Ashgate: When Ryan Seacrest met The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is known for his controversial stunts. These have often involved subjecting unsuspecting people to ridicule while adopting the personas of his comic creations Ali G, Bruno and Borat. His newest character, General Aladeen, who stars in his forthcoming film The Dictator and his recent Oscar-night antics, however, have led to suggestions in some quarters that he may have gone too far this time.

At February’s Oscars, Baron Cohen arrived attired as the fictional General Aladeen. He strode up the red carpet and approached the television host Ryan Seacrest before “tripping” and ceremoniously tipping an urn of ashes, which he said were those of Kim Jong-il, over the hapless Seacrest. Seacrest did not appear to be amused by the episode and Baron Cohen was escorted from the premises.

Even the most experienced of television hosts would have been taken by surprise by such a stunt. After all, regardless of how well prepared you are, you cannot be expected to envisage ashes, or pancake mix as it was later revealed to consist of, to be thrown over you. So the question is: should Ryan Seacrest consider making a work accident compensation claim? Maybe he could sue the management team of the Oscars, who had allegedly caught wind of what was planned and had already warned Baron Cohen to behave?

Whilst Sacha Cohen’s humour may not be to everyone’s taste, many of those present did find the stunt funny. It was certainly in keeping with previous antics, which have included walking on to a runway at a Milan fashion show dressed as alter ego Bruno and subsequently being removed by security. He was also lowered on to the rapper Eminem’s lap with exposed buttocks during the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, causing much apparent consternation on the part of Eminem (although it was later revealed that he was in on the stunt).

Such antics, performed with the aim of causing awkwardness or embarrassment, would certainly not be tolerated in many workplaces. Claims of bullying or victimisation or most certainly misconduct would surely abound. It is hard to picture an HR professional who would excuse such conduct during the course of one’s employment and difficult to think of a business that would not disapprove, even if such behaviour occurred after a few too many drinks at the Christmas party.

The situation is certainly different when it comes to the celebrity world, however, particularly in the entertainment industry where creativity and unpredictability are part of the working environment. Sacha Baron Cohen may have been shamelessly promoting his new film and he has successfully ensured that it has a high profile throughout the world at little financial cost.

His unwitting victim Ryan Seacrest may also benefit from the publicity associated with the stunt. While he may have become the victim of another of Baron Cohen’s practical jokes and might be feeling a degree of injured pride, his profile has also been raised on a worldwide stage. Perhaps he can even make some money out of the incident, if he receives some compensation for any emotional distress he may have suffered?

Written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle helping inform people through a variety of topics areas surrounding compensation in all walks of life 

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