The Unbearable Lightness of Borat

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Not since Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd portrayed the "wild and crazy" Czechoslovakian Festrunk brothers has an East Bloc country been so cheerfully maligned by a Western comic as Sacha "Ali G" Cohen has done with his character Borat Sagdiyev, the "second-string Kazakh journalist and sixth-most-famous man in Kazakhstan," he of the famous song, "Throw the Jew down the well so my country can be free!"

Now, it seems, the Kazakh government can stands no more—Borat's website, www.borat.kz, has been shut down by the humor-impaired Kazakhocrats.

[A] document obtained by the International Herald Tribune indicated that the [Association of IT Companies of Kazakhstan] received two complaints in December from the government and the security service for Kazakhstan's president, which accused the borat.kz Web site of besmirching the "international image of Kazakhstan." They also asserted that the Web page had been registered by a nonresident of the country with the aims of "unconscientious usage." […]

Cohen riled Kazakh government officials last month when he was host of the MTV Europe awards in Lisbon. He was accompanied by a rumpled group of low-kicking performers, who milled below a giant sign: "Official Kazakhstan Government Dancers." By the time the show ended, he had introduced a one-eyed, drunken Kazakh pilot, insulted Uzbekistan and showered Madonna with effusive praise: "That singer before me. Who was it? It was very courageous of MTV to start the show with a genuine transvestite. He was very convincing."

Foreign Minisry Spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev told the IHT that "Cohen comes up with these ridiculous jokes that some people may take for truth." Borat's rebuttal?

In response to Mr. Ashikbayev's comments, I like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen. I support my government's decision to sue this Jew.

Whole funny story here. Borat's website viewable here. Website of the proud nation of Molvania here. IHT editorial on how the recent Kazakh elections were "a sad commentary on the plight of democracy in Central Asia" here.

And for you Czechoslovak trivia buffs out there: Aykroyd and Martin actually spoke real Slovak in some of those skits; "Borat" was the mid-1990s name of a popular rock club in Prague, and the character's greeting of "Jagshemash!", as proud Czech friends reminded me this week, is a near-phonetic rendering of the Czech way of saying how are you?

NEXT: The Bitch Is Back

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  1. Wow, that’s just… wow.
    Just when I start to think that we’ve forsaken everything we once held dear, something like this comes along and I remember what it truly is that makes this country great.

  2. The other day I was talking to my wife about how my expanding midsection had made my once-comfy pants not so anymore. I told her now I could at least “swing successfully in tight slacks.” She didn’t know what I was talking about. The disappointment still stings.

  3. Just when I start to think that we’ve forsaken everything we once held dear, something like this comes along and I remember what it truly is that makes this country great.

    That’s why they call it “Great” Britain.

  4. You know.. you American girls have such big breasts all the time.

  5. Wawawewa! Great success!

  6. Cant remember the last time I read something online that made me burst out laughing like Cohens rebuttal. Damn funny.

  7. “Throw the Jews…” was a funny song but, more important, is perhaps the most brilliant singalong ever put on film.

  8. the best part is the one guy in the crowd smoking a cigarette who pulls his hat down a little bit and looks ashamed on behalf of everyone else whose shame had fled that particular honky tonk.

  9. Borat’s response to the threatened lawsuit was genius, but who else missed Borat calling Madonna a transvestite? Now *that’s* genius.

    Genqui!

  10. [Three complaints were filed about the MTV show with Ofcom]

    Kazakhstan is backward and overly sensitive? Hell, that’s three times the number of complaints it takes in the U.S. to censor an idiotic sitcom.

  11. I recently heard a great quote that applies well here:

    “You’d care much less about what people think of you if you realized how rarely they do.”

  12. Kazakhstan is backward and overly sensitive? Hell, that’s three times the number of complaints it takes in the U.S. to censor an idiotic sitcom.

    My guess is that Kazakh activists haven’t discovered the art of astroturfing campaigns.

  13. “In response to Mr. Ashikbayev’s comments, I like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen. I support my government’s decision to sue this Jew.”

    This had me laughing so hard that I am now quite literally light-headed.

    My boss wanted to know what’s so funny.

  14. Mediageek-
    What’s even better is that a few weeks ago, a Kazakh spokesman actually said something to the effect that “We believe Mr Cohen may be working on behalf of CERTAIN INTEREST GROUPS [emphasis mine] to make our country look bad”. Stand back from your computer and squint just right, and I think that says “Throw the Jew down the well!”

  15. OT, but mediageek, I was lurking over at grylliade’s site the other day, and I appreciated that you posted this link:

    http://www.zefrank.com/punc/

    I also liked:

    1) How to impress your date:

    http://www.zefrank.com/date_1/navigation.html

    2) Pre-date confidence-boosters (geared toward women):

    http://www.zefrank.com/predate/index2.html

    3)The site owner’s cat is taunted by a bird:

    http://www.zefrank.com/naughtybird/

    4) A fan of that site asked the site owner to install a “panic button” on the homepage so that if her (the fan’s) boss comes up behind her, the site will display a page that makes it look like she’s doing serious research. The page displayed:

    http://www.zefrank.com/panic/panic2.html

    The panic button can be found in the upper right area of the site homepage at http://www.zefrank.com . CAUTION! Do NOT accidentally push the button BENEATH the panic button instead, which will cause this page to display:

    http://www.zefrank.com/panic/panic_bad/index.html

    Thanks, mediageek!

  16. That was great! And extra credit for humor at this thug government’s expense!

    Not since Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd portrayed the “wild and crazy” Czechoslovakian Festrunk brothers…

    Off topic, but I always thought that Loraine Newman was hot. Or, as we said in the parlance of the day- “foxy”. What ever, she was cute cute cute. And FWIW, I thought that she looked better before her nose job.

  17. You know, Laraine Newman was kinda hot. Not in an obvious or facile way, but more like the way that Vicki Lewis, and sometimes Kathy Griffin, are hot.

  18. Natt, your proud Czech friends are insane. Borat is clearly speaking Polish (badly)- “jak sie masz?” He also often says “dzienkuje” for thank-you, also Polish. (In fact there is, or was until recently, a small Polish speaking minority in Kazakhstan, dumped there by Stalin. But I assume Cohen doesn’t know this).

    The Borat character is different from the old SNL guys because the original intention was clearly to mock Americans, not Kazakhs. The humor mostly derives from a guy running around spewing ridiculous stereotypical nonsense, speaking the wrong language, who is even ethnically wrong (ethnic Kazakhs look Asian, and Borat is Turkish/Kazakh name) yet Americans are too ignorant about the world to call him on all his B/S, and they even enthusiastically embrace the worst of it (the anti semitism). Leave it to the idiots in the Kazakh government to miss the point and add yet another layer of humor to the whole thing.

    Yes, Larraine Newman was the sexiest of the original cast. Would you want to sleep with Gilda Radner?

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