With the possible exception of Andy Kaufman, I find comedians who stubbornly refuse to break character to be extremely tiresome. That's right, I'm talking to you, Sacha Baron Cohen—or, excuse me, General Admiral Aladeen.
To me, Cohen just came across like a hackneyed bore when he tossed Bisquick—er, ashes—over Ryan Seacrest on the Oscars red carpet, and after I read about his latest stunt involving showing up for the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival on a camel, well, I found it highly unlikely that I'd ever agree with Roger Ebert's assertion that Cohen "establishes a claim to be the best comic filmmaker now working."
Imagine my surprise to see him actually appear out of character in a Today show interview that aired this morning, and even more shocking, it seems like Sacha Baron Cohen—the man, not the alter ego—is a truly funny and smart guy.
The Today interview marks only the third time in his career when he's broken character. When Anne Curry asked why it was so rare for him to appear as himself, he said,
Well, the movies that I did up until now, they involved real people and so we wanted to limit the exposure of for lawsuits -- at the moment I think I have the Guinness World Record for most sued actor in history. But basically if people saw that I was me, and that Borat was not a real person, beforehand, then they could injunct the movie and shut the movie down.
As for why he chose his latest role, Supreme Leader Aladeen of the Republic of Wadiya, Cohen said,
The subjects of the satire are all of these heartless dictators who are feared in their own countries and rule with, you know, using violence and oppression, but are ludicrous characters. And the great thing is, at the moment, they're being overthrown. So anything you can do to mock them and undermine them that kind of false authority, I think it's a positive thing.
Here's a video of the interview:
I get so sick of Cohen's publicity-as-performance-art garbage I tend to forget he's actually got anything worthy of promotion. To me, Cohen's shtick lost its appeal a long time ago, and while I give him points for standing out from the crowd, I'm much more interested in the actual man behind the japery. I actually liked him quite a bit in this interview, and more importantly, I actually watched it—if I'd seen him capering around as Aladeen Whatshisname yet again, Bisquick and camels in tow, I would have clicked away immediately.
He's clearly a talented guy, and a very smart guy (trivia: he studied history at Cambridge), and maybe I'm just not in the right age demographic to respond to his ever-present character promotion. But speaking personally, I hope this interview marks a new trend for Cohen, one that's a little more interesting while still getting the press tour work done.
What do you think of seeing Sacha Baron Cohen out of character? Do you think he should do it more often?
Image via Flickr/WEBN-TV