From my upcoming movie review in The American Conservative:
... Baron Cohen, who wrote his thesis at Cambridge on Jewish participation in the American civil rights movement, modeled Borat on an unintentionally funny Russian he had met. His character started out Moldovan and then became Albanian. There are plenty of scary Albanian gangsters in Western Europe who might have taken active offense, however, and Borat was relocated to far-off Kazakhstan in Central Asia.
In reality, Kazakhstan is an arid land of mostly Asian-looking people, but in Baron Cohen's imagination, it's a travesty of old stereotypes about Eastern Europe. The vulgar yet somehow innocent journalist's home was filmed 2500 miles away in an impoverished Romanian village so that Baron Cohen can indulge in traditional Ashkenazi anti-gentilism, the clever townsman's disdain for the slower-witted peasant.
"Borat" is a 21st Century version of the Polish jokes that Borscht Belt comedians like Henny Youngman once helped popularize. While Baron Cohen's Ali G was a milestone in contemporary social satire, the anti-Slavic depiction of Borat as the ultimate goyishe kop (he carries a chicken in his suitcase and has no idea what a toilet is for) is old-fashioned and purposeless.
Still, the film is awfully funny in its intentionally lowbrow way. ...
Fox's masterful hyping of "Borat" is in ironic contrast to how in September the studio drowned like an unwanted kitten the similarly crude and hilarious, but much smarter and more politically daring, "Idiocracy," the sci-fi black comedy about America's dysgenic future by the dazzling but diffident Mike Judge