In the span of four minutes, Sacha Baron Cohen hilariously scorched Kanye West, honored U2, dissed Donald Trump, made President Joe Biden laugh and played himself out on a keytar, all in character as his beloved Borat persona. It all went down Dec. 4 at the 2022 Kennedy Center Honors event, and on Thursday (Dec. 29), the arts organization shared a video of the moment so that everyone who wasn’t in attendance can see — and laugh — for themselves.
In the video, Baron Cohen steps out onstage dressed in Borat’s signature suit and bushy mustache, greeting a crowd that also included honorees George Clooney, Amy Grant and Gladys Knight. The comedian — who is Jewish — was there to help celebrate U2, also one of the night’s honorees, but it didn’t take long for him to get topical with his speech.
“I must say I’m very upset about the antisemitism in U.S. and A,” he said. “It’s not fair. Kazakhstan is No. 1 Jew-crushing nation. Stop stealing our hobby!”
Of course, antisemitism has been thrust into the center of public discussion in the past couple months thanks in particular to Kanye West (who now goes by Ye). The rapper has been banned by several social media platforms and has been dropped from his deals with major brands — losing his billionaire status in the process — because of his repeated use of hate speech online and in interviews attacking Jewish people.
“Your Kanye, he tried to move to Kazakhstan and he even changed his name to Kazakhstan-ye West,” Baron Cohen continued, his Borat character a fictional journalist from the real country Kazakhstan. “We said no, he too antisemitic even for us.”
Baron Cohen also saved a little heat for the guys of U2, making a dig at their infamous partnership with Apple that involved the band’s 2014 album, Songs of Innocence, being automatically downloaded onto iTunes users’ personal devices, angering many. He also performed his own Borat-ified cover of one of the band’s biggest hits, “With or Without You,” earning uncomfortable laughs from the audience by replacing the word “you” with “Jews.”
“What the problem? They loved this at Mar-a-Lago,” he quipped, referencing Donald Trump’s current residence before performing a spirited solo on his keytar.