As the actor/comedian makes his way to Israel for his latest flick, those who knew him way back when share some potent memoriesHe’s recently been caught storming New York’s Waldorf-Astoria (now owned by an Israeli) and referred to jahnun on “Saturday Night Live”, all in character as the bearded, Hebrew-speaking Middle Eastern tyrant General Aladeen, leader of the fictional country of Wadiya, who is taking the world by storm in “The Dictator,” and will soon be in Israel, presumably to visit his grandmother.
He is Sacha Baron Cohen, the Jewish, English and half-Israeli comedian who has created a career out of imagined characters who deftly comment on the political, cultural and social issues of the moment.
He began his career as the fictional Ali G on “Da Ali G Show,” playing a boorish, uneducated type, and often baffled his celebrity and politician interviewees who didn’t realize he was in character.
Now he’s a celebrity, married to a fellow — converted — celebrity, actress Isla Fisher, with whom he has two daughters, including one whose name is Elula. For those who knew him when, as a fellow Habonim Dror youth group member or Cambridge student, his current antics are hilarious, sometimes crude, but his success is not altogether surprising.
“I remember being on the bus during our Habonim Mahane Lomdim trip, and he did this standup bit about lost property at the front of the bus,” said one woman now living in Ra’anana, who attended a three-week seminar with Baron Cohen in Israel when they were graduating high school. “He was really very nerdy, he didn’t hang out with the girls, but we were literally crying from laughter because he was so funny. I remember thinking how talented he was, and very, very smart, a genius, really.”