In reading this week’s chapter on laughter by Henri Bergson, one particular idea stood out to me. Bergson states that the comic person ‘is invisible to himself while remaining visible to all the world.’
The statement brought to mind the work of Sacha Baron Cohen, who I believe builds his humour on the basis of this concept. As a professional comedian, Cohen is certainly not invisible to himself. In fact, Cohen turns the above statement on its head in order to craft comedy by disguising himself in order to reveal the comedic traits of those he interacts with.
Take, for example, this clip from Cohen’s newest work, Who is America? In it, Cohen poses as the Israeli caricature, Erran Morad, in order to convince republican senator Philip Van Cleave to advocate providing children as young as three with guns. In this instance, it is Van Cleave who embodies Bergson’s comic person. The gag is so funny because of how little self-awareness is being demonstrated, and Cohen adds to this comic presence through testing just how much he can get away with making the senator do. Which, as we can see, is a lot. While one could criticise Cohen’s techniques as comedic entrapment, his method remains simple and effective: In disguising himself, Cohen reveals the comedic fallibility of his targets to all the world without them even realizing it. As with Borat, the funniest elements of Who is America stem not from Cohen’s scripted actions but from unscripted reactions.
 Bergson, Henri. Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic. London: Macmillan, 1911 pp. 1-66
 Bergson, Henri. Laughter: an essay on the meaning of the comic. London: Macmillan, 1911 pp. 16-17
 Who is America?. “Episode 1.” S01E01. Directed by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen. Showtime, July, 2018.
 Borat. Directed by Larry Charles. USA: 20th Century Fox. 2006