Watch 1990s Video of Sacha Baron Cohen Playing Christo, the Proto Borat (NSFW)

In 2005, a hir­sute Kaza­kh jour­nal­ist named Borat Sagdiyev ven­tured to Amer­i­ca to make a doc­u­men­tary about “the Great­est Coun­try in the World.” Along the way, he had extreme­ly awk­ward con­ver­sa­tions with politi­cians Bob Barr and Alan Keyes, unwit­ting­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in a Gay Pride parade, and acci­den­tal­ly destroyed a gift shop filled with Con­fed­er­a­cy mem­o­ra­bil­ia. When he vis­it­ed a Vir­ginia rodeo, he near­ly caused a riot. Pri­or to the event, he praised the War on Ter­ror — which got cheers — and then wished that “George W. Bush will drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq,” which got few­er cheers. He then sang the lyrics of the Kaza­kh nation­al anthem to the tune of the “Star Span­gle Ban­ner.” That got boos.

Borat is, of course, a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter played by British come­di­an Sacha Baron Cohen, made famous in his huge­ly suc­cess­ful 2006 movie Borat: Cul­tur­al Learn­ings of Amer­i­ca for Make Ben­e­fit Glo­ri­ous Nation of Kaza­khstan. While his brand of gonzo com­e­dy might not be everybody’s cup of tea, you have to admit he’s brave and weird­ly ded­i­cat­ed to his craft. The cops were called over 90 times dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Borat and Baron Cohen nev­er broke char­ac­ter once.

Of all of Baron Cohen’s char­ac­ters – the dim-wit­ted wannabe gang­ster Ali G and the equal­ly obliv­i­ous gay fash­ion­ista Bruno, Borat is per­haps his most like­able, and there­fore his most dan­ger­ous, char­ac­ter. He’s so naive­ly igno­rant, so benight­ed by provin­cial prej­u­dices that he evokes a tone of kind­ly con­de­scen­sion from just about every­one he encoun­ters – at least before they call the cops on him. And that con­de­scen­sion can prove to be a trap. Borat’s casu­al, jar­ring­ly overt homo­pho­bia, sex­ism and anti-Semi­tism can often lead inter­vie­wees to say things out loud that they wouldn’t nor­mal­ly say in front of a cam­era. When Borat stat­ed, “We hang homo­sex­u­als in my coun­try!” Bob­by Rowe, the pro­duc­er of that rodeo quipped: “That’s what we’re try­ing to do here.”

The first incar­na­tion of Borat was a Mol­da­vian jour­nal­ist named Alexi who appeared on the Grana­da TV show F2F in the mid-90s. For the BBC Two show Com­e­dy Nation, Baron Cohen turned Alexi into Chris­to from Alba­nia. You can see a cou­ple of his ear­ly skits as Chris­to. In the one up top, he tries the patience of famed socialite Lady Col­in Camp­bell by insist­ing on car­ry­ing the train of her haute cou­ture dress. Below that, Chris­to stum­bles uncom­pre­hend­ing­ly into the world of S&M. Both videos, as you might expect, are NSFW.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ali G at Har­vard; or How Sacha Baron Cohen Got Blessed by America’s Cul­tur­al Estab­lish­ment

George Car­lin Per­forms His “Sev­en Dirty Words” Rou­tine: His­toric and Com­plete­ly NSFW

Lenny Bruce Riffs and Rants on Injus­tice and Hypocrisy in One of His Final Per­for­mances (NSFW)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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