The craziest show I've ever seen isn't some fantasy cable series with a massive budget and A-list stars. It's Who Is America?, Sacha Baron Cohen's latest trolling project in which he exposes the sordid underbelly of modern-day America. The most disturbing part is, he doesn't even have to try. The words "appalling" and "nauseating" don't even begin to describe it. Each episode is more skin-crawling than the next, and I'm warning you now, you'll have a hard time digesting what you see. On the show, Cohen assumes six different characters, all deeply ludicrous yet still (somehow) credible. There's Billy Wayne Ruddick, a far-right conspiracy theorist and founder of "truthbrary.org"; Ricky Sherman, an ex-con turned artist; Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, a stereotypical "liberal" hippie; Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire and fashion photographer; OMGWhizzBoy, a famous Finnish YouTuber; and Colonel Erran Morad, a blatantly Islamaphobic Israeli anti-terror expert.
Under this slew of personas, Cohen dupes politicians, artists, and celebrities into revealing some repugnant beliefs. He manages to fool one reality star into endorsing a campaign to arm child soldiers, convinces a state representative to pull down his trousers, and talks several members of Congress into supporting an initiative to arm three-year-olds. It's not like he's manipulating them into doing these things — he just gives them a platform and lets them go. Just when you think things can't get any weirder, the absurdity escalates. In the end, you really will be scratching your head and asking yourself, "Who is America?"
Without further ado, here are the most insane moments from the show, in no particular order. Pace yourself: We're not even halfway through the season.
1. Dick Cheney signed a "waterboard kit"
Remember Dick Cheney, the former VP/Secretary of Defense of the United States? He sat down with Colonel Erran Morad to casually discuss torture methods and his passion for waterboarding. Cheney wouldn't categorize waterboarding as a form of torture. Instead, he preferred the term "enhanced interrogation." He said the method was "the most physical we ever got," and okay, sure. Morad, excited Cheney shared his fondness for waterboarding, asked the former VP to sign his autograph on a waterboard kit. It had already been "signed" by prominent figures like Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon (who's already dead), and Demi Lovato. "Well, that's a first," Cheney said after jotting his name on the bottle. "That's the first time I've ever signed a water bottle used for waterboarding. Very valuable!"
Very valuable, indeed! In fact, after the episode aired, Cohen posted it on eBay, and described it as a "professional grade piece of military hardware" used for waterboarding.
As if proudly signing a torture device wasn't terrifying enough, Cheney also said Desert Storm was his "favorite war." He also (creepily) cackled when Morad told him he waterboarded his wife when he suspected she was cheating on him. OKAY.
2. Conservative Shaun McCutcheon learned how to be "H.I.V-positive"
"Hide, infiltrate, violence, or H.I.V." was Morad's recommended technique for warding off "terrorists in the workplace," something Shane McCutcheon — a conservative known for lobbying to remove the cap on political donations — is extremely anxious about. For this reason, he and his employee, Zan, had zero qualms with Morad's bizarre "training." It involved camouflaging by putting sticky notes and folders on McCutcheon's head, attaching prosthetic hands to his body, brandishing slabs of pork, and flaunting photos of gay porn. At one point, McCutcheon even dressed as a genie and pretended his office cubicle was a mosque.
We couldn't make this up.
In McCutcheon's defense, the former politician "knew [Morad] was full of crap" and thought they were doing a comedy skit, hence his full participation. Whatever you say, dude.
3. Cohen accused Roy Moore of pedophilia — right to his face
In another stint as Morad, Cohen sat down with former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore — who was accused of sexual misconduct in November 2017 — and showed him a device that could "identify" pedophiles. During Morad's demonstration, the detector beeped whenever he pointed it at Moore. Oops. "I have been married 33 years. I have never had an accusation of such things," Moore stated indignantly. That's an interesting statement from someone who's admitted he first noticed his wife eight years before they started dating when she was only 15 years old and he was 30.
4. Joe Arpaio said he would receive oral sex from Donald Trump
Next was former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who participated in an unboxing video with Cohen's OMGWhizzBoyOMG persona, a Finnish YouTube star. This is ironic considering he proudly "boxed" undocumented immigrants in "concentration camps" during his tenure as sheriff. He was convicted of criminal contempt of court when he refused to abolish his policies, but he got a full pardon from Trump.
In the video, Arpaio explained gun laws to an inanimate object — a plastic donut toy. "Delicious donut," Arpaio addressed the toy, "you have to understand that you have to follow the constitution and the law allowing people to have guns. Bad guys are going to get their guns and kill you. I’m hoping that somebody else has a gun and will shoot that person before he shoots you."
After the unboxing segment, OMGWhizzBoyOMG told Arpaio he currently owns 43 guns for the upcoming "race war." He also asked the former sheriff if his good friend Trump has ever gotten a golden shower. "It wouldn't surprise me," Arpaio said. And when asked if he would ever accept an "amazing blow job" from Trump, he said he "may have to say yes."
Arpaio's campaign released a statement after the show aired and laughed the whole thing off. "We're not mad about it, it's comedy," the statement read.
Oh, it's comedy, alright.
5. An art consultant gave Cohen her pubic hair
While the most preposterous moments on the show involve fooling conservative politicians and Republicans, one of the most unforgettable bits has little association with politics at all. Instead, it featured Christy Cones, a fine arts expert from Laguna Beach. In character as ex-con Rick Sherman, Cohen sought Cones' help with his art, which was mostly paintings made from poop. POOP.
Cones was such a good sport. She commended him and said she couldn't believe "art in the gut" could be turned into something "beautiful." As a parting gift, she donated a strand of her pubic hair to his special paintbrush, which he claimed was made of pubes from famous artists.
After Cones discovered the encounter with "Rick Sherman" was a complete sham, she wasn't fazed at all. "I definitely wanted to be entertaining, and I know that was an obeying moment," she told Vulture. "The important thing is, in my perspective, everything is fair game for art."
She added, "Sacha is carrying on a long tradition that was started thousands of years ago by guys like Aristophanes and Petronius and Jonathan Swift and Voltaire. Art and satire, it hurts. I just wish everybody would quit taking themselves so seriously."
6. Cohen pitched a fake mosque to racist Arizonites
Cohen's Dr. Nira Cain-N'Degeocello traveled all the way to Kingman, Arizona to conduct a focus group with locals about transforming a shopping mall into the "world's largest mosque outside of the Middle East" — a $385 million project funded by the Saudi government and the Clinton Foundation. To say things got ugly would be an understatement. When they heard the word "mosque," a man in the audience yelled, "Just the word alone scares you. To me, when I hear the word 'mosque,' I think of terrorism. We don't want that sh*t here!"
People from the audience threatened to move out of the state should the plan come to fruition, and one openly admitted he's racist towards Muslims: "I am. I'm racist towards Muslims. That [mosque] would probably look good in a fire," he proclaimed.
It doesn't stop there. To put the nail in the coffin, one guy said that "this town’s lucky to have Black people in it!” to which Cain-N’Degeocello replied, "Yeah, of course you’re lucky to have black people. They add a lot to society." Another man chimed in to explain: "He’s saying there are black people in Kingman that aren’t welcome there either, but we tolerate them."
7. Cohen almost got two Trump supporters arrested for pedophilia
In one of the most damning stunts on the show, Cohen's Morad recruited three anti-immigration Trump supporters — John, Jack, and Joe — on a mission to trap "illegal Mexicans." According to them, Islamic terrorism and illegal immigrants are America's greatest threats. Without hesitation, they set up a mock quinceañera because they thought that's how Mexican men take advantage of 15-year-old girls, and not, you know, a symbolic party celebrating a woman's transition from childhood to adulthood. One of the guys wore a dress, wig, and "p*ssy panties" (underwear with a fake vagina), used condoms as gloves, and laced a bowl of guacamole with Rohypnol.
With the sheer absurdity of it all, you'd think they were in on the joke, but the men were so full of hatred they didn't question what they were doing. That's what makes it so frightening.
8. Cohen pranked a Bachelor contestant
Corinne Olympios was already a controversial figure thanks to her stint on ABC's The Bachelor. Now, she's under even more scrutiny. Cohen's character, "renowned" Italian billionaire Gio Monaldo, tapped Olympios for a campaign to fight the Ebola virus. He got her to wear a hazmat suit (Heisenberg style) and shoot a video in which she read a script urging the public to "adopt a child soldier."
"When you launch a grenade, you launch a dream," she said. The reality star also made up a lie about how she saved 6,000 civilians from being massacred in Africa because a warlord recognized her from The Bachelor.
It's unclear why Cohen targeted Olympios. She later claimed she only did it because she feared for her life at the time. "I was like grabbing every cameraman, like, am I going to die? Am I ok? Where’s the exit? why can’t I leave?" Olympios told The Daily Beast." At this point, I just want to get out of there, so I just did it."
Maybe Cohen should stick to exposing politicians.
9. "Kinderguardians" of the galaxy
Arguably, Cohen's most successful prank was bamboozling gun rights advocates (former and current members of Congress) into supporting his "Kinderguardians" project, which aims to give firearms training to children as young as three years old. Philip Van Cleave thought youth could be effective soldiers since they haven't fully developed "consciousness." He even helped Morad film an instructional video teaching kids how to handle weapons. "Today, we're going to teach you how you can stop these naughty men and have them take a long nap," he said, and proceeded to demonstrate the proper use of "Puppy Pistols," "Gunny Rabbits," "Uzicorns," "Dino-guns," "Rocketship RPGs," and "BFF," which is a starter gun for babies 24 months and under.
Meanwhile, Dana Rohrabacher, Joe Wilson, Joe Walsh, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt, all endorsed the Kinderguardians program on camera. I wish I was kidding.
Here's a sampling:
Lott: "It’s something that we should think about, America. About putting guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens — good guys — whether they be teachers, or whether they actually be talented children or highly trained preschoolers."
Rohrabacher: "Maybe having the young people trained and understanding how to defend themselves in their school might actually make us safer here."
Wilson: "A three-year-old cannot defend itself from an assault rifle by throwing a Hello Kitty pencil case at it. Our Founding Fathers did not put an age limit on the Second Amendment."
Walsh: "The intensive three-week Kinderguardian course introduces specially selected children from twelve to four years old to pistols, rifles, semi-automatics, and rudimentary knowledge of mortars. In less than a month — less than a month! — a first grader can become a first grenader. Happy shooting, kids."
Pratt: "Children under five also have elevated levels of the pheromone Blink-182, produced by the part of the liver known as the Rita Ora. This allows nerve reflexes to travel along the Cardi B neural pathway to the Wiz Khalifa 40 percent faster, saving time and saving lives."
10. Cohen negotiated with an... overly accommodating yacht broker
We've all heard horror stories about businesspeople doing anything to close a deal. Case in point: Cohen's Monaldo sat down with an unnamed luxury yacht broker to discuss purchasing a yacht with his silent partner, implied to be Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Monaldo didn't want a run-of-the-mill yacht, though. He demanded quite a few upgrades, including "electricity in the water" to slay refugees, "military hardware" like anti-aircraft guns and "flammable liquid," and enough room to transport up to 30 girls from Eastern Europe, who Monaldo suggested would be trafficked for sex. Not one of these ridiculous requests disturbed the broker, and he didn't even bat an eyelash when Monaldo received oral sex from his lady friend... during the meeting. "The NDAs are going all over the place," he assured Cohen's character. "If they want it, and they wanna write the check for it, it can be done."
11. The curious case of Jason Spencer
Esquire's Matt Miller posits Cohen isn't here merely to humiliate Republicans, but rather to end careers. He couldn't be more right. After one episode starring Georgia state representative Jason Spencer resulted in public outcry, Spencer resigned.
Watching his segment is like watching an episode of South Park. During what he thought was self-defense training, Spencer revealed deep-seated racism. First things first, he claimed his bill that prohibits people from concealing their faces in public is most definitely not a burka ban, but an "anti-masking statute." Morad proceeded to talk him through exercises designed to fight ISIS.
The first "lesson" was on how to identify a terrorist under a burka, which required using a selfie stick to take upskirt photos. Spencer performed an offensive depiction of a Chinese tourist to justify the use of the selfie stick. "Konnichiwa!," "red dragon!," "Beijing," "Hong Kong," "sushi," "Ho Chi Minh City," and "chopstick," he yelled. Next up, Morad told Spencer a surefire way of thwarting a potential kidnapper is to scream an unspecified N-word. Spencer gladly obliged by screaming the racial slur repeatedly. "Wait! Are you crazy?" Morad asked him. "The 'N-word' is 'noonie!' Not this word. This word is disgusting."
"Got it," was all Spencer could respond.
To intimidate attackers, Spencer dropped his pants and exposed his behind. After all, terrorists would be horrified to see another man's butt for fear it might turn them gay (???). He chased Morad around the gym with his bare butt and yelled, "You better drop the gun or I'll touch you!" and "USA! America!"
How this man managed four terms in office is beyond me.