As we waited for the movie to start I told my brother a joke a homeless man once told me. “What do you get when you cross a penis with a potato?”
“I don’t know.”
“A dictator. Get it? Dick-tater.”
My brother didn’t laugh, but the guy on my left was listening in and guffawed. He was a 300 pound guy with a white beard and suspenders, if I wasn’t in South Miami I’d describe him as a hillbilly. He complimented me, “That was a good one.”
“You hear the one about a black man walking down the street with a parrot on his shoulder?” He did not give me a chance to respond and went on with his joke. ” Someone saw the black man and the parrot and asked, ‘Where did you get him?’ The parrot said, ‘Africa’.”
All you need to know about the new comedy The Dictator is that the hillbilly sitting next to me was laughing loud and hard throughout the hour and fifteen minute running time. I’m a huge fan of Sasha Baron Cohen who stars as The Dictator. A couple months ago I declared his Da Ali G Show the greatest television show of this century. But the brilliance in that show was Cohen ad-libbing off unknowing patsies. He exposed ignorance and arrogance by playing the buffoon which provided the highest form of comedy.
The Dictator, however is a fully scripted comedy with professional actors. While Cohen’s previous movies Borat and Bruno probably had staged elements to them, they were under the auspices that only Cohen knew he was playing a character. This added an element of danger to the comedy. Would Cohen break out of character? How would these people react to his absurdities?
The Dictator which is about a fascist North African dicator lost in New York City is still very funny (although not as funny as Borat, Bruno, or Da Ali G Show). Even more damning with The Dictator’s artifice it takes out any high-mindedness. You can not pretend you are laughing at the racist, misogynistic, or homophobic jokes in an ironic intellectual manner. With everyone in the movie being in on the jokes you must acknowledge that you are laughing with them. That while you might like to think you are more politically correct than that 300 pound hillbilly, you too laugh long and hard at crude stereotypes and bathroom humor.