Sacha Baron Cohen has joined the ranks of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon, not as a leading man, but as a practical joker. Taking the stage this past Saturday to receive the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award, Cohen appeared alongside the “oldest surviving actor to have worked with Chaplin in a silent movie.” Cohen fell, pushing the actress and stuntwoman into the crowd in a wheelchair. After dedicating his award to her, he hilariously said a few words to her family. "Do not try to sue me. If you decide to get the lawyers involved, I will take you down just like I did your granny."
One of the best public pranks to date, Cohen's stunt helped him reclaim publicity for his upcoming film The Lesbian. The risky joke landed, because he is a skilled comedian who knows how to take a joke the farthest without going over the edge. With a tradition of practical jokes in Hollywood, history has shown a code of conduct among celebrity pranksters. The secret to success is breaking the rules while following them.
Pick On Someone Your Own Size
Everyone loves hearing about Clooney, Pitt and Damon pranking each other because when everyone is crazy famous, no one gets hurt. There is no malice, just really successful attractive people having fun at work. They never go after someone that won't fight back. It's like sophomoric chess, where there are no victims, only participants. These type of pranks have proven to be Clooney's specialty, next to avoiding marriage.
Location Location Location
Cohen's prank was ingenious because it was physical comedy in the perfect context. He was accepting the Charlie Chaplin award, history's favorite physical comedian with a Hitler mustache. Such a stunt would not have worked as well in any other location. But many celebrity pranks are facilitated by the internet. Without and original time and place these pranks seems more contrived. On April 1st, nearly every celebrity claims to be pregnant and two celebrities have "hacked" into the website Funny or Die, Justin Bieber in 2010 and Charlize Theron 2012. Considering their computer skills, this was likely less of a prank and more of corporate move.
Just because something is offensive doesn't make it a prank. Celebrities should refrain from using any Nazi memorabilia and/or blackface, as should everyone. The line is hard to draw, as the best pranks get close to it without crossing. Like when Sarah Silverman pranked then-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel with the 2008 song "I'm F*cking Matt Damon." Cohen similarly pushed the envelope (and woman), while maintaining a level of safety and shocking everyone into laughter. This precise prank raises the bar for celebrities and will likely increase the popularity of Cohen and older stuntwomen alike.