King of comedy Sacha Baron Cohen turns 40 today and what better way to celebrate his birthday than by watching a selection of clips so funny they'll have you spluttering lunch all over your keyboard...
The name on Cohen's birth certificate says Sacha Noam Baron Cohen but this west London-born actor is much, much more famous – and more than a little infamous in some parts of the world – for his roles as Staines rudeboy Ali G, bumbling, anti-semitic Kazakh reporter Borat, and Austrian gay TV presenter Brüno.
Cohen's hilarious, nerve-touching potrayals come from a razor-sharp mind. He was educated at Cambridge University and studied under Philippe Gaulier at his famous theatre school, Ecole Philippe Gaulier. And since his early roles on British telly in the mid 90s, he's been nominated for Oscars, Emmys, BAFTAs, a Golden Globe for Best Actor (for his role in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan), and has been awarded the highest accolade of all – a role in The Simpsons as an Israeli tour guide.
His stock is still rising, too. But with his characters world famous and unmasked, Baron Cohen has had to change tack, something he's doing very smoothly indeed. He's guest-starred in Curb Your Enthusiasm; he's set to star as Freddie Mercury in Queen biopic A Kind of Magic; and he's got a role in Martin Scorcese project, Hugo.
His future looks bright, but let's concentrate on his past for now...
In your face, Eminem
After the success of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Baron Cohen's name was big business in the US. So much so that when he made a film about his flamboyantly gay fashion show presenter Brüno he was able to nab the hosting slot at the MTV Movie Awards 2009.
After years of Eminem regaling us with bum and fart gags, Baron Cohen turned the tables and landed on the newly-sensitive Detroit rapper from a great height and rubbed his own arse in Eminem's face. It's still up for debate whether he was actually involved in the stunt or not...
Is Disneyland a member of the UN?
Baron Cohen's Ali G has interviewed such luminaries as Buzz Aldrin, Gore Vidal, Donald Trump and Noam Chomsky. But one of his finest moments was charming the pants off former Secretary-General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. As well as asking the immortal question, Is Disneyland a member of the UN?, Ali G encouraged Boutros-Ghali to ridicule the French with an impression of Pepé Le Pew.
Explaining the success of Ali G to the New York Times a few years ago, Baron Cohen said this: 'It's a pretty simple joke, which is why even some kids get it. Essentially you have two people who look totally different -- one guy dressed in an absurd yellow jumpsuit, and the other guys dressed in a suit. They're speaking in different ways, with different body language and totally different levels of intelligence.'
To that he added: 'Boutros Boutros-Ghali kept on telling me he used to be a bit of a bully in school, and he used to muck around. They want Ali G's approval. They're in the room with a total idiot, and yet they're seeking his approval. As if it somehow makes them cooler.'
Bit of a different vibe to Parkinson, innit
Victoria 'Posh Spice' Beckham comes out of her meeting with Ali G remarkably well given how lewd his questions are throughout this feature filmed for Comic Relief many moons ago...
Wine up your body
Introducing Borat Sagdiyev, the intensely anti-semitic news reporter from Kazakhstan. Years before making the hugely successful film in which he travelled across the US in an ice cream truck with the aim of meeting Pamela Anderson, Borat was already poking fun at Americans. That Baron Cohen managed to stay in character during the entirety of this wine tasting scene makes it even more remarkable.
'That was the thing, because I have to keep in character. So they started pouring normal glasses. And I said. ''What are you doing? I am not a little girl! Fill it up! I drink vodka!'' They started filling them to the top. ''More, more, more!'' And I think I downed about 21 or 22 glasses of wine in an hour to try and convince them. And I'm not a big drinker at the best of times. I'm almost a teetotaler. I went to the toilet, totally passed out, and they all came in. My director was really scared that I'd wake up and go, ''Allo! What's going on here? Allo,'' that I'd come up as Sacha Baron Cohen and just say hello. But luckily I opened me eyes, went, ''I want more wine!'' I woke up in character!'
Brüno: heart and soul of the P-A-R-T-Y
Two of Brüno's finest (and most terrifying) moments. Just wait for the golden moment when he asks his subjects to say hello to all the gay people back in Austria...
- More film on redbull.com
- Fellow birthday boy, Paul Simon
- When actors play musicians
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