What do the Sixties revolutionary Abbie Hoffman and the fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev have in widespread? For starters, each had been portrayed on movie final yr by Sacha Baron Cohen, who has acquired a Golden Globe nomination for every position, in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, respectively. However as totally different as an anti-war activist and a slapstick icon recognized for his neon Speedo may appear, Cohen sees a standard thread between the 2, of their use of comedy as a software to spotlight intolerance and hypocrisy. For W‘s annual Greatest Performances situation, Cohen displays on two hyper-political roles in as we speak’s contentious cultural local weather.
In The Trial of the Chicago 7, you painting the anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman, who was notable each as a revolutionary and as a comic. What drew you to the character?
I turned desirous about Hoffman once I was at Cambridge writing my undergraduate thesis on the Jewish radicals who fought racial injustice in America. In 1992, I used to be staying on the YMCA in downtown Atlanta and got here throughout his work. I spotted instantly that his one-liners and his comedian antics had the next goal: His life was dedicated to preventing in opposition to prejudice and an immoral struggle in Vietnam. I revered him instantly.
You had been capturing Chicago 7 and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm concurrently. Was it troublesome to travel between characters?
I didn’t inform anyone that I used to be capturing Borat on the identical time. However I did discover parallels with Abbie Hoffman’s actions. I learn every little thing I may discover about Abbie, and I listened to all his speeches. He was amazingly eloquent, and we’ve comparable missions: to humble the highly effective and problem injustice. Abbie was additionally conscious of the position of the media. He had studied the Lenny Bruce obscenity trial and knew that the trial of the Chicago 7 was political theater. He wished to be discovered responsible; he wished to go to jail. He knew that was the one method to impress America and have his anti-war message heard.
You write, produce, and star in your Borat movies, however few individuals understand that you just and your brother, Erran Baron Cohen, additionally write the songs within the films. “Wuhan Flu” may be very catchy.
That’s our objective; we attempt to write a tune you could’t assist however sing alongside to, however has a extremely scary lyric. “Wuhan Flu” went viral, and folks would put up, “I can’t cease singing this terrible tune!” Few individuals know that, for some time, as Ali G, I used to be Britain’s highest-selling rap artist. My objective in comedy has at all times been the identical: be very humorous however reveal an indifference to racial hatred and intolerance. And it helps should you can hum alongside.
Have been you shocked by the violent rebellion in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021?
Sadly, no. Conspiracy theories finish in violence. Give it some thought: If you’re fed a weight loss program of lies, and also you really consider these lies and think about the one that is telling the lies to you, then the actions of January 6 are, sadly, logical. What we collectively have to do is cease the lies. That’s my mission.