Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I can't believe it's not Kazahkstan

More evidence that the irony has died, satire is hooked up to a morphine drip, and comedy itself is closing in on its final laugh is the report that GDub will be hosting talks at the White House with Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan. The topic of this discussion? British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, creator of Ali G and Kazakh tv presenter Borat, due to Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhstan in his newest film.

While the Kazakh government is, supposedly, at least partially aware that Borat is a satirical creation, and that the character and the film are really more about exposing problems within the US and the UK, they dislike the film enough to want to meet with the Decider and attempt to get the message out about the real Kazakhstan. A spokesman for Kazakh has said that he doesn't believe that GDub and Nazarbayev will find the film funny. One can't help but agree, because Nazarbayev will not find the humor in a caricature of the Kazakhstani people, and GDub simply won't understand anything that's a couple of steps over a fart joke.

With the war in Iraq still facing severe criticism, the GOP in danger of losing the power they hold in the branches of government, and GDub showing lower approval than just about everyone whose last name isn't Couric or Federline, one has to wonder if it's really wise for the President to step into a controversy over a character and a nation that character supposedly hails from. And the Kazakh government could definitely choose a better candidate to help put a new glossy sheen on their image.

Either way, this is definitely a case of blowing things way out of proportion. After all, Cohen is simply making this character live so that he can joke about events he sees in the world. In a lot of ways, this makes Cohen no different than Larry the Cable Guy (although, in Cohen's defense, he's actually funny). And yes, "Borat" has been guilty of anti-Semitic statements. Generally while staying firmly in character, and generally those statements are directed at Cohen himself. It reminds me of a couple of things said by George Carlin. First, when talking about language, Carlin pointed out that there are no such thing as bad words, but that it's merely the context of the words and the intentions behind the person speaking them that provides their potentially offensive content. Secondly, Carlin pointed out that you can joke about anything, so long as the exaggeration is big enough.

Unfortunately, this particular event is going to be so ridiculous that it's going to be hard to make a joke that's funnier than the reality of the situation. All we can hope now is that GDub doesn't ask Nazarbayev where his horse-drawn car is.

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