(photo credit: AP [file])
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, whose Kazakh reporter persona, Borat, has recently drawn fire from the Kazakhstan government, isn't the only one who likes a good laugh.
The Board of Guardians of British Jews - the creation of a renegade comedy group as a spoof of an actual British organization, The Board of Deputies of British Jews - has declared that Cohen is to be banned from all UK synagogues for the next six months.
In a Sunday post on the fictional Board's web site, Board President Harry Greenberg (apparently based on Board of Deputies President Henry Grunwald) announced that Cohen's activities were embarrassing the Jewish community.
"We gave Mr. Baron Cohen an informal warning over six months ago about the Borat character and how it is causing problems with the Kazakhstan government and that this is bringing major embarrassment to the Jewish community," he was quoted as saying.
"Mr. Baron Cohen ignored our letters and phone calls, and therefore, after consultation with our rabbis, we have taken steps to exclude Mr. Baron Cohen and let people know he is not connected with The Board and has been banned from setting foot into any synagogue for six months."
The decision apparently included a fine of 9,000 pounds as well as Cohen's removal from the Board's honorary executive.
Rather than tone down his performances, however, the web site said Cohen had, in fact, "increased his awareness of the character."
The spoofers, by all appearances an antiestablishment comedy troupe, were not immediately available for comment; however, their lampoon seemed to be meant in good fun.
Cohen, better known for his satirically stupid Ali G character, has infuriated Kazakhstan's ruling body with his upcoming feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Borat is a dense, anti-Semitic, lecherous journalist who attempts to explain the United States to his countrymen.
On the Board web site, the spoofers wrote that the decision had come in response to comments by the Anti-Defamation League regarding the damage Cohen's behavior was causing US Jews.
"We have been informed that a number of Jews in America are outraged by the antics of a British Jew. Therefore, in response to this, we have assured our US counterparts that no UK Jew can cause such incidents in America, and are grateful to the ADL for their support in this matter," Greenberg was quoted as saying.
In actuality, however, the ADL came out in defense of Cohen, despite Borat's anti-Semitism.
"The premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen's new film featuring his farcical character Borat has raised anew concerns among some in the Jewish community about the character's notoriously boastful expressions of anti-Semitism and stereotyping of others," the ADL said in a statement.
"When approaching this film, one has to understand that there is absolutely no intent on the part of the filmmakers to offend, and no malevolence on the part of Sacha Baron Cohen, who is himself proudly Jewish. We hope that everyone who chooses to see the film understands Mr. Cohen's comedic technique, which is to use humor to unmask the absurd and irrational side of anti-Semitism and other phobias born of ignorance and fear."