Sacha Baron Cohen is no stranger to outrage. The British comedian has been causing offense and raising eyebrows ever since he debuted his Ali G persona in 1998, and has only gotten more extreme as he’s achieved big screen success with the likes of Borat and Brüno.
He’s back again this week with Grimsby, as he plays a working class slob in England who is dragged along on a mission with his long lost secret agent brother, played by Mark Strong. In true Cohen fashion, the film is already generating headlines and controversy – but can it possibly match some of his most offensive and outrageous moments from years gone by?
1. Trumping HIV
Grimsby has quickly drawn scandal thanks to a joke that sees Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump infected with HIV – by none other than Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. In one move Cohen has infuriated both right-wing Trump fans and LGBT and HIV activists – doubling down on it all to wheel out Borat to joke that Trump is just another one of Cohen’s own characters.
2. Ashing Ryan Seacrest
You have to think that maybe the Academy regrets giving Cohen permission to attend the 2012 Oscars ceremony in character as Admiral-General Aladeen from The Dictator. Ryan Seacrest certainly regretted agreeing to a red carpet interview, as he ended up “accidentally” covered in ‘ashes’ Cohen claimed belonged to his “dear friend and doubles tennis partner, Kim Jong Il.”
3. “Those Little Yellow People”
Having learnt from their mistake, the Academy asked Cohen to come as himself to this year’s Oscars ceremony. Naturally, he agreed – only to sneak into a bathroom backstage and come out as Ali G. Amid this year’s race controversy, he bemoaned being a “token black presenter,” and asked why there was no award for “those little yellow people with tiny little dongs… the Minions?”
4. Mooning Eminem
The Oscars aren’t the only awards ceremony he’s crashed, of course. He took it more literally at the MTV Awards once, crashing into Eminem while in character as Brüno – complete with S&M angel outfit. Sadly Eminem was in on it the whole time, but he really did sell the shock and disgust on the night.
5. Killing an Old Lady
Cohen’s stunts are always offensive, but at least no-one gets hurt. Usually. When collecting the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy, the actor tripped, pushing a wheelchair-bound presenter off the stage to her apparent death. Sure, it was staged – but the star-studded audience didn’t know that, as the whole crowd burst into gasps of horror.
6. A Savile Suit
When late British children’s TV presenter Jimmy Savile was outed as a serial sex offender in 2012, we all knew a Cohen joke couldn’t be far behind. True to form, he rocked up to the Channel 4 Comedy Awards complaining that “times has been tough,” and he needed to “buy me tracksuits from secondhand shops,” before spinning around to reveal the name brandished across the back.