Cohen, who canvassed for the GOP in his famed character, also spoke to Jimmy Kimmel about his Showtime satire series, sharing behind-the-scenes nuggets for the first time.
Sacha Baron Cohen reprised his Borat persona on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday night to support President Trump at polling sites in a wealthy area in Los Angeles and discuss Trump’s policies with the president’s supporters.
After Cohen appeared on Live! on Tuesday in order to promote his controversial Showtime show Who Is America?, host Jimmy Kimmel explained that the show had commissioned Cohen’s “friend” to go to a wealthy neighborhood and take the temperature of voters there on Trump.
“It’s up to Kazakhstan to swing the election for Premier Trump,” Cohen began his segment, in full khaki Borat regalia.
Borat began by canvassing for the GOP: A woman answered the first door he knocked on, which prompted the character to ask for the “man in the house.” When the woman responded that only she was home, Borat asked, “Is there anyone in this house that can vote?” When she told him she could, he responded, “It’s not against the law? Hm.”
Over the course of the conversation, the woman proved to be a supporter of the Trump White House’s controversial “zero-tolerance” policy that separated migrants who had entered the U.S. illegally from their parents. “It was like a camp-out,” she told Borat. “[Trump] fed them three times a day like he did his own children.” She called Trump a “humanitarian.”
At another canvassing stop, a Trump supporter corrected Borat’s use of the word “premier”: “Well, it’s President Trump,” he said. Borat pressed the man on whether Trump is a racist, but the man maintained he wasn’t. “I am a racist and it’s nice,” Cohen said. At the end of the sketch he asked to use the man’s bathroom and came out wearing just a towel and brushing his teeth.
Borat subsequently went to a polling station: “It is good to see democracy in action. Not.” Citing research that the majority of Jewish Americans vote Democrat, he laid bacon out on sidewalks and told an Orthodox man who passed by “You shall not pass.” (The man paid him no heed.)
He asked one man outside a polling site if he voted “Republican or Jew” and then asked him a question about Melania Trump’s genitals that the man refused to answer. After the sketch, Borat said, “Back to you now Jimmy, you little elitist, Hollywood-globalist Jew mouthpiece.”
Cohen’s 2006 film Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was one of three films based on characters from Cohen’s Da Ali G Show, which aired on Channel Four in Britain and HBO in the States. Though Cohen retired the character after the initial Borat film, he revived him in 2015 on Live! in order to debut the trailer for Grimsby, in which he also starred.
Cohen has long been a critic of President Trump: “The only person who would ban Muslims is someone with a brain like a female chicken,” he told Kimmel in 2015.
On Showtime’s Who Is America?, Cohen tackled American identity in the post-Trump era by duping politicians and pundits across the aisle including Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager for Trump’s 2016 campaign, former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, former Alabama Rep. Jason Spencer (who resigned after his controversial appearance), California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney.
Cohen strategically bowed out of doing any press for Who Is America? — keeping the allure of exactly how he pulled off his pranks a guessing game — and the Kimmel appearance marks his first press opportunity since the series became a hit and cultural phenomenon this summer. While Showtime has said they want a second season, a renewal has yet to be announced. Cohen was promoting Who Is America?, which debuted on DVD and on-demand on Tuesday.
Kimmel told his guest that he was a huge a fan of Who Is America? and praised Cohen for tricking politicians and others into doing “the craziest most unimaginable things,” which sparked Cohen to shed some light on some of the most memorable gags.
Speaking of the moment when he conned Cheney into signing a waterboard kit, Cohen explained his inspiration for one of his characters Col. Erran Morad, the Israeli terrorism expert who interviewed Cheney on the satire series, was his sidekick, who had real special ops experience — and Cheney fell for it. Of getting Rep. Rohrabacher to endorse a fictional program to arm young children, Cohen said the “one accurate thing” he did was calling Cohen a fraud after the fact.
Kimmel also played the notable clip of when former Rep. Spencer pulled down his pants and screamed racist epithets in one of Cohen’s segments as Col. Morad. “The amazing thing, Jimmy, is that he actually didn’t resign for 48 hours,” said Cohen. “So he not only chased me with his bare buttocks — I was pretending to be an Islamic terrorist and I convinced him that if he touched me with his buttocks he would turn me into a homosexual — but he also screamed the N-word four times, he had taken a photo up a woman in a burqa and he had bitten the end of a fake phallus off a terrorist. But he still refused to resign for 48 hours, which I quite respect.”
Cohen also revealed that when he went undercover as his liberal character, Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, to tell Kingston, Az. citizens that he was going to build a mosque in their town, he was actually armed with a bodyguard and a bulletproof clipboard, since many of the citizens would likely be carrying. “I said, ‘Ok that’s great but if they pull out the gun, do I put it over my heart or over my head?’ And he said, ‘I haven’t worked that bit out.’ So I’m imagining if I could cover my head over my heart and somehow protect my groin as well.”
The final interview of the 10-episode series saw Cohen secretly filming and interviewing O.J. Simpson in character as fashion photographer Gio Monaldo. “I was trying to get him to confess to the alleged murders — which was ambitious,” Cohen admits, with a laugh. “I actually trained a little bit with one of the top FBI interrogators, not very successfully because I didn’t get O.J. to confess.”
Jackie Strause contributed to this story.