Sacha Noam Baron Cohen (born 13 October 1971) is a British comedian, actor, and writer. He is most widely known for his portrayal of three unorthodox fictional characters Ali G, Borat and Brüno. In his routines, Baron Cohen’s characters interact with unsuspecting people who do not realise they are being set up for comic situations and self-revealing ridicule.
Baron Cohen’s work has been recognised with several Emmy nominations, an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, a BAFTA award, and a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his work in the feature film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. After the release of the film Borat, Baron Cohen stated that because the public had become too familiar with the characters, he would retire Borat and Ali G. Similarly, after the release of Brüno, he has stated he would also retire the title character.
Baron Cohen was born in Hammersmith, West London, England. His mother, Daniella (née Weiser), was born in Israel, while his father, Gerald, was originally from Pontypridd, Wales. Baron Cohen is the middle of three sons, with elder brother Erran and younger brother Amnon. His family is Jewish. His paternal grandfather was born in Pontypridd, Wales, and his maternal grandmother, who now lives in Haifa, Israel, trained as a ballet dancer in Germany.Baron Cohen’s brother Erran is a composer and has worked on several of his films. Internationally renowned autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen is his cousin.
Baron Cohen first attended St Columba’s College Prep School, St Albans, Hertfordshire, before moving on to attend Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, a private school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, near London. He went on to the University of Cambridge, entering Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read History under Niall Ferguson and wrote his thesis on Jewish involvement in the American Civil Rights movement, with emphasis on the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi.
At the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, Baron Cohen acted in plays such as Fiddler on the Roof (in which he played Tevye) and Cyrano de Bergerac. While at Cambridge, he performed in Habonim Dror Jewish theatre performances.
Baron Cohen married Australian actress Isla Fisher on 15 March 2010. After three years of study, Fisher converted to Judaism in early 2007, saying “I will definitely have a Jewish wedding just to be with Sacha. I would do anything – move into any religion – to be united in marriage with him. We have a future together, and religion comes second to love as far as we are concerned.” She has received the approval of Baron Cohen’s observant Jewish parents. Baron Cohen and Fisher have two children: daughter Olive, born on 19 October 2007 in Los Angeles, and a second child, born in the summer of 2010, whose sex, name, and birth date were not announced.
After leaving university, Baron Cohen worked for a time as a fashion model, appearing in many fashion magazines. By the early 1990s, he was hosting a weekly programme on Windsor cable television’s local broadcasts with Carol Kirkwood, who later became a BBC weather forecaster. In 1995, Channel 4 was planning a replacement for its series The Word, and disseminated an open call for new television presenters. Baron Cohen sent in a tape of himself in the character of Kristo, a fictional television reporter from Albania (who developed into the Kazakhstani Borat Sagdiyev), which caught the attention of a producer. Baron Cohen hosted Pump TV from 1995-1996. In 1996, he began presenting the youth chat programme F2F for Granada Talk TV. The late nineties saw Baron Cohen make his first feature film appearance in the British comedy The Jolly Boys’ Last Stand, then in 2000 Baron Cohen played the part of Super Greg for a series of TV advertisements for Lee Jeans which never aired, yet the website for Super Greg created an internet sensation. He also attended Ecole Philippe Gaulier, studying under Philippe Gaulier whom he credits with enabling him to find the play and pleasure to create such characters as Ali G and Borat.
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