Sacha Baron Cohen’s New Show Is So Much Darker Than You Think

Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

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Washington has been buzzing for a week about the upcoming new Showtime series by Sacha Baron Cohen, Who is America? after news leaked that the Borat star had tricked a host of politicos from Dick Cheney to Sarah Palin into appearing on the show. On Sunday, Showtime released an extensive clip from the forthcoming series, and if it’s any indication of what the rest of the series will be like, it’s a lot darker even than advertised.
In the 10-minute clip, Cohen masquerades as an Israeli anti-terrorist expert hoping to convince Congress to embrace a program designed to arm kindergarten students to defend against mass school shooters:

Among those he recruits to support the program is Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby group that’s more extreme even than the National Rifle Association.
On the show, Pratt buys in to the idea of arming children, which perhaps isn’t surprising. What is surprising is his belly-laughing response to a joke from Cohen, who tells Pratt that his wife, who has a gun, shot him in bed in the middle of the night because he got “horny.”
“But it’s not rape if it’s your wife, right?” Cohen tells Pratt knowingly, before reaching over and shaking his hand as Pratt laughs hysterically.
“That probably won’t be on the video we send to the Hill, right?” Pratt asks. Once Cohen says no, Pratt busts out laughing some more, red in the face, clearly enjoying the joke. Afterwards, he offers to help Cohen make contacts with members of Congress to promote the armed kindergartners program.
The provocative sizzle reel is making the rounds today, and it’s already eliciting strong reactions on Twitter. Here’s Shannon Watts, founder of anti-gun-violence group Moms Demand Action:

All Sacha Baron Cohen did was expose the truth: White men in power who are beholden to the @NRA will do and say anything to please their gun lobby masters. They do not care AT ALL about the safety of our children. Remember in November.
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) July 15, 2018

From the father of a victim of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida:

Holy Crap!!!!! WATCH THIS AND RETWEET THIS EVERY DAY. Thank you Sacha Baron Cohen for highlighting what people think. They are talking about arming kids in kindergarten to stop someone with a gun. This is the insanity that I oppose and why we must vote
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) July 15, 2018

And this:

Sacha Baron Cohen’s “tricking the GOP to endorse arming preschoolers,” bit is all fun and games until 6 months from now, when that is their new party platform
— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) July 15, 2018

The Atlantic’s David Frum wasn’t laughing:

I’m really really not loving this game where @sachabaroncohen repeatedly takes advantage of people’s affection and respect for the State of Israel to deceive and humiliate them.
— David Frum (@davidfrum) July 15, 2018