Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is the first to launch a broadside at comedian Sacha Baron Cohen over his new prank TV series, but the show promises to claim a host of other victims.
One is former vice president Dick Cheney, who appears in one of two sneak peek videos released on Twitter by Baron Cohen for Who Is America? It premieres on Stan on July 15.
In the teaser, an off-camera voice that sounds like Baron Cohen’s is heard: “Dick Cheney, is it possible to sign my waterboard kit?”
Mr Cheney agrees, saying, “Sure.” Then he smiles: “That’s the first time I’ve ever signed a waterboard.”
Ms Palin, 54, attacked Baron Cohen, 46, on Facebook on Tuesday, slamming him as “truly sick” for “duping” her into an interview by posing as a disabled veteran.
The launch of the show has also ambushed audiences, but it seems Baron Cohen has been undercover for a year, secretly filming Who Is America?
The first new TV show in over a decade for the British creator of characters including Ali G and Borat, its lack of fanfare is a likely flag of the ferocity of its approach.
Ahead of its July 15 premiere, Who Is America? has been described by US network Showtime as “perhaps the most dangerous show in the history of television”.
The comedian’s six characters are the most “shameless”, “unhinged” and “cold-blooded” he’s ever created, Showtime said.
Australian streaming service Stan said the show will “lampoon a parade of highly memorable guests who are so highly recognisable we can’t even tell you who they are”.
Its billing makes it sound “less of a programme and more of a prison-yard shanking,” The Guardian said.
Baron Cohen’s first Twitter video teasing Who Is America? was released on the Fourth of July and trolled President Donald Trump, claiming to be a message from him.
The six-year-old video shows Mr Trump slamming “third-rate character” Baron Cohen and insisting he deserves to be punched in the face “so many times” he goes to hospital.
— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) July 4, 2018
Mr Trump’s remarks came after Baron Cohen, in character as General Admiral Aladeen from The Dictator, dumped an urn of what seemed to be ashes on Ryan Seacrest at the 2012 Oscars.
Both videos have reportedly been viewed more than one million times.
While nobody else has publicly outed themselves as being involved, Ms Palin was furious in her Facebook post.
She said she travelled from Alaska with one of her daughters after she was contacted via a speakers’ bureau to take part in a “legit” Showtime historical documentary.
“Yup, we were duped. Ya got me, Sacha. Feel better now?” Ms Palin posted, saying she had “fallen victim” to the “evil, exploitative, sick ‘humour” of Baron Cohen.
The pair were met by a man she assumes was Baron Cohen, said Ms Palin, heavily disguised as a wheelchair-bound US military veteran.
Ms Palin said she sat through a long interview “full of Hollywoodism’s [sic]” and sarcasm before removing her microphone and walking out.
“The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse,” she said.
Baron Cohen could “mock politicians and innocent public personalities all you want” but “how dare you mock those who have fought and served our country,” she wrote.
Ms Palin claimed the production team deliberately dropped her and her daughter – she didn’t say which one – at the wrong airport “knowing we’d miss all flights back home to Alaska”.
She added: “By the way, my daughter thinks you’re a piece of ****, Sacha.”
But to Showtime CEO David Nevins, Baron Cohen is “the premier provocateur of our time” for his work on the show.
“But not for the sake of ‘gotcha’ moments,” said Mr Nevins, according to CBS News.
“Behind the elaborate setup is a genuine quest for the truth about people, places and politics.”