LONDON German Chancellor Angela Merkel and News Corp head Rupert Murdoch were among the targets of British comic Sacha Baron Cohen's satirical humor late on Thursday at the world premiere of his political spoof "The Dictator".
Donning full military regalia and a false beard, and brandishing a replica golden pistol, he swept up the London red carpet standing in a bright orange Lamborghini -- with one wheel clamped and being carried on a tow truck.
Baron Cohen, in character as the freedom-hating North African dictator General Aladeen from the fictional Republic of Wadiya, was also surrounded by glamorous, uniformed female "body guards" in short skirts.
"Now while I am here, I would like to grant political asylum to (Rupert) Murdoch," he declared to reporters and fans along the red carpet. "We also have mobile phone hacking in Wadiya. Everyone who has a phone, we hack off their hands."
On the subject of gay marriage, in the headlines this week after U.S. President Barack Obama publicly supported same-sex marriage, Baron Cohen said:
"I am very happy because yesterday Nicholas Clegg and David Cameron renewed their vows and now they are the world's most famous gay couple."
British Prime Minister Cameron and his coalition partner and deputy Clegg sought to relaunch their joint government this week after big losses at local elections.
Referring to the German leader, Baron Cohen added: "By the way Angela Merkel, you need to look after your appearance. I think Merkel would be more successful if Merkel has a sex change and becomes a woman."
The 40-year-old comic has forged a successful career adopting offensive characters prone to politically incorrect pronouncements designed to amuse and offend.
Internationally he is best known as Borat, the fictitious Kazakh reporter who travels to the United States in "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan".
His other well-known characters are Londoner Ali G and gay Austrian fashion journalist Bruno.
General Aladeen is the despotic ruler of an oil-rich country who is forced to travel to the United States in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a UN-backed coup d'etat.
Early reviews of The Dictator, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings as well as the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, have been generally positive.
Chris Tookey of the Daily Mail newspaper awarded it five stars out of five, writing: "The Dictator may be the most conventionally structured of Sacha Baron Cohen's films -- it's essentially a romcom -- but to my mind it's the funniest."
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it four stars, and said the film delivered "an explosion of weapons-grade offensiveness".
The Dictator, directed by Larry Charles, hits U.S. and British cinemas on May 16.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)