German comedy nods open borders to Borat

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COLOGNE, Germany -- He might be persona non grata in Kazakhstan, but Borat, the crazed Central Asian TV reporter created by British comic Sacha Baron Cohen, is a hero to the German comedy scene.

On Friday, Cohen, in his Borat guise, won the inaugural Best International Comedian prize at the 6th annual German Comedy Awards in Cologne.

"Good evening gentlemen and prostitutes," Cohen said to the crowd of industry professionals. "I love Germany. I love sex."

"This was the first time we gave a prize to an international comedian and we are very proud to give it to Borat," said Holger Hoffmann, executive producer of the Comedy Awards show. "Sacha Cohen, as Ali G, is THE hero for young people in Germany. Judging by the response Borat is getting, he is going have similar success here."

With his misogynistic and racist comments and sabotage interview style, Borat has been a source of controversy -- both in Kazakhstan, where he has been condemned by the country's real-life president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and in the U.S., where his politically incorrect jokes have drawn fire from the Anti-Defamation League.

"There was some concern from RTL on whether or not we should have him on air," Hoffmann said. "Most German comedy is fairly tame in comparison and there was some worry that people would be offended. But we held out. For German comedians, Borat is a revelation. It actually transcends comedy to become social and political commentary. He's like a demented Michael Moore. A lot of German comedians would like to do what he does but we don't dare."

Borat certainly didn't clean up his act for the awards ceremony.

"I will put this prize next to the only other one I won," Cohen said. "From Central Asian Olympic Committee. For hitting gypsy with rock at 50 meters."

For 20th Century Fox, which is releasing Cohen-starrer "Borat" in Germany Nov. 2, the award was a chance to do pick up some free publicity.

In addition to appearing on German talk shows like "TV Total" ahead of the awards ceremony, Cohen on Wednesday entertained a packed press conference of "serious" journalists in Cologne before the press screening of his film. After submitting to an interview himself, Cohen, as Borat leaped into the crowd and began kissing every man he could find.

"It has been a huge success for us," a Fox spokeswoman said. "We have generated more awareness for this movie than we could have hoped. Even the quality papers are writing about Borat as a cultural phenomenon. And, for the most part, they are all positive."

Cohen, of course, couldn't resist making a plug for "Borat" at the Comedy Awards.

"Thank you," he said as he left the stage. "Please go see my film. If you don't, I will be executed."
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