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Why "Bruno" is good for the world

What's funny to you isn't always funny to "them." Should we care?

The reaction of Kazakhstan's government to Baron Cohen's portrayal of its people as wife-stealing, Jew-hating yokels who guzzle horse urine (the Kazakhs prefer kumyss, which is made of fermented horse milk) was even more proactive.

To refute the potential stereotypes it worried the film might create, the government ran four-page ads in The New York Times and U.S. News and World Report and aired clarifying TV spots on CNN and an ABC affliliate in Washington, D.C.

It also dispatched embassy spokesman Roman Vassilenko to dispute Borat's various depictions of Kazakhstan, detailed here by NPR:

Borat: Kazakhstan is the No. 1 exporter of potassium.
Vassilenko: Kazakhstan's oil industry is responsible for the country's economic boom.

: Prostitution is one of the major industries in Kazakhstan.
Vassilenko: Women in Kazakhstan are more likely to be doctors, lawyers and teachers than prostitutes.

Borat: Kazakhstan's space program launches chimpanzees and toddlers into orbit.
Vassilenko: Kazakhstan participates in the International Space Station program, and hosts the station's docking site in its steppes.

Borat: Kazakhstan's embassy spokesman Roman Vassilenko is an "Uzbek imposter."
Vassilenko: Vassilenko is a proud patriot of Kazakhstan. His country is home to many migrant workers from its northern neighbor Uzbekistan.

Of course, Kazakhs and Austrians (or Uzbeks) aren't the real targets of Baron Cohen's bracing humor. The joke here is mostly on Americans — or at least those who display their ignorance or intolerance toward a variety of topics — from homosexuality, to geography, to misconceptions about foreigners.

That same approach has been used by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the animated TV series "South Park." In 2004, the two wrote and produced "Team America: World Police," which skewered, among other things, America's full-throated response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Team America, jouncing around as puppets, destroys the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumphe, and shoots up the Great Pyramids in its efforts to keep Arab terrorists and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il from destroying the world.

Surprise, surprise: Pyongyang also called for a ban, in the Czech Republic (the film wasn't distributed in North Korea), saying Team America "harmed the image of the country." The Czechs politely declined.