|Da Ali G Show character|
|Portrayed by||Sacha Baron Cohen|
|Duration||1998–2000 (The 11 O'Clock Show)
2000, 2003–04 (Da Ali G Show)
2002 (Ali G Indahouse)
|First appearance||The 11 O'Clock Show|
|Created by||Sacha Baron Cohen|
|Occupation||Interviewer, singer, rapper, junglist|
|Residence||Staines (now Staines-upon-Thames), England, United Kingdom|
Ali G is a satirical fictional character created and performed by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Originally appearing on Channel 4's The 11 O'Clock Show, and subsequently as the title character of Channel 4's Da Ali G Show in 2000 and on HBO in 2003–2004, he is also the title character of the film Ali G Indahouse. In December 2007, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baron Cohen announced that Ali G, along with Borat, had been retired. However, Ali G returned at the 2012 British Comedy Awards to accept Baron Cohen's Outstanding Achievement Award, causing controversy by making jokes about Kate Middleton and Jimmy Savile.
Ali G is a fictional character and he is a stereotype of a White British suburban male who imitates rap culture as well as urban British and British Jamaican culture, particularly through hip hop, reggae, drum and bass and jungle music, as well as speaking in rude boy-style English with borrowed expressions from Jamaican Patois. Ali G was part of a group called "Berkshire Massif", and grew up in an area of Slough called Langley. He also lived part of his life in from Staines (now Staines-upon-Thames), Surrey. Baron Cohen has stated that BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood was an influence on the development of his character – Westwood hosts Radio 1's Rap Show and speaks in a faux Multicultural London English and hip hop dialect. Ali G's middle class credentials mirror Westwood's: the latter was brought up in Lowestoft, Suffolk as a bishop's son.
Prior to his character's first appearance on The 11 O'Clock Show, Baron Cohen had portrayed a similar character named MC Jocelyn Cheadle-Hume on a show he presented called F2F, which ran on the satellite channel Talk TV (owned by Granada Television). While chatting to a group of skateboarders, in character, Baron Cohen realised that people could be led to believe his character was real, and filmed a number of segments which were ordered off air by London Weekend Television.
History and appearances
Ali G, a boorish, uneducated, faux-streetwise poseur with a deeply stereotypical view of the world, first came to prominence on Channel 4's The 11 O'Clock Show as the "voice of da yoof" in 1998. He interviewed various public figures in the United Kingdom, always either embarrassing his interviewee by displaying a mixture of uninformed political incorrectness, or getting the interview 'victim' to agree to some breathtaking inaccuracy or insult.
Other examples of his bold interviewing style include getting Lindsay Urwin, the Bishop of Horsham, to admit that God created the Universe, and then asked him, "And since then, [God]'s just chilled?" Ali G asked the Bishop about God's appearance, to which the Bishop replied, "Well, he's sort of Jesus-shaped." During an interview with James Ferman (former director of the British Board of Film Classification), Ali G asks whether his made-up vulgarities would restrict a film to an over-18 audience, and suggests that film censorship be performed by younger persons who understand contemporary slang. In an interview with the Chairman of the Arts Council of England Gerry Robinson Ali G's first question was: "Why is the arts so - excuse me French, but - crap?"
Ali G was also featured in the music video "Music" by Madonna as her limo driver. He complains that her "popadoms" are not as big as they appear to be on TV and calls her "Maradona" when asking to be in her next video.
Ali G is a fictional gang member of the "West Staines Massif", who currently lives in his grandmother's garage in a semi-detached house at 36 Cherry Blossom Close, in the heart of the "Staines Ghetto". He was educated at what he calls "da Matthew Arnold Skool"; the Matthew Arnold School is a real secondary school. He also has a short stint at Vanguard College Preparatory School.
Staines, a commuter town to the west of London, is far different from the inner city ghetto that Ali G claims. In the same comic vein, he also makes reference to other similar stockbroker belt towns in the area, such as Egham, Langley and Englefield Green. Despite the incongruous nature of his home town, he purports to exemplify inner city culture. Ali's "real" name is later revealed to be Alistair Leslie Graham (revealed in the eponymous film).
Ali G speaks a comical patois in keeping with his delusions of being black of Jamaican ancestry and peppered with such catchphrases as "Aight" (alright), "Booyakasha", "Big up Yaself", "Wagwaan", "West Side", "Batty Boy" "Respek" (respect), "For Real", "Poonani", "Timperley Mandem", "Check It", "Wicked" and "Keep It Real". His trademark hand gesture closely resembles the "dip snap".
Criticisms of the character
Although Baron Cohen has repeatedly stated that Ali G is a parody of suburban, privileged youth acting in a way that they think is typical of 'black' people, some commentators have opined that the force of the humour is derived from stereotypes of blacks, not poseur whites. According to this view of the character, the suburban background written into Ali G's character serves as a false alibi.
The comedian Felix Dexter has said that he appreciated the humour of an innocent confronting an expert with neither understanding the other, but that 'I feel that a lot of the humour is laughing at black street culture and it is being celebrated because it allows the liberal middle classes to laugh at that culture in a safe context where they can retain their sense of political correctness.'
Notable people interviewed by Ali G
- Heinz Wolff, now Emeritus Professor of Bioengineering at Brunel University. Professor Wolff was one of the first people to be interviewed by Ali G, during the character's initial appearances on The 11 O'Clock Show.
- Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, former astronaut, and the second man to walk on the moon. (Ali G also called him "Buzz Lightyear").
- Alex Alonso, author, professor and founder of Streetgangs.com
- David Beckham, football player and his wife Victoria Beckham, a member of the Spice Girls.
- Tony Benn, former British Labour MP, chairman and cabinet minister
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, mistakenly called 'Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali by Ali-G. Boutros-Ghali clearly went so far as to participate in some of Ali G's notorious word games and providing the epilogue to the episode where, at Ali G's bidding, he tells youth viewers 'I am Boutros Boutros Ghali; put down your guns and listen to Bob Marley' In response to Ali G's perceived ignorance, Boutros-Ghali provides a detailed explanation about why Disneyland is not represented in the United Nations, and reveals which foreign languages sound comical to his ear. The interview appeared on the War episode of the Da Ali G Show
- Rhodes Boyson, former British Conservative education minister, who agreed with Ali G that metric system should not be taught in school because 'one deals in quarters and eighths of ounces'
- Pat Buchanan, American political commentator and former presidential candidate who began laughing uncontrollably when he realized he was being fooled
- Noam Chomsky, MIT professor and linguist. During this interview Ali G is perplexed about the difference between the terms "bilingual" and "bisexual."
- Jarvis Cocker, Pulp singer
- Linda Cohn, ESPN anchor
- Gaz Coombes, Supergrass singer
- Paul Daniels, magician
- Lloyd Klein, Couturier and Personality, Bruno crashes the runway
- James X. Dempsey, privacy guru and Vice President for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology
- Sam Donaldson, veteran journalist
- Mohamed Al-Fayed, former owner of Harrods and former owner of Fulham FC
- Marlin Fitzwater, former White House Press Secretary, who ended the interview after calling Ali G an idiot.
- Jerome Friedman, MIT Professor of physics and 1990 Nobel Prize winner
- John Kenneth Galbraith, economist and public intellectual
- Daryl Gates, former Los Angeles Police Chief (He was referred to as "Bill Gates" by Ali G).
- Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
- Leanna Heart, adult film star
- Neil Hamilton, former Conservative politician
- Kent Hovind, evangelist and Young Earth creationist
- Glenn Hubbard, former professional baseball player
- Reed Irvine, founder of Accuracy in Media
- Jenna Jameson, adult film star
- Ernie Johnson, Jr., sports broadcaster
- Steve Kerr, former American professional basketball player who, according to Ali G, works on "TMT"; Kerr is a basketball analyst with U.S. cable network TNT.
- C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General. Ali G cannot comprehend why his erection is not actually a bone, accuses Dr. Koop of being a "player hater" when the doctor breaks the news that all people will eventually die, and tries to convince the Surgeon General that his deceased pet cat was actually human.
- James Lipton, host of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio
- John McCain, United States Senator from Arizona and 2000/2008 Presidential Candidate
- Ralph Nader, consumer activist and former US presidential candidate for the Green Party
- Thomas J. Pickard, former FBI Director
- Gail Porter, television presenter
- Derick Hussey, publisher and proprietor of Hippocampus Press
- Sue Ramsey, Irish politician, Sinn Féin
- Sally Jessy Raphaël, former talk show host, (who congratulated him for 'being himself')
- Andy Rooney, of the CBS programme 60 Minutes, who repeatedly corrects Ali G's poor grammar, and responds angrily to Ali G's foolish questions about the current state of the media. He thus furiously and abruptly ends his interview, claiming a busy schedule.
- Charles Schultze, former Chief Economic Advisor to President Jimmy Carter
- Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor and Air Force General
- Tomasz Starzewski, fashion designer
- Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General
- Donald Trump, real estate developer, who walks off dismissively around one minute into the interview.
- Stansfield Turner, former Director Central Intelligence Agency
- Lindsay Urwin, the Bishop of Horsham
- Gore Vidal, author and essayist, (whom Ali G mistook for Vidal Sassoon)
- Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and United States Environmental Protection Agency administrator
- Kobe Bryant, NBA basketball player (whom he asks about the number of springs in a basketball)
- Sammy Wilson, Northern Irish politician, Democratic Unionist Party
- Naomi Wolf, author and feminist
- Professional basketball players Steve Nash (who was an award winning player "MP3" according to Ali G and unable to speak proper English due to being Canadian), Ben Wallace (who he accuses of "playa-hating"), Shaquille O'Neal (who he argued with about the meaning of the NBA, Ali thinking it stood for Nationwide Basketball Society), Tim Duncan (from whom tried to get a pair of free sneakers), Robert Horry, Dwyane Wade (who he didn't realise was an NBA player, claiming he had sneaked in to "hang with mah man Shaquille O'Neal"), Richard Jefferson (whom he called Thomas Jefferson's son), Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller
- "Borat and Ali G are dead for Sacha Baron Cohen". actressarchives.com (The Daily Telegraph). 21 December 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "I'm Jimmy Savile! Sacha Baron Cohen makes crude joke about paedophile comedian as he brings back Ali G (and he's even wearing the famous gold tracksuit)". Daily Mail (Mail Online). 13 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
- Sacha Baron Cohen - The Real Borat - finally speaks, Rolling Stone, 14 November 2006.
- "'He becomes the character, certainly with Ali G and Borat. He has a mix of Sellers's acting and Rod Hull's bottle'" by Kirsty Scott, The Guardian, 29 September 2006.
- Interview with Gerry Robinson from Ali G - Innit
- NBA commercials with Ali G
- "Top ‘TRL’ Video Cameos: Ali G Shows Madonna The Real Big Ben!". Buzzworthy.mtv.com. 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
- "Ali G 'stars in Madonna video'". BBC News. 2000-04-30.
- "Affronted feminist Naomi Wolf takes a bite out of 'racist' Ali G". The Sunday Times (London). 9 March 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Kelso, Paul (21 March 2002). "Race protest at Ali G's film premiere". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Walsh, John (16 March 2002). "Ali G: Keepin' it real, for real". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Gibson, Janine (11 January 2000). "Comics find Ali G is an alibi for racism". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- "Ali G - Economics and Selling Stocks High". YouTube. 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- Channel 4 Ali G website
- Sacha Baron Cohen interview with NPR's Robert Siegel
- An article in the Guardian
- Tricked into Silly interview with Ali G, Alex Alonso, Streetgangs.com, March 12, 2002