Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Noam Baron Cohen was the youngest of three sons. He was brought up as an Orthodox Jew - passed on from his mother's family who originate from Israel.


His upbringing was more than comfortable as he was rewarded with a high standard of living and the best education. He attended the reputable Haberdasher-Askes Boys’ School, where fellow Jewish comedians David Baddiel and Matt Lucas were also were pupils. Cohen joined the Habonim Jewish Youth Group in 1989 and spent a year in Israel learning more about his faith. On his return he headed off to study history at Christ's College, Cambridge where he joined the university's amateur dramatic club.

Acting in plays such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Fiddler on the Roof ignited a passion for acting and while he worked towards his history degree, he also kept one eye firmly focused on his hobby. After graduating, Cohen hosted a weekly programme on a cable television network but was fired for broadcasting a lewd presentation for Valentine's Day - a glimmer of his future to come perhaps.

However it was to be a moment of fate in 1995 that would transform Cohen's fortunes. Channel 4 was planning a replacement for its cult series 'The Word', and sent out an open call for new television presenters. Cohen responded, sending in a tape of himself in the character of Kristo, a fictional television reporter from Albania (who eventually became the Kazakhstani Borat), which caught the attention of a producer and from there, he was hired as a regular on the newly commissioned '11 O'Clock Show'.

Soon the character of Ali G was born and became the star attraction of the TV programme, thanks to Cohen's trademark of embarrassing interviewers and his brash send-up of street lingo. Winning Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards in 1999 gave Cohen the ticket to branch out alone with his own programme, 'Da Ali G Show' in 2000.

Cohen's interviews as Ali G became notorious across the nation, with him receiving many accolades including a BAFTA for Best Comedy and even appearing in Madonna's video for her single, Music. The character gained notoriety because the targets of his humour were always unaware of the joke and believed Ali G to be a real interviewer.

Cohen loved to put his subjects on the spot with risque questions and the joke would continue as they either became increasingly uncomfortable or instead let the conversation take an unexpected turn. Leading figures Cohen interviewed as Ali G have included Buzz Aldrin, Tony Benn, Mohamed Al-Fayed and Donald Trump.

For Cohen, his alter ego had proved to be more than just a comedic vehicle - it was the beginning of a prosperous career. To ellaborate on his comedy skills, Cohen soon wheeled out another tongue-in-cheek character to counteract Ali G's fans - Borat. Borat had in fact first been created by Cohen back in 1997 but he thought the time was now right to develop the character further as he had established himself at the helm of his own television series.


Borat's Kazakhstan heritage gave Cohen a wide berth to poke fun at the nation with his racist jokes, stemming from the fact Borat is the son of the village rapist, his mother being only nine when she gave birth to him! These clever Cohen details would see Borat's fame rise as high, if not higher than Ali G's yet resulting in some problems for him further down the line.

Both Ali G and Borat soon crossed the Atlantic where 'Da Ali G Show' appeared on American cable television in 2003. The act went down well in the USA but Cohen's first feature film 'Ali G Indahouse' (2002) was only released in the UK. Cohen's time in the USA was not wasted though as Dreamworks picked up on his talents and he leant his voice to the animation 'Madagascar' in 2005.

With Ali G taking a back seat for a while, it was to be Borat who kept Cohen's light burning with the release to the big screen of 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan' in 2006.

The hysterical ‘mockumentary’ followed the crude and backwards Borat on a trip to the United States with most of the events and people depicted in the film being real. Many of the dupes reported later that they were completely convinced they were talking to a Kazakh journalist. Prior to the film’s release, Cohen lobbied the public in true politician style (as Borat) on the campaign trail, appearing on any talk shows that would have him including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.

The film was a huge box office success, hitting the number one spot in the US. Cohen won the Golden Globe for Best Actor - Musical or Comedy, while the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes and also the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award.

Not a stranger to public controversies, Cohen had continued to garner troubles from the early days of Ali G because of racist or prejudiced comments he made while in character. One such entity to not see the funny side of Cohen's joke was Kazakhstan - the country in which Cohen had earned a fortune taking the pee out off as Borat. In reaction to his sexist, racist slurs, the Kazakhstan government responded in 2005 by threatening to take legal action over comments made while Cohen was hosting the MTV Europe Music Awards in character as Borat.

Not one to pass up the opportunity to create another comedic moment, Cohen responded to the legal threat by posting a video on his website in character as Borat saying, "I'd like to state that I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my government decision to sue this Jew. Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats and age of consent has been raised to eight years old."

Cohen was, however, recently defended by Dariga Nazarbayeva, a politician and the daughter of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who said “we should not be afraid of humour and we shouldn't try to control everything, I think.”


Having seen both his creations, Ali G and Borat on the big screen, next up was the spotlight on his other character, Bruno.

The gay Austrian fashion show presenter is a step away from both Ali G and Borat but follows the same parallel in subjecting his interviewees to provocative statements and embarrassing acts.

It was reported Universal Pictures paid $42.5 million for the rights to the film, which was relased in 2009.

In 2008, Cohen took to the runway at Prada's fashion show in Milan dressed as Bruno, with items stuck to his Velcro. He was soon escorted out by security.

He also created a scene at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards when he descended from the ceiling, dressed as an angel upside down into Eminem's lap.

Cohen only had a jockstrap on underneath his costume and ended up exposing his buttocks in the rapper's face who swore profusely and told his friends from D12 to remove him. It was later revealed they had planned the gag together.

Cohen has often been confused with the identity of one of his characters and it is rare that the public ever gets to glimpse the real him. However, the media are enticed with his relationship with actress Isla Fisher, whose first baby, Olive, was born in October 2007. The pair met in 2002 and Cohen proposed two years later with talk of Fisher planning to convert to Judaism for a traditional Jewish ceremony.

In 2007, Fisher converted to Judaism following three years of study and the couple married on 15 March 2010 in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Their second daughter Elula was born in the summer of the same year.

The family were seen celebrating Cohen's 40th birthday in Sydney on 12 October 2011, with the couple keeping the identity of their children hidden while enjoying a boat trip.

As a rule, Cohen rarely gives interviews as himself but he did embark on the talk show circuit back in 2004 to promote his series in America.

In 2012, Cohen will be lending his voice to 'Madagascar 3' and playing the lead role in 'The Dictator', which is a loose adaptation of the novel Zabibah and the King written by Saddam Hussein. It tells the story of a dictator who lovingly oppressed his country to ensure democracy never came to it. Cohen plays the ruler who secretly gets replaced by a lookalike and flees to New York. He also appeared in 'Les Miserables' the same year.

Next up is 'Grimsby', being written and produced by Cohen, due for release in 2015.