stair Leslie G
raham) was a satirical fictional character
invented and played by English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen
. Originally appearing on Channel 4
's Eleven O'Clock show
, Ali G was the title character
of Channel 4
's Da Ali G Show
, original episodes of which aired on HBO
in 2003-2004, and was the title character of the film Ali G Indahouse
Sacha Baron Cohen's character Ali G, alongside his Borat character, has been retired.
Development of the character
The character of Ali G plays on the stereotype of a, suburban male who revels in Jamaican
culture, particularly hip hop
music—though the actual ethnicity
of Ali G's character caused much confusion, with guesses ranging from Jewish
, British Asian
, or Middle Eastern
. Baron Cohen admits that BBC Radio 1
DJ Tim Westwood
was an influence on the development of the Ali G character – Westwood, who hosts Radio 1's Rap Show, speaks with a faux Caribbean dialect despite his birth and education in Lowestoft
Prior to Ali G's appearance on The Eleven O'Clock Show, Baron Cohen had portrayed a similar character named MC Jocelyn Cheadle-Hume on a satellite channel called Talk TV (owned by Granada Television). While chatting to a group of skateboarders, in character, Baron Cohen realised that people could actually be led to believe the character was real, and filmed a number of segments which were ordered off air by London Weekend Television.
Ali G first appeared on Channel 4's The Eleven O'Clock Show as the "voice of da yoof" in 1998. He interviewed various public figures in the United Kingdom. Ali G is a boorish, uneducated, streetwise youth with a deeply stereotypical view of the world, who either embarrasses his interviewee by displaying a mixture of uninformed political incorrectness, or gets the interview 'victim' to agree to some breathtaking inaccuracy or insult.
An early interview occurred with fashion designer Tomasz Starzewski. Ali G suggested that the Wonderbra should be banned, as it misleads men into thinking that a girl's breasts are larger than they are. He tells an anecdote of being disappointed when a girl he had "pulled" was wearing a Wonderbra. He also asked Starzewski if he were pleased Gianni Versace was slain because it meant less competition, and suggested that he heard a rumour that Calvin Klein did it.
Other examples of his bold interviewing style include getting the Bishop of Horsham to admit that God created the Universe, and then asked him, "And since then, He's [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. Ali G begins an interview with the Chairman of the Arts Council of England Gerry Robinson with the question, "Why is it that everything you fund is so crap?"
Ali G was introduced to American audiences as a limousine driver in Madonna's 2000 video, "Music," and subsequently recorded his own record with reggae/pop performer Shaggy. In 2001, Ali G hosted MTV Europe Music Awards in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2002, he was the central character in the feature film Ali G Indahouse, in which he is elected to the British Parliament, and foils a plot to bulldoze a community centre in his home town of Staines. The film featured a duet between Ali G and Shaggy, Me Julie, which reached number two on the UK charts. Ali G has also been the title character of Da Ali G Show, which features two other characters played by Cohen: Borat Sagdiyev, a foreign correspondent from Kazakhstan, and Bruno, a fashion reporter for Austria's fictional 'Gay TV'.
Ali G was in a series of ads for the 2005-06 NBA season, in which he used his brand of off-kilter journalism to interview various NBA stars. The spots were directed by Spike Lee.
Ali G is a fictional
gang member of the "West Staines Massiv", who lives with his grandmother 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
" which is a real secondary school.
Staines is a middle-class commuter town to the west of London that has been the butt of jokes for many years, and is far different from the inner city ghetto that Ali G claims. In the same comic vein, he also makes reference to other similar middle-class towns in the area, such as Egham and Englefield Green. Despite the incongruous nature of his home town, he purports to exemplify gangsta culture. Ali's "real" name is later revealed to be Alistair Leslie Graham (revealed in the eponymous film).
Ali G's non-standard grammar has been the point of ridicule by at least one interviewee; every time someone asks him about his grammar he says the Middlebury Union Middle School taught him great grammar. Claiming to be black and of Jamaican ancestry, some of his catchphrases include "Booyakasha", "Big up Yaself", "West Side", "Restekp" (respect), "Check It" and "Keep It Real". His trademark hand gesture is the dip snap. He once defined the meaning of "Booyakasha" as "Hear me now, bo, selecta, swallow back, holler, big up ya self, everything that I in, coming at ya like Cleopatra, come in a couple of bars, recognize, represent, keep it real, you gotta check ya self before ya wreck ya self, swallow back...oh yeah, and hello" Although there have been varying accounts of Ali G's young sexual conquests, Ali G claims to have lost his virginity at the age of 10 with a 28-year old Italian model.
Notable people interviewed by Ali G
- Siôn Trevor, former Welsh director of farming
- Andy Rooney, of the CBS program 60 Minutes
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, mistakenly called 'Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali by Ali-G.
- Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor and Air Force General
- Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, former astronaut, and the second man to walk on the moon. (Ali G also called him "Buzz Lightyear").
- C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General
- Charles Schultze, former Chief Economic Advisor to President Jimmy Carter
- Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and EPA administrator
- Daryl Gates, former LAPD Chief
- Tomasz Starzewski, fashion designer
- David Beckham, football player and his wife Victoria Beckham, a singer (Spice Girls' Posh) (Although they knew it was an act)
- Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General
- Donald Trump, real estate developer
- Ernie Johnson, Jr., sports broadcaster
- Gail Porter, television presenter
- Gaz Coombes, Supergrass singer
- Gore Vidal, author and essayist, (whom Ali G mistook for Vidal Sassoon)
- James Lipton, host of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio
- Jarvis Cocker, Pulp singer
- Jenna Jameson, Adult film star
- John Galbraith, economist and public intellectual
- John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
- John McCain, United States Senator from Arizona and 2008 Presidential Candidate
- Kent Hovind, evangelist and Young Earth creationist
- Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Harrods and Fulham FC
- Neil Hamilton, former Conservative politician
- Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- Noam Chomsky, MIT Professor and linguist
- Pat Buchanan, political commentator and former presidential candidate
- Paul Daniels, magician
- Professional basketball players Kobe Bryant (whom he asks about the number of springs in a basketball), Steve Nash (who was last year's "MP3" according to Ali G and unable to speak proper English being Canadian), Ben Wallace (who he accuses of "playa-hating"), Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Robert Horry, Dwyane Wade, Richard Jefferson (whom he called Thomas Jefferson and then his son), Vince Carter, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Reggie Miller
- Ralph Nader, consumer activist and former US presidential candidate for the Green Party
- Rhodes Boyson, former British Conservative minister
- Sally Jessy Raphaël, former talk show host, (who congratulated him for 'being himself')
- Sam Donaldson, veteran journalist
- Sammy Wilson, Northern Irish politician, Democratic Unionist Party
- Stansfield Turner, former Director Central Intelligence Agency
- Steve Kerr, former American professional basketball player and current President of Basketball Operations and General Manager with the Phoenix Suns (who, according to Ali G, works on "TMT"; at the time of the interview, Kerr was a basketball analyst with U.S. cable network TNT).
- Thomas J. Pickard, former FBI Director
- Tony Benn, former British Labour MP, chairman and cabinet minister