While I’m explaining comedy to everyone because I am the expert on everything, can I just nitpick this one little thing that I see quite a lot about Sasha Baron Cohen?
“In Kazakhstan the favorite hobbies are disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis.” Okay. Why is that funny? Who is the butt of the joke? Rape victims? Nah, I’d say that the butt of that joke is Kazakhstan, or, at least, the caricature of Kazakhstan that Sasha Baron Cohen has constructed—a borderline-medieval old world racist mud-hole. He’s satirizing the casual misogyny of a certain set of crusty old anti-Semitic post-Soviet eastern European men in stinky suits. And I have no problem with that. Though I could be wrong!
Sasha Baron Cohen’s joke is not on Kazakhstan and nor was his Ali G joke on UK immigrant rappers in council estates, his joke is you.
This is probably easier to see in the original TV series. The joke is actually about your prejudices. The hapless person representing you and your culture on-screen is being confronted unknowingly with one of Baron Cohen’s characters and they (you) have such a sense of superiority that they can be convinced these ‘foreign’ cultures and sub-cultures are as backward and stupid as he is playing them to be. That the person believes these stereotypes to be real people is the joke, not the stereotype itself. Baron Cohen often orchestrates situations where you get to see how patronising we can be to people of other cultures, too, and knowing Baron Cohen is English helps explain why he chooses to target class snobbery and xenophobia the way he does in his comedy. Another of his favourite jokes is about your hypocrisy. By playing these characters Baron Cohen gets people (you) to drop your guard and participate in, or at least tolerate, incredibly offensive things that you would otherwise be PC about. So, in the Borat joke on that Jezebel post we can see Borat expressing not only misogyny but also quite a lot of antisemitism and Baron Cohen is Jewish. His joke is about how you would speak up if someone was saying those things in front of him as a Jewish man but that you’ll let them pass by when you don’t think a Jewish person is in the room.
You can hate other things about the Borat joke but you can’t hate that it is a stereotype, because that’s the whole point. So, anyway, that’s how you suck eggs.