You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sacha Baron Cohen first made fun of Donald Trump on “Da Ali G Show,” despite not thinking he would ever enter the political arena again, Cohen reveals that Trump’s presidency is exactly what inspired his most recent satirical series “Who Is America?”

“Under Obama, there was no motivation to do it,” Cohen told Don Cheadle during their Actors on Actors interview.  “I thought I would never do this kind of undercover stuff again, because it’s exhausting. It’s terrifying for me. It’s occasionally dangerous. And then Trump gets in, and I immediately felt disappointed and angry. This was a guy who I’d had no respect for. I’d interviewed him as Ali G. And in ‘Borat,’ I defecated in front of Trump Tower.”

Despite his anger, Cohen said he channeled his feelings through humor, feeling a responsibility to make a political statement as the implications of the 2016 election began to unfold. “That guy becomes the president? And he gets to be the president through adopting these despicable views that were so reprehensible that everyone dismissed him,” the comedian said. “People felt powerless. I thought, I have to do something with this anger and frustration.”

While Cohen’s work is known for its provocation, he did admit that he’s cognizant of how his words effect others, something he’s been forced to become more aware of after criticism for his non-PC humor. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but I want to see people’s real thoughts,” he said. “I’m provoking them sometimes to see the effect of this new political culture that we’re in.”

He also noted that despite its contemporary nature, the series’ themes are tied to much bigger political ideologies than what’s in the headlines today. “It’s not just Trump. We’re in the biggest revolution that’s happened in the history of civilization,” he said. “We are in the Internet age. It’s bigger than the Industrial Revolution. It’s transformed the way people think; no one knows what facts are anymore. It allows people who are spreading lies to actually seem like they’re legitimate.”

His passion on the subject came through in the conversation as he continued to criticize the President for his Twitter thumbs and racism. “Trump without Twitter probably would not have become president, which is why Jack Dorsey is in the White House, having a meeting with Trump,” he said. “He’s sitting across the president, who’s actually the biggest celebrity endorser of his corporation. And Jack Dorsey and Twitter cannot implement any restrictions against white supremacists or racists.”

He continued, “We’re living in a dangerous society right now. We’re living in a society where the space that we grew up in — which is the idea that society is getting better, where people are equal despite their differences — that concept is being disintegrated. Democracy is being disintegrated, and that’s terrifying to me.”

“Actors on Actors” will air on PBS June 18th and 20th.

Popular on Variety

More The Contenders

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek's' Catherine O'Hara Takes Us Inside Moira Rose's Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch in CBS’ “Schitt’s Creek”  has become a cast-favorite in the Canadian sitcom – not only because of her outrageous one-liners and superfluous outfits but perhaps most of all because of the countless vibrant wigs she dons in every episode. For Variety‘s Artisans series, Catherine O’Hara, who plays Rose in the [...]

  • A Night in the Writer's Room

    Comedy Showrunners on the Impact of the WGA Staffing Boost

    Variety‘s Michael Schneider sat down with writer’s from “Forever,” “The Other Two,” “Vida,” “Atypical,” “Insecure,” “Broad City,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Dead to Me” and “Pen15” for Variety‘s “Night in the Writers’ Room” comedy panel. The panelists began by discussing the trend of blurred lines between comedy on drama in television. “Pen15” writer Maya Erskine shared [...]

  • A Night in the Writer's Room

    Showrunners on the Realities of Writing: ‘It’s A Continual Cycle of Panic and Fear, It’s Super Fun’

    The creators and showrunners from “Good Girls,” “Homecoming,” “Catch-22,” “You,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Chi,” “Ozark,” and “Star Trek: Discovery” for Variety‘s Writer’s Room panel. The scribes kicked off the talk about what aspects of their shows narratives prompt the most discussion in the room. “Good Girls” writer Jenna Bans jumped in and immediately said [...]

Most Popular

Access exclusive content