Grammatically challenged homeboy Ali G. Roving Kazakh reporter Borat. Gay Austrian fashionista Brüno. These hilariously broad, gloriously un-PC characters are the brainchildren of Britain-born Jewish writer and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. A soft-spoken, surprisingly handsome man in real life, this Cambridge-educated satirist introduced his signature alter ego, Ali G, on the British comedy series The 11 O'Clock Show
in 1998. A stunningly misinformed "hip-hop journalist," Ali G conducted riotously inane interviews with unsuspecting public figures who believed they were talking to a real person. The gimmick proved so popular that Cohen earned his own series in England, Da Ali G Show
, in 2000 and launched an American incarnation of the show on HBO in 2003, where his victims included Newt Gingrich, Ralph Nader, Andy Rooney and Gore Vidal. Cohen also introduced two other "journalists," Brüno and Borat, on these series. While Brüno's primary function seemed to be to make homophobes squirm, Borat managed to upset a number of different groups. Although Cohen caught some flak for Ali G — critics claimed the character was racist because he was a white boy acting "black" — Borat angered entire nations. The government of Kazakhstan, Borat's homeland, publicly objected to his character: a mustachioed misogynist and anti-Semite who liked to lead Americans in rousing choruses of "Throw the Jew Down the Well." And in 2005, under the guise of shooting a documentary, Cohen as Borat almost caused a riot when he said to the audience at a Virginia rodeo, "may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq," followed by a butchered rendition of the American national anthem. But Cohen's fans adored his in-character shenanigans. Indeed, Cohen often refused to appear as himself, preferring to travel the talk-show circuit as one of his alter egos, even hosting the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2005 as Borat. In 2006, Cohen became a bona-fide film star, winning a Golden Globe for his turn as Borat on the big screen in the smash hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
. His screenplay for the film was also honored with an Oscar nod. While his follow-up film, 2009's Brüno
, failed to garner any Oscar nominations, it did once again bring Cohen controversy. While promoting the film at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, he did a stunt dressed as Brüno and appeared to seriously offend Eminem. Days later, Eminem admitted to being a willing participant in the gag. After the film was released, Cohen was sued by a Palestinian man who claimed he was falsely portrayed as a terrorist in the movie. Always up for a joke involving costumes, Cohen planned to appear as an Avatar
character at the 2010 Oscars, but the show's producer nixed the spoof out of concern that it might offend director James Cameron. Off-screen, he's taken on the roles of husband and father, and his 2010 wedding to actress Isla Fisher in no way resembled one of his elaborate stunts. In contrast, it was a very private, traditional Jewish ceremony with only six guests in attendance.Sacha Baron Cohen Fast Facts:
- Spent a year in between high school and college living on a kibbutz in Israel.
- Introduced the character of wannabe rapper-journalist Ali G on British TV comedy series The Eleven O'Clock Show in 1998, which eventually led to his Da Ali G Show.
- Appeared in Madonna's video for "Music" in 2001.
- Won BAFTA Awards for Best Comedy (Programme or Series) and Best Comedy Performance for Da Ali G Show in 2001.
- Gave a precommencement address to Harvard University's class of 2004 in character as Ali G.
- Crashed several fashions shows in 2008 while in character as Brüno.
- At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, he appeared as a scantily clad Bruno and did an aerial stunt in which he landed on Eminem, who angrily left the building. Following days of speculation, Eminem admitted it was a gag they were both in on.
- In 2009, he was sued by a Palestinian man who claimed he was falsely portrayed as a terrorist in the movie Brüno; the man refiled the lawsuit in 2010.
- An Avatar spoof he planned for the 2010 Oscars was cut by the show's producer in order to avoid potentially offending James Cameron.
- After a six-year engagement, he wed actress Isla Fisher in a very private, traditional Jewish ceremony: only six guests were in attendance at their March 2010 nuptials in Paris.
- Often appears on talk shows in character.
- Sacha Baron Cohen Relationships:
- Elula Lottie Miriam Cohen - Daughter
- Amnon Baron Cohen - Brother
- Isla Fisher - Wife
- Erran Baron Cohen - Brother
- Gerald Baron Cohen - Father
- Simon Baron Cohen - Cousin
- Olive - Daughter
- Daniella Baron Cohen - Mother
- Sacha Baron Cohen Awards:
- 2005 Emmy: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series - Nominee
- 2007 Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - Winner
- 2003 Emmy: Outstanding Nonfiction Program (Alternative) - Nominee
- 2005 Emmy: Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program - Nominee
- 2003 Emmy: Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming - Nominee
- 2006 Oscar: Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Nominee
- 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture - Nominee
- University of Cambridge, Christ's College, Cambridge, England (MA in History, 1993)