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British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays goofy, unselfconscious characters who draw unsuspecting people into highly uncomfortable situations, was born in West London on this date in 1971. His show biz break came with Da Ali G Show (HBO), in which his title character is an ignorant hip-hop “gangsta” who conducts interviews with real-life experts and leaders who are generally befuddled and embarrassed by his free-associating argumentativeness. It was on this show that Cohen developed the characters whom he has presented in full-length comedy films, including Borat Sagdiyev, a primitive hipster from “Kazakhstan” who tours the U.S. and entraps Americans in awkward and revealing moments in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and Brüno Gehard, a flamboyantly gay Austrian who innocently penetrates the facades of the fashion and wealthy hipster worlds in Bruno. Cohen is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and was raised in a Jewishly active household, but his humor, which walks a tightrope between insight and bad taste, has fetched lots of political criticism as well as lawsuits. He generally refuses to come “out of character” in publicity appearances. To see him singing “In My Country There Is a Problem (Throw the Jew Down the Well”), look below.
“Normally in dangerous situations I have a getaway car.” —Sacha Baron Cohen