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In comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen dictates his own rules

“It was hilarious,” says producer and director Judd Apatow, who witnessed the frenzied vacuum cleanup. “Things get very stale. Our entire industry needs someone to dump ashes on it. I appreciate that he tries to shake things up.”

Cohen, 40, certainly has been doing that since bringing his outrageous brand of comedy from the United Kingdom to the USA with 2002?s Ali G Indahouse, in which he stars as the leader of a group of wannabe gangsters, and 2006?s hit Borat, about a fictional Kazakhstani journalist traveling through the USA.

The Dictator, which opened this week, is the story of a Middle Eastern despot, Aladeen, who is removed from power during a trip to the USA. The humor is derived from jokes that lampoon beheading, 9/11, rape and other despicable acts.

“He reinvents all the rules and has more courage than the rest of us,” Apatow says. “His six funniest moments are six of the funniest moments in comedy history.”

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Sacha Baron Cohen spills ashes on Ryan Seacrest on the Oscars red carpet.

Cohen’s Oscar antics were part of a string of stunts to promote The Dictator. At the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, “Aladeen” strolled the famous promenade on a camel, flanked by mini-skirted bodyguards armed with assault rifles.

The actor, who rarely does interviews out of character, says via e-mail as Aladeen that he has few regrets about his actions, though “I may have slightly overreacted when John Lennon refused to give me an autograph in 1980.”

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Trailer: ‘The Dictator’

After Borat, the Anti-Defamation League took Cohen to task. “One serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke. And that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry,” the league said in a statement.

Larry Charles, who has directed Cohen in Borat, Bruno and The Dictator, says there’s a social message buried in the edgiest of jokes.

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‘The Dictator’ Clip: Monkey on Roller Skates

“We’re looking for subjects or ideas that most people would never go near — and hopefully finding comedy that’s raucously funny, but also resonates in some way so that there’s something for people to think about.

“We have a very ambitious agenda.”

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