Most Augustans will remember last summer when WGAC Radio Talk Show Host Austin Rhodes was snookered by award-winning British comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen.
Cohen, star of his mock documentaries such as the 2006 film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” and his former HBO television series, “Da Ali G Show,” is known for playing incredible pranks on a variety of unsuspecting people all across the globe.
Famous individuals who have fallen victim to Cohen’s gags include everyone from politicians such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan to well-respected national journalists such as former ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson and the late “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney.
No one is immune to his stunts: A fact that Rhodes discovered all too well last summer when Cohen came to Augusta for a live, on-air debate on WGAC.
However, Rhodes and the entire WGAC staff had no idea it was Cohen in disguise.
A few weeks before the live debate, Rhodes had been approached by a reputable publicist to participate in a documentary involving a “renowned author and lecturer” named Dr. Nira Cain, who was supposedly a left-wing college professor from Portland, Ore.
When Cohen arrived in Augusta, he was wearing a wig with a professionally done makeup job to pull off his role as “Dr. Cain,” Rhodes said.
Right off the bat, Rhodes joked that Cain looked as if he was “straight out of central casting.”
“Are you Fred Armisen in disguise?” Rhodes jokingly asked “Dr. Cain” on air, referring to the co-creator and co-star of the comedy series “Portlandia.”
Cohen, in his role as Cain, didn’t really respond. He just looked like “I had hit him in the head with a baseball bat,” Rhodes later told the Metro Spirit.
For about 90 minutes, Rhodes and “Dr. Cain” sat across from one another, discussing a variety of political issues facing the country.
While the conversation was a bit bizarre, Rhodes never realized he was talking to Cohen.
“I had no clue,” Rhodes told the Metro Spirit last year. “When I found out, all I could think of was, ‘Holy crap.’ I mean, I’m a big fan of ‘Borat,’ and I enjoy his other movies and shows, too. So when I learned I had sat in this studio with Sacha Baron Cohen for 90 minutes, I was like, ‘How in the world did I not see it?’”
To this day, Rhodes is still in complete disbelief that Cohen was able to fool him so well.
“I mean, I pride myself on being savvy about Hollywood and stuff, and I was like, ‘How in the world did this guy sit 3 feet away from me and I not pick up on it,’ especially after I heard his voice again after the interview,” Rhodes said. “I was like, ‘Holy cow. That’s him. That is really him.’”
Well, Rhodes was far from alone this past year in getting fooled by Cohen for a new Showtime comedy called “Who Is America?” that premiered this past Sunday.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Vice President Dick Cheney, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott and former ABC News anchor Ted Koppel also were pranked by Cohen.
In the first episode of “Who Is America?” that debuted on July 15, Cohen played the character of Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., a scooter-riding, America-loving, conspiracy- theory believer who lets his wild opinions fly on his website, Truthbrary.org.
It’s called Truthbrary, instead of “Library.”
The show opened this past Sunday with Ruddick interviewing former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders about his concerns regarding Obamacare.
During the discussion, Ruddick told Sanders that he only uses his scooter to “conserve my body’s finite energy.”
Let’s just say, it was an extremely unusual discussion.
But the question on many of Augustans’ minds is: When will the episode featuring Austin Rhodes air on Showtime?
Unfortunately, Showtime will not say when that particular episode will air, but Rhodes is getting a lot of national attention after being duped by Cohen.
The Augusta radio talk show host has been featured in several articles by national publications such as Vanity Fair and the Hollywood Reporter.
In fact, Rhodes wrote a detailed description of his encounter with Cohen for the Hollywood Reporter.
“What followed was 90 minutes of my first and only trip into the radio version of The Twilight Zone, with a guest that was either the most amazingly bizarre left-wing extremist in the country or a complete lunatic,” Rhodes wrote. “To be honest, I believed at the time he was both.”
“My hat is off to his crew, who kept my producer and I off-kilter the entire interview by constantly adjusting our hardwired microphones (for the documentary) and lights every moment we were off air,” Rhodes added. “‘Dr. Cain’ dashed out at every commercial and news break to seek relief in the bathroom due to what he described as some sort of intestinal distress.”
It was the perfect set-up, Rhodes wrote.
“I have been a fan of Cohen’s work for years, and I have seen ‘Borat’ probably 20 times from start to finish. How in the hell did I miss that this was Sacha Baron Cohen?” Rhodes wrote. “When I replayed the show, literally the very next day, his voice was obvious, despite a clever attempt to disguise the voice we have heard in countless dialects and characters.”
When asked if he was concerned about Cohen’s new show and how he will be portrayed, Rhodes wrote that, whatever happens, WGAC still has the “original program to clarify context or tone if needed.”
“I am not worried at all,” Rhodes wrote. “My biggest regret is not being able to shake his hand as Sacha Baron Cohen or interview him (as himself). I hope we can set that up. I would say he owes me one.”
The Metro Spirit will be sure to let Augustans know if and when we find out an air date for the episode featuring Rhodes.
So get your popcorn ready.
It’s guaranteed to be a good show.