Vulgar. Provocative. Outrageous. Those are just three of the buzz words being thrown about to help market Sacha Baron Cohen’s documentary-satire, Bruno. And though Sacha Baron Cohen has turned limit-pushing into an artform, comedies have been shocking audiences into laughter for decades. Here’s a look back at some of the movies that paved the way.
1. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Maybe a little too on the nose, but Borat propelled Baron Cohen to stardom, using his “hilarious foreign man” character to expose racism, sexism, and other isms in the USA. From getting a rodeo crowd to cheer the phrase, “We support your war of terror!” to stuffing Pamela Anderson in a bag, there’s no shortage of envelope pushing scenes. But the one most seared in our minds is the completely naked fight Borat and his producer have throughout a Los Angeles hotel. Never before has anything so horrifyingly hairy been seen on screen.
2. The Aristocrats (2005)
A documentary about the most offensive joke ever told is asking for controversy. Though this movie actually got little of it, even with every comedian in the stratosphere mentioning every single vile, disgusting act — both sexual and otherwise — that you can possibly imagine. Perhaps its most lasting impact was taking a backstage practice (telling your version of “The Aristocrats”), and bringing it to the forefront of American culture. Even grandmothers in Peoria know if they hear, “A family walks into an agent’s office, say, have we got an act for you…” it’s time to run for the hills.
3. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)
Songs about uncle molestation. Gay Hitler pulling out severed penises
and throwing them at his lover, Satan, in Hell. A giant clitoris that
stops a war between Canada and America. Any of these scenes in the big
screen adaptation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s seminal series could
have been lightning rods for the press. Instead, the central conceit,
that the South Park kids buy tickets for an R-rated cartoon movie,
sending their parents into a tizzy, became presciently self-reflexive
when the movie itself became the center of a nation-wide debate on the
ratings process that continues to this day.
4. Porky’s (1992)
Before American Pie, before Van Wilder, there was Porky’s, which most
critics consider the original outrageous teen comedy. The tropes of
teen comedies were set here by a group of mismatched high schoolers
trying to lose their virginity, including copious nudity and swearing, and lots
and lots of pranks. The most famous scene has the group of guys
drilling a hole in the wall of the girl’s shower room in their school
gym, which inspired the movie’s iconic poster.
5. Pink Flamingos (1972)
You can’t talk about shocking and outrageous without, in the same
breathe, mentioning John Waters. The Baltimore based filmmaker has been
pushing the envelope for years. And though modern audiences may know
Waters for the cheery musical version of his most earnest movie,
Hairspray, they might throw up just a little bit if they knew the
mother from Hairspray (no, not John Travolta; Divine, from the
original) once ate actual human feces in Pink Flamingos. And that might
possibly be the cleanest part of the movie.
1. Jackass: The Movie (2002): The Jackass TV gang took their dangerous shenanigans to the screen,
and created a sublimely hilarious movie. And unlike other prank movies,
the gang only hurt themselves.
2. Dogma (1999): Kevin Smith has courted outrage his whole career, but it took him
until 1999 to find the world’s best lightning rod: Mixing religion with
George Carlin, and a CGI monster made out a substance only fit for
Divine (see above) to eat.
3. There’s Something About Mary (1998): …And an entire nation never looked at hair gel or Cameron Diaz’s head the same way again.
4. The Producers (1968): It’s been made into a Broadway musical, and then a movie again based
on that but nothing will ever beat the priceless audience reactions in
Mel Brooks’ “Springtime for Hitler.”
5. The Great Dictator (1940): And speaking of the leader of the Third Reich, Charlie Chaplin
pioneered the offensive comedy, scathingly satirizing Hitler and the
Nazi regime at a time when the U.S. was still, technically, at peace with