Jagshemash. With Borat’s new movie now available to stream on Amazon Prime, it’s feeling like 2006 all over again since I’m starting to hear people’s bad Borat impressions again. I mean, it makes sense. Borat is super popular. But is he Sacha Baron Cohen’s best character? Because even though it feels like forever ago, the comedian’s other two most famous characters, Ali G and Bruno, both had their own movies back in 2002 and 2009, respectively. But the thing is, nobody really seems to be discussing which of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is actually his best.
So that’s what I aim to find out. I’ve done vs. battles in the past with Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter, and the 2Pac Shakur biopic against The Notorious B.I.G.’s. But I’ve never done a battle royale with 3 different characters entering the ring and only one coming out on top. Plus, this is the hardest one yet since I love all three Sacha Baron Cohen characters (and yes, I remember the The Dictator, and no, I didn’t like it). So who’s going to be the victor? I don’t know, but as a great philosopher once said: Booyasakasha! I is ready.
All 3 characters have starred in their own films, but which movie is the greatest and has had the longest legacy?
Ali G Indahouse (2002)
The first character out the gate with a movie was Ali G, which makes sense since Sacha Baron Cohen’s major breakout was his HBO series, Da Ali G Show. But to be honest, Ali G Indahouse is kind of terrible. First off, it’s nothing like the show where Ali G used to interview people. Instead, it centered around Ali G getting into politics. And secondly, barely anybody remembers this movie, and even fewer look back upon it fondly. That said, it does have Ali G meeting Borat, so that’s worth something, I guess.
Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan (2006)
Yes, I’m aware that there are 2 Borat movies (I mean, I mentioned it in the intro), and maybe another on the way, but I don’t think it’s fair to include the sequel since Borat is the only character to get one. Still, the first Borat is still uproarious, even today. The film is a hybrid of the show, with there being an actual narrative of Borat coming to America, but also interviews of hapless people who had no idea that it was all an act. There are still several moments in this film that are laugh-out-loud funny (like the naked fight scene), so that even after the gimmick, it’s still highly watchable.
The Austrian, gay fashion journalist also got his own movie back in 2009, and quite frankly, I think it’s the most underappreciated. Much like Borat, Bruno was also a sort of mockumentary with interview segments, but I personally think the narrative was the strongest of the 3 movies. Bruno’s dream is to become “the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler” and the movie may be even more offensive than Borat, but in the best sort of way. Highlights include Bruno driving what looks like a baby right into traffic and making out with his boyfriend in the middle of a cage fight in front of a booing audience. It’s cringe-worthy gold!
The Victor: Borat
I personally find Bruno much funnier than Borat, but I know I’m in the minority. Plus, if we’re going by box office receipts, then Borat was far and away a bigger success, making $262.6 million domestically compared to Bruno’s $138.8 million, and Ali G Indahouse’s paltry in comparison $25.9 million. No question, Borat wins this round.
The Celebrities They’ve Interviewed
All 3 characters use interviews as a way to expose people’s baser instincts, but who’s interviewed the biggest celebrities, and how did those interviews go?
Ali G’s bread and butter was interviews on his program, Da Ali G Show. So it’s little wonder that the character got the best interviews. Just a sample of the celebrities he interviewed on his show included Newt Gingrich, Noah Chomsky, and his “main man” Buzz Aldrin. Plus, President Trump still boasts that he wasn’t fooled by Ali G’s character when Ali G went to him for an investment in an ice cream glove. So yes, phenomenal guests, indeed.
Borat is interesting since he doesn’t really so much interview celebrities as he talks to random people who have no idea that it’s just an act. He did have a few funny interviews in places like Fox and Friends, but his comedy has always been more broad humor, and sometimes with big crowds.
Bruno is an interesting case, too, but his interviews seem a lot more raw since he would talk to self-proclaimed skin heads and “gay converters.” But there’s, of course, that great interview he did with Paula Abdul in the movie where he actually got her to sit on a human chair. And of course that interview with Ron Paul in the hotel room. But that’s mostly the full extent of his celebrity interviews.
The Victor: Ali G
And it’s really not even a contest. Interviews are what Ali G was known for, so it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he won this one.
Their Relevance in Pop Culture
All 3 characters are famous, but which one is the biggest pop culture icon?
It’s the year 2020, and who’s still talking about Ali G? Sad, but true—especially since Da Ali G Show was Sacha Baron Cohen’s first big whiff of fame—but the character now feels like a relic of the early 2000s, and even somewhat dated today.
People still love Borat, and the proof is in how many people recently streamed his sequel on Amazon in its first weekend, as the number is something in the range of tens of millions of people. Yeah, Borat’s still got it.
Bruno, while a fun character, hasn’t really broken into the mainstream like Borat has. In fact, when his movie came out in 2009, I was like really? Bruno? Because while I’ve always found his character to be the funniest of the three, I never thought anybody else thought he was funny. And with no sequel in sight for Bruno, I still don’t think anybody does.
The Victor: Borat
Borat is still popular, and even without a new movie, would still have been even more popular than the other two characters. The fact that there is a new movie for Borat, though, and not for the other 2 characters, should be proof enough who the biggest pop culture icon is.
The Different Issues They’ve Addressed Through Their Satire
Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy is never just funny for funny’s sake. Instead, his humor often delves into dark, societal territories. But which character addresses them the best and gets the best reactions out of his subjects?
Definitely doing the funniest interviews, Ali G’s whole persona was always funny. But his playing dumb usually just mined easy laughs out of his interviewees’ confusion rather than anything else.
Borat plays most to middle America by having trashy people show their true colors. He does this by having them sing along to songs like, “Throw the Jew down the well,” and his most recent stunt at an anti-mask rally where he got people to sing along to lyrics about Obama catching “the Wuhan Flu.” The thing is, is it really all that shocking or surprising? No. Not really. Funny, but not surprising.
Bruno may actually have people show the worst of themselves through their homophobia. Granted, Bruno goes just as over the top as Borat, but talking to religious figures and even having Paula Abdul sit on Mexican people really shows just how far people will go and not even realize how awful they look or sound on camera.
The Victor: Bruno
Bruno is probably the bravest character out of the three since people still have such yucky (and sometimes violent) feelings about homosexuality, and Bruno’s character makes it visible for all to see.
Their Overall Hilarity
Humor is entirely subjective, but if only one character could exist, which would I pick based off of their hilarity to be the only one?
I find Ali G’s interviews hilarious because I can’t believe anybody would take him seriously enough to allow themselves to be filmed. But as I’ve seen from his movie, the bit runs dry very quickly when taken outside of the interview format.
Borat is beyond lovable even though he spouts some of the most racist, misogynistic, Anti-Semitic comments ever put into a popular film, but he’s also extremely funny and quotable. His bits were fantastic on Da Ali G Show but even better in his subsequent films. And even today, his shock humor still holds up even when you think it shouldn’t. Borat is just immensely hilarious, and most people agree.
As I’ve already mentioned quite a bit, Bruno is my favorite Sacha Baron Cohen character. I just find the reactions he gets out of people to be the most hilarious. Probably my favorite moment out of any Sacha Baron Cohen movie is when he has a focus group of what seem like Conservative Americans watching a homoerotic show, and then splicing in men’s penises, much to the disgust of everybody watching. I still crack up at that scene, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
The Victor: Borat
Look, I know I said I thought Bruno is the funniest character, but I have to try to be impartial here. Borat is far and away thought to be the funniest Sacha Baron Cohen character, so how can I choose anyone else?
The Final Victor: Borat
So yeah, if you were to ask me Sacha Baron Cohen’s best character, it would be a solid Bruno for me. He’s always been my favorite. But the people love Borat, so who am I to disagree? Borat is the winner. But what do you think? Any other Bruno fans out there? Sound off in the comments.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.