‘The Dictator’ director Larry Charles discusses the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen, Larry David, and, yes, Bob Dylan
(Photo: Paramount Pictures)
Charles chatted with Yahoo! Movies about going to the darker side of comedy with Cohen, humor as an ethnic survival tool and the Jewish comic holy trinity: Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks.
Thelma Adams: You've always wanted to go to the more absurd side of comedy. With "Seinfeld," you wrote some of the darkest material like the second season show "The Bet," where Elaine gets a handgun, which was never filmed. Now, working with Cohen, are you satisfying your darker side?
Larry Charles: I've only gotten to the shady side. I haven't gotten to the dark side yet.
TA: What is the farthest you've pushed the envelope?
LC: There were scenes that I feel pushed things the furthest in "Borat" that the audience didn't feel that way about. Then, in the naked fight in "Borat," we knew that was funny, but I remember sitting in the back row of the theater with Sacha at the first screening and when that scene came on people reacted like they were watching a horror movie, hitting each other and screaming — and laughing. That scene defines a lot of what I've done.
TA: What's your partnership with Cohen? What does he bring, and what do you bring?
LC: First of all, there's a brain trust, besides Sacha and me. There were writers collaborating before I came along, and I'm lucky enough to be part of that. They're like Talmudic scholars. Sacha is a brilliant, fiery, incendiary mind, an intense intellect. He has a savant comedy quality that is singular and unique that puts him in the pantheon of great comic geniuses. Those things are very inspiring and I gravitate to the kind of projects and people that inspire me.
LC: When we're dealing with anti-Semitism, and we're playing with satire, it has to be directed very sharply and precisely because the target is our perception of things, rather than the reality of things. For example, the way we imagine the running of the Jews, imagine in that country that has a history of anti-Semitism some crazy ritual like the running of the Jews, or some crazy ideas about life and magic and gypsies and curses and the idea that Jews could turn themselves into an insect. There's an honesty that really connected and resonated with people.