No one comes out of a Sacha Baron Cohen show looking good. Your mere presence on Showtime’s Who Is America? means you’ve already been duped by a guy in a costume. It’s an impossible game to win, but some guests make it out relatively unscathed by refusing to play along.
The people who look the worst on Who Is America? tend to look that way because they are the worst — egged on by Baron Cohen’s characters, they reveal their own deeply held, morally repugnant beliefs. Or, just as bad, they reveal that they’re willing to say morally repugnant things in order to be on television. Here is a ranking of all the guests in Who Is America? episode three, from those who leave with their reputations intact, to those who … do not.
5. Ness Lee
For just one second, Ness Lee actually seems irritated by the cadence and rhyme-challenged rap style of Sacha Baron Cohen’s milquetoast liberal snowflake character, Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello. But it turns out the Atlanta battle rapper is just waiting to deliver another crushing blow to an opponent who never had a chance. And when Cain-N’Degeocello manages to conjure up something halfway resembling an actual diss — “You talk, uh, in bragging terms about the size of your phallus/I believe the inverse is true/I, myself, am ashamed that I have a larger phallus than you” — Ness Lee and the crowd at the Music Room offer up nothing but love in return. Perhaps a divide was actually healed in this stress-free segment?
4. Bone Crusher
The other Atlanta rapper in this episode was mostly content to just roll his eyes at Cain-N’Degeocello, and to kick back — bemused but chill — while his fellow interviewee got more and more worked up. You can’t blame him for getting wide-eyed when Cain-N’Degeocello talked about a particular thrusting motion.
3. Roy Moore
Roy Moore looks bad just by virtue of the fact that he’s Roy Moore, the disgraced-yet-unashamed former Senate candidate from Alabama who was accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls. (And who was still fully endorsed by Donald Trump, and who lost by a shockingly slim margin for an accused pedophile.) But there wasn’t a ton to disgrace him any further during his interview with Baron Cohen’s Erran Morad, the Israeli commando. Moore mostly acted as a prop here, with Morad getting him to deliver such hilarious but empty lines as “Alabama has always been a place for equality.” Moore clearly sees where Morad is headed with his pedophile-detecting technology, and he’s not having any of it. If he had seemed more scared of the pedo-wand, it would have been more effective, but he only seemed indignant, and maybe even aware that he was being pranked. Also, Moore has made himself look way worse on TV on a regular basis in recent years, which makes this appearance far less effective.
2. Chip Limehouse
Chip Limehouse, a former Republican State representative from South Carolina, wasn’t having it practically from the start of his and Bone Crusher’s joint “Heal the Divide” interview. Granted, the Cain-N’Degeocello character is deliberately off-putting, but instead of trying to be polite, Limehouse just gets more and more agitated. He scoots his chair away at the mention of gay sex, and condescendingly pats Bone Crusher on the shoulder and defends his right to be called black (rather than Cain-N’Degeocello’s preferred “Afro-marginalized”). His true, prickly colors jump out even further when he claims to have three doctorates — which sounds like something Cain-N’Degeocello would say. Unlike the worst Who Is America? guests, he doesn’t reveal himself to be a blatant racist, but he is clearly a blatant asshole.
1. The Quinceañera Commandos
What are old white conservatives so petrified of, and how did they get so ignorant and gullible? In a stunt that feels inspired by the Nathan for You playbook — Nathan Fielder is credited as a consulting producer on Who Is America? — Baron Cohen recruited three potential commandos to bait and then trap undocumented immigrants. That all three of these truly scary (and scared) candidates go along with everything they did speaks volumes about their sense of blind allegiance: Whatever scenario confirms their worldview, no matter how insane it might seem, is to be embraced without hesitation or analysis. If that means wearing a fake vagina and drugging immigrants, well … a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to make America great again.
It would be funnier if it weren’t so frightening: Each of these three guys is immediately willing — eager, even — to conflate the innocent idea of a quinceañera with the rape of 15-year-olds, simply because the traditional party is outside of their culture. It’s hard to decide which of the three is scariest, but let’s hand it to Joe — chairman of something called Citizens for Refugee Resettlement — who, when asked what they needed to use as “bait” for immigrants, said, “Pussy, pussy, young girls, pussy.” He also describes Morad’s fake vagina as “dry, but I get the idea.” (If there’s a wall to be built, maybe it should be around this guy’s house.)
But let’s not forget about John, listed only as “Trump supporter,” whose desperate need to protect America from its imaginary enemies leads him to dress as the 15-year-old girl, complete with pink party dress, wig, and, yes, fake genitals. (If the cops showed up on their own, great, but hopefully they were part of Cohen’s vision for this occasion.) Maybe John, Jack, and Joe will see this episode and take some time to reflect on what fractured state of mind led them to be duped into participating in a fake quinceañera featuring a rubber vagina and Rohypnol-laced guacamole. Could there be a lower, more embarrassing point from which to try to gain some perspective?