Entertainment

Everything We Know About Sacha Baron Cohen's Wild New Show

sacha baron cohen who is america
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Way back in 2003, Sacha Baron Cohen interviewed Donald Trump on Da Ali G Show and pitched him on the idea of "ice cream gloves." Because time is a flat circle and nothing makes sense, 15 years later Trump is president and Baron Cohen is returning to TV. And guess what? He's already brewing up a shit storm, having duped a bunch of conservative pundits and the MAGA set like Sarah Palin, who started preemptively voicing their grievances with the comedian before the show's Sunday premiere.

What's Sacha Baron Cohen's new show? 

Showtime officially announced on Monday that it would premiere Baron Cohen's new series Who Is America? on Sunday, July 15. According to their press release, Baron Cohen has been surreptitiously working on the project over the past year, and a very polite-sounding synopsis explained that "the seven-episode series will explore the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our unique nation." The details that have emerged since then sound a lot more gonzo -- and a lot more typically Baron Cohen, who has exposed bigotry in the past by getting a bar full of people to gleefully clap along to an anti-Semitic song.

Who's going to be featured? 

Baron Cohen himself teased the series on a couple wild notes. On July 4, he tweeted a video that basically insinuated he was "graduating soon" from Trump University. Then on Monday, he posted a clip to his Instagram account of former Vice President Dick Cheney obliging when an accented-voice (Baron Cohen's, naturally) asks him to sign a waterboard kit. So yeah, Cheney will be there. As will Sarah Palin. John McCain's 2008 running mate wrote a lengthy note on Facebook explaining how Baron Cohen had tricked her into sitting for an interview.

"For my interview, my daughter and I were asked to travel across the country where Cohen (I presume) had heavily disguised himself as a disabled US Veteran, fake wheelchair and all," Palin's statement reads. "Out of respect for what I was led to believe would be a thoughtful discussion with someone who had served in uniform, I sat through a long 'interview' full of Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm -- but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out, much to Cohen’s chagrin."

Since Palin revealed her involvement, others -- mostly conservative figureheads -- have come out of the woodwork to say Baron Cohen got them too. Former Republican congressman and talk radio host Joe Walsh wrote on Twitter that Baron Cohen's team invited him "to a pro-Israel dinner that honored defenders of Israel" upon the 70th anniversary of the country. Promise of a prize for Israel support is also how Baron Cohen roped in Roy Moore, the Alabama judge who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz also seems to have been contacted about Israel, but he only seemed to realize that he talked to a Baron Cohen creation after speaking to The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, Ted Koppel told The Hollywood Reporterthat he had an encounter with the actor regarding inauguration attendance numbers, but never signed a release. And in an interview with far-right website Breitbart, Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff known for aggressively (read: racist) policing the border and devising the concentration camp-like holding center Tent City, admitted that he, too, had been approached to sit down with a famous Swedish comedian and talk show host to be profiled as one of the "20 most popular people in America."

Who are Baron Cohen's characters? 

It doesn't seem, at least for now, that the likes of Ali G, Borat, or Brüno are going to make the returns. (After all, they are pretty recognizable at this point.) Instead we'll probably have Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., PhD, who, in a tweet with the MAGA hashtag, billed himself as the "founder/ceo/accountant" of a website called Truthbrary.org. (Truthbrary.org does actually exist and it's filled with conspiracy theories.) In a note addressed to Palin, Ruddick said that he never claimed to be a veteran. "I was in the service -- not military, but United Parcel, and I only fought for my country once -- when I shot a Mexican who came onto my property," he wrote. Way back in August 2017, an Augusta, Georgia news channel reported that local conservative talk radio host Austin Rhodes had an encounter with a "Dr. Nira Cain" who appeared to be a "left-wing college professor from Portland, Oregon with long hair and wearing a peasant shirt." Rhodes recently told The Hollywood Reporter that Cain was coming for a program called Bridging the Divide. Koppel, however, found himself in contact with a man in a wheelchair "with an oxygen tank hanging off one of the handles."

So when can you watch this all go down? 

If you want to stream Who Is America?, you can do so at midnight on Sunday, July 15 EST/Saturday, July 14 9 p.m. PST. After that, it will air Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.