News of a second Borat movie — one partially filmed during COVID-19 lockdowns, no less — posed an intriguing opportunity for Sacha Baron Cohen to revisit his most iconic character in an age of heightened awareness of and sensitivity to how the apparatus of offensive and provocative humor works. It's something the film seems to interrogate in its own way as it centers a female character (and an Oscar-nominated performance from Maria Bakalova) in its narrative, yielding fascinating results and making Baron Cohen's new vision the end result of a thoughtful approach to comedy.
It's precisely this kind of dedication to the craft that landed Baron Cohen the Comedic Genius Award at the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards. During a funny and quite meta acceptance video speech, the Academy Award-nominated star writer and actor brought out his most famous creations — Borat, Brüno, and Ali G — as he reckoned with them all in the guise of his perhaps most challenging character: himself.
"You're a white suburban kid who's co-opting Black culture," Baron Cohen tells Ali G, giving him a reality check before shooing him and Borat away. After thanking his fans, he took an overtly earnest approach: "I'm just a human being creating complex, nuanced characters, sophisticated tools to expose—" And before he could finish, naturally, the punchline: an appearance from Brüno in a nearly nude getup, asking if the time was right to expose his own "sophisticated tool."
For this, and a subsequent joke about the attractiveness of BTS, Baron Cohen takes Brüno to task. "You can't say that stuff unless you're exposing homophobia with real people," he says. "All you've done is just pissed off the LGBTQIA community, the Koreans, and every single Christian." It's another setup for a punchline from Brüno, but it also provides a look into his own ethos for creating his characters and his guiding principles for comedy. It leads Baron Cohen to a proclamation.
"Before anyone else does it, I am officially canceling myself," he decrees, then bounces, leaving Brüno (and another surprise character cameo) holding the trophy.
The Comedic Genius Award has previously been given three times, to Melissa McCarthy in 2016, Kevin Hart in 2015, and Will Ferrell in 2013, respectively. Baron Cohen took it home for his work on last year's aforementioned Borat sequel, which dropped the same year as his Oscar-nominated dramatic turn in Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Watch Baron Cohen face down his unruly characters like a troubled Dr. Frankenstein attempting to corral his wayward creation in his acceptance speech in the video above.
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