Why Didn’t ‘Who Is America?’ Air the Sarah Palin Interview?
When Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show Who Is America? was announced in early July, numerous politicians revealed that the comedian had duped them. Among all of the segments we learned about via these statements, perhaps the most highly-anticipated interview was one with Sarah Palin. Yet Who Is America? just aired its finale last night, and the Palin interview was not included. So what happened?
At the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour a few weeks ago, Showtime Programming President Gary Levine gave the answer. According to The Wrap, Levine teased that some interviews might not actually air on the show, including ones with people who have publicly said they were duped by Cohen, and that’s not for any legal reason. It’s just because Cohen is a perfectionist and cuts out material that he doesn’t feel is absolutely great.
“Sacha is incredibly hard-working and selective in the final product and he’s always refining it and he has a very high bar,” Levine said. “So we will see what we will see.”
A reporter asked Levine to clarify whether legal concerns had anything to do with interviews being cut out, but Levine said that this was not the case. Instead, it sounds like if Cohen cut something out of the show, the only reason was that he didn’t think it was funny enough.
“[Cohen is] refining stuff right up to the moment it goes on the air,” Levine said. “He screens it in front of audiences. It looks like he’s doing it all off-the-cuff, it is remarkably organized and deeply researched and I am in awe of his work ethic and his team.”
It’s unclear whether we will ever see the footage of Cohen’s interview with Palin, although if it just wasn’t funny, there’s no real reason Cohen would want to release it. Hopefully, he’ll at least provide us with details about what happened in the interview at some point, but it’s possible Palin simply walked out immediately and didn’t give him any entertaining reactions.
Who Is America? did give Palin a shout-out in the end credits of the finale, though, listing her as a “Special Publicity Consultant (Inadvertent).”
Based on what Palin said last month, we know that she was interviewed by Cohen’s character Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., a parody of fringe conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. Throughout the season, Cohen interviewed a number of high-profile people as Ruddick, including Bernie Sanders, Corey Lewandowski, and Ted Koppel. With the rest of the show, the aim is often to get interview subjects with political beliefs similar to that of the character to agree with the crazy things he’s saying, but nearly everyone interviewed by Ruddick pushed back on his insane conspiracies. This led some to believe that Palin might have been the only person to fully agree with Ruddick, but presumably, we would have seen the segment had that been the case.
Palin was not the only person interviewed for Who Is America? whose segment never actually aired. According to The Daily Beast, former CNN political commentator and Trump defender Jeffrey Lord also had a segment cut, as did a gun store owner who claims he caught on to Cohen’s schtick and kicked him out of his store.
It’s unclear at this time whether there might be a second season of the show. Showtime has said the door is open if Cohen wants to return, but before the finale aired, Cohen suggested on Twitter that this was the final episode ever. Then again, maybe he’s just saying that so politicians will let their guard down, only to be duped once again for Season 2.