Even from the trailer I wasn’t sure I wanted to go see Borat, but when something gets a 92% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes and almost universal beaming comedic praise, I figure there’s something more going on, that I’m going to see something genuinely funny.

There’s a whole area of comedy that I don’t seem to “get”. It never has the desired affect on me and I end up more annoyed than amused almost every time… and that’s exactly why I hated watching Borat last night.

I absolutely loathe humor generated through brutal embarrassment. Maybe it’s because I grew up a timid little dork who sometimes got picked on or caught in awkward situations, I don’t know. But watching normal people get confronted by an insistent inappropriate asshole doesn’t doesn’t fill me with glee or make me laugh. I gather no joy from watching people struggle through those moments.

The weirdest part is that a lot of reviews about Borat are claiming it shines a light on bigotry in American culture – racism hidden just under the surface until people feel they can get away with saying what they really think. That’s horseshit. 3 of the people Borat talks to are outwardly bigoted (literally one for each of the major taboos – sexism, race and sexual orientation) and even those are enhanced by the editing. Every other one is implied because they briefly agree with the terrible stuff Borat is saying or politely ignore it to carry on with what they’re doing.

When confronted with a disruptive foreigner spouting bigoted sentiments in semi-capable English, would any of us try to extensively educate them on the spot – let alone on camera?! Probably not. We’d do our best to get through the situation with a bit of grace and continue our day – that doesn’t mean we’re bigots on our way to the next Klan meeting. Most of the people Borat deals with show a surprising amount of patience for his shock-value-laden actions and words. They put on a pretty good face and just try to finish the interaction. When six polite people invite you to dinner and you shit in a plastic bag and show it to them, they’re going to react very awkwardly while they think it’s a cultural mistake and then with anger when they realize it’s intentional. That’s not humor as far as I’m concerned. Saying awful things about a village of people and having them smile for the camera as you do it because they don’t understand your language isn’t funny either. You gave poor villagers a bit of money and told them to smile and dance for the camera, that’s all they know. Calling them whores and rapists to their face doesn’t make me laugh.

I’m shocked at the mountains of praise Borat’s getting. How could so many reviewers be doubled over with laughter at this? I was ready to walk out at one point because the concept of punking ordinary people was getting so foul and out of control.

Oddly, I generally find the Jackass TV show and movies extremely funny. That may seem incredibly lowbrow given what I wrote above, but here’s the night and day difference for me – in every Jackass skit the morons choose to endanger themselves and do stupid shit while we watch them carry it out. Pain, stupidity and embarrassment – they’ve got a clear understanding of what they’re in for and they do it anyways. Some of it makes me gag or shake my head, but there’s never any doubt or guilt. It’s slapstick taken to a ridiculous over the top extreme. Again, the only bits of Jackass I don’t like are when they involve unsuspecting normal people into their shenanigans.

Borat shows that some Americans are stupid, bigoted assholes and the rest are pretty normal embarrassed people capable of some amazing restraint. That’s no comedic revelation or worthy of praise.

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