In Sacha Baron Cohen’s provocative comedy show, American politicians are filmed backing a fictitious program to teach kindergartners how to use guns to defend themselves in school shootings.
In a seven-episode series launching on cable channel Showtime on Sunday, the British prankster takes on four different personas as he satirizes the political and cultural life of the United States in the era of President Donald Trump.
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In the first episode of “Who is America?”, previewed for media by Showtime, Baron Cohen poses as an Israeli anti-terror expert who gets two U.S. congressmen to voice support for his fake “Kinderguardians” scheme for children as young as three.
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The scheme includes a fake instructional video featuring children’s songs and “gunimals” — weapons adorned with soft toys — that would purportedly help kids confront the school shootings that have plagued the United States for the past decade.
Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, along with former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, who is now a lobbyist at a Washington law firm, are shown enthusiastically backing the idea, alongside gun rights advocates and a former congressman-turned-talk radio host, Joe Walsh.
Showtime and Sacha Baron Cohen both declined to comment on the series. Those shown endorsing the fake scheme, including the politicians, had not seen the finished show ahead of its Sunday premiere. Rohrabacher, Wilson and Lott did not immediately reply to requests for comment late on Saturday.
Walsh told CNN on Saturday that he was tricked into reading the words off a teleprompter.
The show marks Baron Cohen’s first television project in a decade after he launched his comedy career as subversive white English rapper Ali G., whose interviewees included Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich. His 2006 faux documentary film “Borat” ridiculed Kazakhstan and Middle Americans.
In “Who is America?”, Baron Cohen also takes aim at the media and political correctness, with the comedian posing as a pony-tailed liberal radio reporter on a post-2016 election cycling tour, and a man in a disability scooter who purports to investigate fake news.
In the first episode, Baron Cohen’s radio journalist persona is shown dining at the home of two Trump supporters in South Carolina and regaling them with lurid stories about his supposed family.
Walsh, the former congressman from Illinois, told CNN on Saturday that he had been asked by a documentary crew to read lines from a teleprompter endorsing various supposed Israeli innovations, including the idea of arming four-year-olds to defend themselves against terrorists.
“I’ll probably laugh at myself” when the episode airs, Walsh told CNN, adding that he is a fan of Baron Cohen. “He’s a funny guy because he gets people to say stupid things.”
This story was originally published in July 2018