The first (2000) series originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK, and the second (2003-2004) series on HBO in the US. The second series was known as Ali G in da USAiii in the UK. Baron Cohen played three journalists — Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, and Brüno — who interviewed unsuspecting people (sometimes very high-ranking officials) and made them look foolish. His exposure of this foolishness using these ignorant characters made the show an excellent example of the Socratic method.
The three characters from the show have each gone on to have movies released [or planned for release]: Ali G in Ali G Indahouse, Borat in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Brüno in an upcoming film.
Borat Sagdiyev is another character featured frequently on the show. He comes from Kazakhstan, and travels around the United Kingdom and United States interviewing people and engaging in their activities. Borat often makes his guests feel uncomfortable by introducing them to "Kazakh" customs, or by making misogynistic, anti-Semitic, or other comments based on his unfamiliar culture. Borat makes references to his favourite sport called "shurik", a "Kazakh" custom where dogs are shot and killed in a field. He also makes references to his dead wife and his desire to have "sexy time" with many of his interviewees. A highly successful film based on the Borat character, titled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, was released by 20th Century Fox on 3 November 2006. In the film, Borat travels from Kazakhstan to learn more about American culture for his country.
Bruno is a gay Austrian and is the third character of Da Ali G Show. He claims to be the voice of Austrian youth television, and makes others uncomfortable by flaunting his apparent homosexuality. In one episode, Bruno performs cheers with exaggerated, limp-wristed, stereotypically gay mannerisms, along with University of Alabama cheerleaders, provoking the ire of some Crimson Tide fans during the 2002 Alabama-Mississippi State American football game, and convincing the students to say that they are gay in Polish.
Bruno also interviews fashion aficionados and 'party people' and exposes their extreme views of how unfashionable people should be treated and aims to show the superficiality, hypocrisy and inconsistency of the fashion world. For example, he gets them to say that they think fashion has saved more lives than doctors, that people who have bad fashion should be sent to concentration camps, that Osama Bin Laden is cool and that if house music were around in the 1930s, it would have prevented World War II. As with Baron Cohen's other two main characters, Bruno will have a film based around his character, to be produced by Universal Pictures.
|Episode #||Original Air Date||Title|
|101||30 March 2000||Neil Hamilton|
|102||7 April 2000||John Humphrys|
|103||14 April 2000||Roy Hattersley|
|104||21 April 2000||Mohammed Al Fayed|
|105||28 April 2000||Gail Porter|
|106||5 May 2000||Anita Roddick|
|Episode #||Original Air Date||Title|
|101||21 February 2003||Law|
|102||28 February 2003||War|
|103||7 March 2003||Politics|
|104||14 March 2003||Art|
|105||21 March 2003||Science|
|106||28 March 2003||Belief|
|201||18 July 2004||Respek|
|202||25 July 2004||Rekognize|
|203||1 August 2004||Peace|
|204||8 August 2004||Realize|
|205||15 August 2004||Jah|
|206||22 August 2004||Realness|
The methods used by Baron Cohen often cause considerable controversy. Some guests become upset upon learning they have been tricked and various comments made on the show have caused outrage with viewers. In one episode, Borat went to a bar in Tucson, Arizona and sang a song about Jews, in which he said, "Throw the Jew down the well/so my country can be free/you must grab him by his horns/then we have a big party." Many patrons of the bar were shown responding gleefully and singing along (though an investigation by the Jewish Daily Forward found that many or all of the audience were aware that the song was meant to be funny, and that one of them was Jewish herself). A prominent Jewish anti-racism group, the Anti-Defamation League, complained about this segment. HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer replied, "Through his alter-egos, he delivers an obvious satire that exposes people's ignorance and prejudice in much the way All in the Family did years ago. In real life, Sacha Baron Cohen is himself an "observant Jew. Baron Cohen, in an interview, has explained his character's racist nature by stating that the show's 'Borat' segments are a "dramatic demonstration of how racism feeds on dumb conformity, as much as rabid bigotry," rather than a display of racism by Baron Cohen himself.
One upset interviewee was James Broadwater, a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress. He was interviewed by Borat, who told him that the interview would be played in Kazakhstan and other foreign countries to teach others about the American political system. Borat's questioning led Broadwater to state that Jews would go to Hell if they did not follow the Christian religion. This comment upset some Jewish communities and prompted Broadwater to post a letter on his website denouncing Da Ali G Show demanding the FCC exert greater control over the "liberal, anti-God media" and stating "I have had a logo on my website which says, 'I am a proud friend of Israel.'".
Borat's character also refers to Black people as "Men with chocolate face" and White people as "Vanilla face" (See film: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan).