British provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen has been so committed to his various characters — Ali G, Borat, Bruno — that he's done almost all of his press interviews in character. Supposedly this was to keep up the illusion, but we always assumed he was some sort of weird, shy, socially reclusive artist type.
But, now he's gone and done a couple interviews as himself while promoting his latest movie The Dictator, a more straightforward comedy (there's a script and actors and stuff) that, perhaps, demands a more straightforward press approach. Sure Baron Cohen showed up as the dictator character on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. But when you're sitting in Cannes, France with Ann Curry for The Today Show, as he was this morning, it's maybe time to take off the prosthetic hair and whatnot. And it turns out that his real self is a normal, smart, English guy.
When he does his character stuff it always seems a little mean or mocking -- of the interview, of the audience, of whoever is around, really. Sure it's funny (or was funny around the Borat days at least), but it was also off-putting. This reality mode is better; it's more mature and, strangely, feels more original than doing an interview as a made-up character. That Cohen is likable in real life (or at least in talk-show life) is not a huge surprise, but we at least expected a little standoffishness in what is, according to Curry, only Baron Cohen's third on-air interview as himself ever.
Though, hm, Howard Stern scooped Ann Curry last week, securing Baron Cohen for an hour-long interview on his radio show. In that interview he's charming, informative, and humble. We like him like this! Sacha Baron Cohen is coming out, guys! Too bad the movie that made this all happen doesn't sound great.