and returns to his roots of wild, jaw dropping comedy however, Who is America is a lot of fun. Rick Sherman is a personal favorite, as he preys on the creative community and highlights how absurd that world can be, but he keeps the tone brisk and light. The same can be said for most of the Nira scenes, though some take a more hard edged tone. I think the show works best in the lighter scenes, as it has a more natural, humorous tone in those moments.
Although some of the segments work better than others, Cohen’s natural comic charm carries even the weakest interviews, though he tries so hard in some that it comes off as desperate. His scenes as Nira where he tries to get his interviewee to accept the title of pedophile as a compliment for example, as he pushes and pushes, with no payoff, where a more subtle approach might have yielded alternate potential. This happens in some of the sequences, the ones where Cohen clearly has a vendetta and wants to make them look stupid, whereas the lighter interviews see him focused on general fun and entertainment. He lands a wide scope of impressive guests, some of whom he grinds on much harder than others, without question. But I think most of the segments work well and offer at least moderate laughs, while some are simply hilarious and could stand alongside his Ali G Show best moments. So if you like Cohen’s brand of humor and aren’t super sensitive about heavy handed politics, Who is America offers seven solid episodes and some good laughs.
The Disc: Showtime’s release includes all seven episodes, presented in clear and sharp visual presentations. The show is framed and shot like a news report, so the image isn’t hyper refined, but it looks quite good. The colors are natural, black levels are smooth, and detail is rock solid. The extras include some deleted scenes and three extended interview segments.