“Shock is just another uptown word for surprise,” George Carlin declared in a 2005 documentary about comedy. “Granted it has a different quality to it, but a joke is about surprising someone.” By that definition, Sacha Baron Cohen proved himself a master of surprise with HBO’s “Da Ali G Show”(2003) and his feature film “Borat” (2006). Both were brilliant mixtures of satire, slapstick and social commentary constructed out of deeply uncomfortable interactions between Cohen’s ridiculous characters and an unsuspecting cast of politicians, celebrities and average citizens. His subsequent movies largely failed to build on the promise of those earlier efforts, but with Showtime’s “Who Is America?” he has returned to his roots in episodic television, playing multiple characters and using the controversial guerilla-style filmmaking methods that first brought him fame—or infamy, depending on who you ask..… [MORE]
Bill McGarvey of McG Media is a culture columnist for America magazine. Check out his previous columns via the links below:
Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway magic trick
Can a college course teach students how to date?
The Passions of Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan
Startling Strangeness and The Shape of Water
Dave Chappelle and the ‘Imperfect Allies’ the #MeToo Movement Needs
Jann Wenner made Rolling Stone in his image. Now he doesn’t like what he sees
Elegy for a Heartbreaker: Tom Petty and the simple beauty of song
An Epiphany with Sir Paul: Music as Communion In the era of Trump
Stay Positive–Craig Finn, Punk Rock and the Longing for Something Bigger (w/video)
Are We Living in an Al Franken Moment?
Are there lessons to be learned from Bernie Madoff in the Trump era?
What can WWII propaganda films teach us in the era of fake news?
What can one black man’s outreach to the Ku Klux Klan teach us about healing? “How can you hate me when you don’t know me?”
5 tips for students engaging in politics on campus: Anxiety is the new reality for undocumented students across the US
In Defense of Institutions: has President Trump awakened a giant?
Moonlight and Manhood: A meditation on manhood, suffering and the boundless ache for human connection
You Don’t Do God Alone: America’s greatest contribution to religious thought, the 12 steps of AA
Help Your Brothers: In Defense of Suffering
A Rite of Service: Why have we become abstractions to one another as citizens
Misinformation Age: Changing the narrative regarding Islam in the United States and Europe
College Orientation: An overview of both the ever-evolving issues and the evergreen ones
Traces of The Transcendent: The hurdle to belief has more to do with imagination than information
Credo…: I Don’t Believe in That God Either
Sinatra’s Century: The legacy of a tough guy with a heartbreaking voice
Deep, Dark Truthful Memoir: Elvis Costello’s new memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
Data-Determinism: In the age of Big Data, metrics and efficiency are the lifeblood of our technocracy
Our Moment of Zen: Saying Goodbye to Jon Stewart
Gazillions of Mockingbird Fans Might Be Wrong!
No, No, No…The Short Life and Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse
‘God Only Knows’: Brian Wilson’s teenage symphony to God
Black is…Huh?: I get the feeling that Dolezal aches to be the poster child for a conversation on race
Four Questions Before College: The last year of high school has become a battleground…
Full Immersion Therapy: It’s spring break time; do you know where your college age children are?
A Requiem for Truthiness: Stephen Colbert we hardly knew ye…
I Watched ‘The Interview’: So that you won’t have to…
The Moviegoers: Calvary is the film Camus might have made if he were Irish Catholic and still held onto some vestige of belief.
An Age of Consent: How have you reconciled a one-dimensional rule with your three-dimensional life?
A Fellowship Grows in Brooklyn: a Rabbi, a Jewish Painter and a Catholic Musician Walk into a Coffee Shop…
A Revolution Recalled: When The Beatles Came to Town
Phone calls, Postcards & Pete Seeger, or: How I once wrote a song with an American icon without him really knowing it
Post-Clerical Catholics: Who are these people giving clericals too much power?
Ray Davies…Rock’s Binx Bolling: The Kinks frontman in New Orleans
Signal/Noise: The Tower of Babel in the digital age
‘Who Am I to Judge?’: Alongside America’s historic interview with Pope Francis!
The Sexual Devolution: An epidemic of bad sex flourishing across the board among young adults…
Post-Christian Rock: On Mumford & Sons and God-haunted music NOT Christian rock…
Boom and Bust: Dear Baby Boomers, On behalf of Generation X, I want to formally say thank you…