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Sacha Baron Cohen Taped an Interview for Who Is America? That Was Too Dark Even for Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen in a tuxedo.
Sacha Baron Cohen attends the GQ Men of the Year awards.
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime series Who Is America? raised a lot of provocative questions about our country, from the simple (was former Georgia state representative Jason Spencer too dumb and sociopathic to represent the American people?) to the profound (is anyone dumb and sociopathic enough to represent the American people?). One question it didn’t raise, however, was if there were any lines Cohen wouldn’t cross. The premise of the show’s best segments, as Lili Loofbourow observed, was creating a safe space for its targets to be themselves, then seeing just how far they’d go. That doesn’t work if the host puts the brakes on things, and there was nothing on the show, which ranged from extremely dark to extremely scatological, to suggest that there was anything Cohen wouldn’t air. It turns out that wasn’t entirely true, as the man behind Ali G and Borat explained to Deadline. There was one segment that was too dark even for pay cable, an interview Cohen conducted in-character as Gio Monaldo, the white-haired Italian billionaire Cohen plays when pranking the super-rich and their enablers:

And there was an interview that didn’t make it in, with Gio. We were shooting some of this at the time of Harvey Weinstein. We wanted to investigate how does someone like Harvey Weinstein gets away with doing what … get away with criminality, essentially. And the network that surrounds him. We decided that Gio would interview a concierge in Las Vegas. During the interview, I revealed that basically Gio has molested an eight-year-old boy. Now, mind you, this is extreme comedy and we thought that the guy would leave the room. Instead, this concierge stays in the room and I go, listen, you’ve got to help me get rid of the problem. And this guy starts advising Gio how to get rid of this issue. We even at one point talk about murdering the boy, and the concierge is just saying, “Well, listen, I’m really sorry. In this country, we can’t just drown the boy. This is America we don’t do that.” And then, in the end, he puts me in touch with a lawyer who can silence the boy. It became really dark stuff. And then at the end of the interview I say, listen, I want to go out and celebrate now. Can you get me a date for tonight? He says, “What do you mean, a date?”

I go, you know, like a young man. He says, “Well, what kind of age?” I say, lower than Bar Mitzvah but older than eight. And he says, “Yeah, I can put you in touch with somebody who can get you some boys like that.”

As Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. noted, “none of this remotely qualifies as comedy.” Rather than build a segment from something so horrible, Cohen turned his footage over to the FBI. He says the agency decided not to pursue it, so expect Who Is America? to be an integral part of the QAnon conspiracy theory by Christmas. “In a journalistic way it was fascinating, but it was so extreme and so dark that it was too unsettling for the audience,” Cohen told Deadline. As for his never-aired interview with Sarah Palin, it didn’t get cut for being too disturbing, nor did Palin’s complaints spook the network. Palin, Cohen explained, didn’t make it to TV for the oldest reason in showbiz: “I looked at the footage and it just wasn’t funny enough.”