Only 91 Percent? Castro Does Better.

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The government of Kazakhstan is not amused by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character, a bumbling, bigoted, ostensibly Kazakh reporter who stars in the upcoming movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. When the Kazakh government threatened legal action over Borat's hosting of the MTV Europe Music Awards last fall, Cohen as Borat replied that he "fully supported my government's decision to sue this Jew" and rose to the defense of his country: "Since the 2003 Tulyakov reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel inside of bus. Homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats. And age of consent has been raised to 8 years old."

Such generic jokes could fit just about any country with a reputation for backwardness, of course. Cohen—whose Borat seems to hail from some benighted Eastern European country (Albania?), as opposed to Central Asia—probably picked Kazakhstan mainly because it was unfamiliar to his audience and had a funny-sounding name. But a New York Times story about this week's visit to Washington by Kazakh President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev reveals the potential for mocking the country in a better-informed manner:

Independent surveys of voters leaving the polls showed [Nazarbayev] winning re-election handily last December, with a vote as high as 82 percent, compared with the official result of 91 percent….Mr. Nazarbayev's opponents said the government's need to pad what would have been a clear victory anyway highlighted a growing trend toward authoritarianism…

One [opposition leader], Zamanbek N. Nurkadilov, was found shot three times, once in the head, last November. His death was subsequently declared a suicide.

My appreciation of Cohen's Da Ali G Show is here.

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  1. I saw a movie one time, where a guy was in a shootout and desperately didn’t want to be taken alive, so he saved a bullet for himself. After being shot several times by his sworn enemies, he finally deemed his situation hopeless, and ate his own bullet. Suicide, but shot several times.

    I seem to recall this happening to that Foster’s beer guy back in the nineties as well. Except instead of being shot several times by his sworn enemies putting him into the mindframe for killing himself, it was a playful tickling by a less than desirable woman named Hillary.

  2. I can’t comment about Cohen’s Borat movie since I have not seen it, but his characters on the tv show aren’t the real fools. The real fools are the people he interviews. They are dumb enough or think themselves to be so culturally sensitive that they take the idiot interviewing them to be real. He makes me laugh by acting as outrageous as he can while self-important dumbasses answer his silly questions.

    I remember hearing a commentor on NPR a few years ago who was offended by Ali G’s lampoon of black stereotypes. She was thought his schtick was racist. She never got the joke. She focused on Ali G rather than his victims. The Kazakhs are falling prey to the same faulty appreciation. To give them a little credit, of course they have little chance to put his routine into context.

  3. “shot three times”

    yeaaaaaah, suicide

  4. They never learn. You would think that by this time there would be someone in the Kazakhstani inner circle sophisticated enough to point out to Nursultan and his cronies that their actions and outrage against Sacha Cohen are completely self-defeating. But most of those sophisticates are now out of the inner circle, or dead. This is fairly typical of Kazakhstan and many other nations trying to emulate the West on the surface – the authoritarian leaders send their bright people abroad to learn how the West works, but then are usually informed by the new cosmopolitans that they themselves are a large part of the country’s problem, which can never be very welcome news. Ironically Nazarbaev’s thuggish condemnations will probably turn “Borat” into a symbol of resistance for Kazakhstani dissidents which is something I’m sure Cohen never imagined.

  5. he’s the andy kaufman of our time. lol

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