General alert: From Staines to Wadiya, I is da man!

North African despot General Aladeen hates the West and is just weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade plutonium. No laughing matter - unless you're a Sacha Baron Cohen fan

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The Independent Culture

General Aladeen, ruler of the Republic of Wadiya, is a ruthless, sexist, bigoted tyrant, who regularly proclaims "Death to the West" and counts Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il as his (former) best mates.

If he really existed, the general could almost certainly expect a knock at his front door from US special forces or a drone-launched missile. In fact, he is the latest fictional incarnation of the actor Sacha Baron Cohen, who will return to our cinema screens this week in The Dictator. He arrived at last week's premiere at London's Royal Festival Hall in an orange Lamborghini on the back of a tow truck, complete with wheel clamp, flanked by mini-skirt-wearing models in military uniform.

Audiences will have to wait until Wednesday to see who falls foul of Cohen's latest capers. In his previous incarnations as wannabe-gangsta Ali G, Kazakh Borat or Austrian fashion reporter Bruno, the actor gulled scores of innocent victims in his pursuit of the funny. Almost invariably he left them shocked and offended, from prominent politicians to the whole of Kazakhstan, attracting a clutch of lawsuits along the way. Here, The Independent on Sunday considers nine of Cohen's comedy victims who just didn't appreciate the joke, and one who did.


Donald Trump

In a 2003 interview, wannabe gangster and Staines Massive member Ali G pitched to Donald Trump, Apprentice-style, the idea of an "ice-cream glove, that make the ice-cream not go on your 'ands and make it all well sticky," asking "Is you in, or is you in?", at which point the property tycoon promptly got up and stomped out of the interview. The resentment festered – nearly a decade later, Trump took to his Twitter account to call Cohen a "moron" over his antics at the 2012 Oscars.

Buzz Aldrin

Meeting Buzz Aldrin, Baron Cohen's alter ego had a burning question to ask the second man on the Moon: "What do you say to all those conspiracy theorists who come up to you and say, 'Does the Moon really exist?'" With remarkable patience and the good humour of a saint, Aldrin defended the notion that the Moon does, indeed, exist.

Noam Chomsky

When Chomsky told Ali that his cousin would grow up to be "bilingual", the faux-gangsta took offence: "But professor, ain't it wrong to say, just because he might be able to speak two languages, that 'im will be into ladies and also into boys?" The eminent MIT professor of linguistics didn't see the joke, taking it upon himself to explain the difference between a "bilingual" and a "bisexual".


Villagers of Glod

When the locals of an impoverished Romanian village agreed to play Borat's neighbours, they did not realise that they were to be cast as "rapists, abortionists, prostitutes, thieves, racists, bigots, simpletons and boors". They were so enraged that they filed a whopping $30m lawsuit against the movie-makers, without success.

Dharma Arthur

The TV producer claimed that an appearance by Borat on her Mississippi news show caused her to lose her job. The Kazakh reporter caused chaos by continually interrupting the weather report, and asking: "Before we start, can you tell me? Because I want to make a urine..." To which a flustered presenter replied: "We've started. We're actually live on the air right now."


Paula Abdul

Mock fashion maven Bruno interviewed Paula Abdul about her humanitarian work while the two sat on "Mexican chair people": "Demi Moore has two of them in her house," explained the outrageous style reporter. The American Idol judge made a swift exit, exclaiming "This is really not good", when offered sushi – served on the naked body of a supposed "Mexican plate man".

Ron Paul

Bruno used a variety of tactics in a doomed effort to seduce the right-wing Texas Republican, affecting to confuse him with the black drag queen RuPaul: "Has anyone ever told you you look like Enrique Iglesias?" asked the Austrian fashionista, before stripping off to Dutch house music. As Bruno's motives eventually dawned on the congressman, he barged out of the room ranting: "That guy is queer as crazy."

The Dictator

The Academy Awards

When the organisers of the Oscars vetoed his appearance at this year's Academy Awards, Cohen decided to issue an official statement on the US Today show. Acting in character as the fictional dictator General Aladeen, Cohen threatened the "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Zionists", saying: "While I applaud the academy for taking away my right to free speech, I warn you that if you do not lift your sanctions... you will face unimaginable consequences." The academy complied.

Ryan Seacrest

As he interviewed General Aladeen at the 2012 Academy Awards, Seacrest had the honour of being showered in the "ashes" of the dictator's "doubles tennis partner" and former "Dear Leader" of North Korea. "Now, if somebody asks you what you are wearing, you will say Kim Jong-il," offered Aladeen, by way of consolation. He was promptly bundled off the Oscars red carpet.

... and the one who did


Presenting at the MTV Movie Awards, the ever-inconspicuous Bruno flew in as a scantily clad angel – before falling crotch-first on to rapper Eminem. As his entourage swatted Bruno away, the hip-hop star appeared to be outraged. In truth, he was in on the joke all along.