Comedian-actor Sacha Baron Cohen is retiring two characters that made him famous—and notorious.
He has announced that he will no longer portray the characters of Borat Sagdiyev, a fictional Kazakh journalist notable for his amazing ignorance, anti-semitism, lack of respect for women, and overall vulgarity, and Ali G, a young English yobbo version of the same character.
"I am never going to play them again," he told the London Daily Telegraph.
Cohen said he greatly enjoyed portraying the characters but he noted that their increasing popularity made it difficult for hiim to find victims for his humor—which was based on ambushing real people who did not realize that the characters were fictional, and recording their reactions.
Cohen has enjoyed increasing prominence as comic villains in larger-budget theatrical films, appearing as a comic French race car driver in Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (in which he purveys possibly the worst fake French accent of all time) and as barber Signor Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, which opens in U.S. theaters today.
Unlike the many critics who have seen Cohen’s two main characters as socially siignificant, either approvingly or disapprovingly, and have discussed them with often absurd seriousness, I don’t think the characters really do anything particularly important except make us laugh—which I consider quite valuable enough. The real lesson to be gleaned from the success of Cohen’s characters is simply additional confirmation of the obvious fact that everybody finds stupidity funny.