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’s finale, from those who leave with their reputations intact, to those who … do not.
Honorable Mention: Sarah Palin
Though she wasn’t actually in Sunday’s finale — or any episode of Who Is America — Sarah Palin was listed in the credits as “Special Publicity Consultant (Inadvertent),” because she raised such a stink about an interview she gave to Baron Cohen’s Billy Wayne Ruddick character. Presumably the footage wasn’t strong enough to make the cut, so Palin got all worked up — and likely boosted the show’s ratings — for nothing.
4. Barney Frank
Former congressman Barney Frank has always been a brook-no-bullshit kind of guy, so it’s no surprise that he broke the typical liberal mold on Who Is America and just walked away from his interview with Billy Wayne Ruddick. At first, he slightly humors Ruddick’s “proof” of a liberal child-sex ring and his insistence that the “grab them by the pussy” Trump tape was doctored. “You seem to be extremely on edge,” he half-jokes to Ruddick, but when he realizes that it’s just a waste of his time — since they won’t be having a reasonable discussion — he heads out. He’s a sounding board for some reasonably funny jabs at the notion that conservatives will believe any conspiracy theory, but that notion got much less funny later in the show.
3. O.J. Simpson
It’s pretty clear from Gio Monaldo’s questions that Sacha Baron Cohen badly wanted to trick O.J. Simpson into admitting his guilt in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend. Did Baron Cohen not realize that Simpson pretty much already made a detailed confession in the book If I Did It? At this point, it would be pretty hard to make Simpson look much worse than he already does, since he’s essentially a pariah who spent much of the last decade in jail. Is it any surprise that he laughs at Monaldo’s repeated insinuations that he killed Nicole Brown? Is he supposed to get indignant at this point, after years of denying involvement? At least he feigns a tiny bit of offense, laughingly telling Monaldo to stop, and saying “I didn’t kill anybody.” (“I didn’t either!” Monaldo shouts back.) Still, it was a funny setup to have Monaldo’s girlfriend turn into an excited murder fan when she finally realized who Simpson was.
2. Darren and Cody
Darren and Cody both looked fully dejected when Lt. Erran Morad told them that they weren’t being chosen to join his secret anti-antifa mission, an honor that went to their new friend Glenn. But after seeing tonight’s episode, they’ll realize that they dodged a bullet. Still, Darren and Cody were gullible enough to go along with the idea that they’d need training to camouflage themselves among the liberals at the Women’s March. I suppose it makes sense that they’d go along with learning the finer points of Girls episodes or practicing “radical lesbian phrases” like “I hate penises,” but the willingness of the hateful right to pick up fake dicks and go nuts is yet again on full display here. These guys cannot wait to violate a Donald Trump dummy with dildos, thrusting themselves and getting rape-y at the drop of a hat. Sure, they’re pre-selected for their (hopefully marginal) beliefs, but it’s still nauseating to see them so eager.
It’s one thing to, in the company of like-minded assholes, spout off hateful thoughts and beliefs, to excoriate those you disagree with by calling them names and wishing them harm. It should go without saying that it’s another thing entirely to murder strangers with whom you disagree. If we’re to believe that what we saw on Sunday’s Who Is America is an accurate depiction of what happened when Erran Morad and his accomplice Glenn visited the Women’s March in San Francisco, we ought to be very, very scared. As his Israeli soldier character, Baron Cohen convinces Glenn that the tracking devices they’ve placed on a few activists — supposedly part of a plot to chemically create transgender children — can be used to trigger an explosion just big enough to give them a heart attack. From what we see on screen, Glenn hesitates only briefly before pressing the button that he believes will cause a death. He has done no research on his own about this left-wing terror plot. He is ready for it to be true, and its lunacy doesn’t register with him. Once he presses that button, he truly believes he has killed someone, saying, “I’ve never participated in somebody’s death. I feel a little queasy.” But does that queasiness lead to a breakdown or any kind of remorse at all? No, eventually Glenn says of his supposed first day as a murderer, “It’s been a wonderful experience for me.” Does Glenn answer the show’s title question? Is he America in 2018, or is he just the fringiest of the fringe, emboldened by Trump speeches like the one shown throughout this episode? Let’s hope it’s the latter, though it’s easy to worry it’s the former. Baron Cohen, who tweeted that Who Is America is done for good after this episode, didn’t have to dig too deep to find the worst of the worst in just seven half-hour installments.