Column: Treading the fine line of comedy

Column: Treading the fine line of comedy

Racism is funny.

This may not be the message Sacha Baron Cohen intended to convey with his movie, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” but it’s the only one getting through to the confused brains of America.

Don’t worry, Boston college students, I’m not talking about you! As smart, socially-conscious undergrads living in a smart, socially-conscious city, we understand the real significance of “Borat.” This is our movie. In fact, The Los Angeles Times wrote that “Borat” is a “magnet for smart collegiate audiences the way Woody Allen and Mel Brooks films were in the late 1960s and ’70s.”

In the film, the overtly sexist and anti-Semitic Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional Kazakh journalist played by Cohen, travels to the United States to make a documentary. He and his obese producer, Azamat, drive across the country in a rundown ice cream truck. (Azamat insists they not fly “in case the Jews repeat their attack of 9/11.”)

Along his journey, Borat interviews and interacts with real Americans. Their reactions to his absurd ignorance range from extreme discomfort to amusement.

Several of those he interacts with don’t seem to mind his attitudes at all. In one scene, Borat goes to a gun store and asks the man behind the counter, “Which gun would be best to defend against the Jews?” The man thinks for a moment, then recommends either a 9mm or a .45.

Cohen, a Jew himself, has said his main goal for the movie was to expose racism and prejudices in America. He said his segments are a “dramatic demonstration of how racism feeds on dumb conformity, as much as rabid bigotry,” according to an interview on

Not everyone seems to understand this. A blog posting of a video clip of Borat singing “Throw the Jew Down the Well” at a Tucson, Ariz. country and western club (not included in the movie), received hundreds of comments. Here are a few examples:

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