You’d think that after the insane success of Da Ali G Show, Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen wouldn’t be able to fool celebrities into participating in his bombastic pranks. But in his surprise Showtime series Who Is America?, the British comedian nudges prominent lawmakers into exposing their politically incorrect views on the state of the nation — and the effect is equally hilarious and horrifying.
In Sunday’s premiere, Baron Cohen transforms into Col. Erran Morad, a macho Israeli “terrorist terminator” promoting a program that arms children as young as 3 years old with guns. His schtick? The only way thing that can stop a “bad man with a gun” is a “good boy with a gun.” (Or as Larry Pratt from Gun Owners of America adds, “even a good toddler.”)
“In America, there’s this big problem of shootings in schools. The NRA want to arm the teachers. This is crazy,” Baron Cohen says. “You should be arming the children.”
Scarily enough, several GOP politicians buy into it. Former congressman Joe Walsh, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, California congressman Dana Rohrabacher and South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson all agree to endorse Baron Cohen’s character’s program for “kinder-guardians,” reading their approval of the plan from a teleprompter from a PSA. (Congressman Matt Gaetz didn’t bite.)
“In less than a month, a first-grader can become a first grenade-er,” Walsh tells the camera.
And he even convinces gun rights activist Philip Van Cleave to film an infomercial in which firearms are hidden inside stuffed animals with cutesy names like “Puppy Pistol” and “Uzicorn” so they appeal to children.
Pre-school children “haven’t quite developed what we call conscience, where you feel guilty about doing something wrong. That’s developing, you’re learning right and wrong. If they haven’t developed it yet, they could be very effective soldiers,” he tells Baron Cohen in an interview.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old was killed during the Parkland school shooting, praised the series on Twitter for highlighting “the insanity” required to think “arming kids in kindergarten” was a good idea.
“Holy Crap!!!!! WATCH THIS AND RETWEET THIS EVERY DAY,” he wrote alongside a clip from the show. “Thank you Sacha Baron Cohen for highlighting what people think. They are talking about arming kids in kindergarten to stop someone with a gun. This is the insanity that I oppose and why we must vote.”
Cameron Kasky, a student who survived the shooting, also shared the same clip, writing: “Never stop retweeting this.”
Who Is America? irked politicians before it even aired: Sarah Palin and Walsh slammed the comedian for “duping” them, and Dick Cheney is featured was featured in a promo autographing a waterboarding device for Baron Cohen.
Who Is America? airs Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.