Sacha Baron Cohen‘s pranks have finally met 2018. In an especially cringe-worthy Who Is America? interview, Cohen targeted a member of the new elite — not a fashion icon or a reality TV star but a prominent tech bro. However, the most shocking part of Cohen’s interview with Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam is that he seems exceptionally easy to fool.
Posing as Gio, Cohen’s playboy photographer character, the comedian lured the Silicon Valley celebrity into his comedic trap though a photoshoot. But unlike with Corrine Olympios’ interview, it doesn’t feel like Cohen is forcing the tech founder to be outrageous. Moghadam escalates the segment all on his own.
“I kid you not, Jesus came down, and he told us what’s up, and he told us this was going to be the biggest site,” Moghadam says about his former company. Yeah, that’s where we’re starting.
In the middle of the photoshoot, Gio compliments Moghadam repeatedly, calling him cool. He then asks he to “do something like a black guy.” Seemingly without missing a beat, Moghadam makes the Blood sign and mimes shooting a gun at the camera while saying “pop, pop.” Of course a lot of editing goes into Who Is America?‘s segments, but there’s really no excuse for that.
Much like with the Olympios interview, Cohen then persuaded Moghadam to pose with a green screen so he can photoshop the founder feeding starving children. In the middle of the shoot, Gio stops, convincing his muse that he needs to make his penis look bigger. Naturally the only solution to this is to stuff the arm of a babydoll down his pants. Moghadam never seems to protest any of this, not even when an intentionally racist Gio swaps out the white babydoll arm for an African-American one.
Though its pointedly ridiculous, the interview acts as a scathing reminder of how tech companies have capitalized on black artists, at times without respect to those artists. The segment also nods to the evolution of who is and isn’t a celebrity in 2018. During a time when Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are household names, tech founders and “brogrammers” have certainly reached prank-worthy levels of popularity.
But then again, Cohen knew exactly what he was getting with this interview. In 2014 Moghadam was fired from his own company for posting horrifying annotations on a mass murderer’s manifesto on Genius’ website. In retrospect it’s perhaps not that surprising that footage now exists of him clumsily rapping after being casually racist.