‘Bruno’s’ Bingo Lawsuit Settled

Most people are familiar with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s work. Cohen has many characters he uses for hilarious effect.  There’s the live talking Ali G, Borat the journalist from Kazakhstan and Bruno a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista.  Cohen’s comedy depends on people being caught unawares which have led to many lawsuits against the comedian. In 2007 Cohen’s character Bruno crashed a charity bingo games in Palmdale, California. Bruno was invited to the bingo game after his handlers described Bruno as a “celebrity” who was filming a documentary on bingo.

Richelle Olson, who filed the lawsuit, claims that Cohen started to use vulgarities while acting as a celebrity bingo caller. Olson says that most of the players were elderly and were visibly offended by Cohen’s remarks. Olson said she tried to grab the microphone and then Cohen’s film crew attacked her for at least a minute trying to “create a dramatic emotional response.” Olson says that she ran from the stage and a co worker found her sobbing uncontrollably. Olson fell hitting her head on a concrete slab. Olson said she suffered from a bleeding brain. The story was a hot topic for bingo news sources and also at bingo review and online bingo sites.

Olson named Cohen and NBC Universal as defendants. At the time the suit was filed representatives for Cohen and NBC Universal would not comment on Olson’s allegations. Olson’s suit accused Cohen and NBC Universal of assault, battery, fraudulent misrepresentation and other charges. In an earlier decision a lower court ruled that Bruno’s prank was protected free speech. The suit has been in the court system for almost three years and this week the California Appeals Court agreed with the lower court’s decision and dismissed Olson’s lawsuit.

After the lawsuit was filed NBC told Olson that footage of the incident would prove no assault had taken place. Despite the evidence Olson proceeded with her lawsuit. According to Monday’s court decision “Cohen’s verbal exchange with Richelle Olson on stage aided in Cohen’s effort to obtain a reaction from Richelle Olson captured on video for subsequent use in the film. As such it is an indistinguishable part of the constitutionally protected expressive conduct of making the movie.” Cohen’s victory may leave Olson in a lot of financial trouble. The appeals court affirmed NBC’s right to recover legal costs and fees. Meanwhile Cohen is doing what he does best; make people laugh.