Ali G
Da Ali G Show character
Ali G delivering the Class Day speech to the Harvard class of 2004
First appearanceThe 11 O'Clock Show (1998)
Last appearanceMTV Movie & TV Awards (2021)
Created bySacha Baron Cohen
Based onTim Westwood
(voice and accent)
Portrayed bySacha Baron Cohen
In-universe information
Full nameAlistair Leslie Graham[1]
OccupationInterviewer, singer, rapper
NationalityBritish

Alistair Leslie Graham, better known as Ali G, is a satirical fictional character created and performed by English 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 a 2001 poll by Channel 4 Ali G was ranked eighth on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters.[2][3]

In December 2007, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baron Cohen announced that Ali G, along with Borat, had been retired.[4] 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.[5] Ali G returned to television with Ali G Rezurection in 2014.[6] Rezurection features new introductions by Ali G to some old highlights of Da Ali G Show and Borat reappeared for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

Development

Ali G is a fictional stereotype of a British suburban male "chav" who imitates inner-city urban British hip hop culture and British Jamaican culture, particularly through hip hop, reggae, drum and bass and jungle music, as well as speaking in rude boy-style Multicultural London English from Jamaican Patois. Ali G was part of a group called the "West Staines Massiv", and grew up near Staines in Langley, Berkshire. He also lived part of his life in Staines (now called Staines-upon-Thames), north Surrey, 16 miles south-west of London. Baron Cohen has stated that BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood was an influence on the development of his character – Westwood used to host Radio 1's Rap Show and speaks in a Multicultural London English dialect. Ali G's middle-class credentials mirror Westwood's: the latter was brought up in Lowestoft, Suffolk as a bishop's son.[7]

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 ITV/Sky owned satellite channel Granada Talk TV. 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.[7]

History and appearances

Ali G, a 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.[8] 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?"[9]

Ali G appeared in the 2003 short film Spyz, directed by James Bobin. It showcases Ali G as James Bond in a series of inexplicably occurring action and sex scenes.

In 2004, Ali G gave the commencement speech[10] at Harvard.

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.[11]

Ali G was also featured in the music video "Music" by Madonna as her limo driver. He complains that her "babylons" are not as big as they appear to be on TV and calls her "Maradona" when asking to be in her next video.[12][13]

Ali G appeared at the 88th Academy Awards. Baron Cohen did not tell the ceremony's producers beforehand that he would appear on stage as his Ali G character instead of himself. He and his wife, actress Isla Fisher, locked themselves in the bathroom for 40 minutes to secretly put on his costume, after telling people he had food poisoning.[14]

Background

Ali G is the leader of a fictional gang called "Da 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", which is a real school in Staines.

Staines, a commuter town to the west of London, is different from the inner city ghetto that Ali G claims. In the same comic vein, he also makes reference to stockbroker belt towns in the area, such as Egham, Langley and Englefield Green with which he contrasts Staines. Despite the incongruous nature of his hometown, he purports to exemplify inner city culture. Ali's full name is later revealed to be Alistair Leslie Graham (revealed in the eponymous film, much to his embarrassment).

Ali G speaks a comical patois in keeping with his delusions of being black with Jamaican ancestry and peppered with such catchphrases as "Aight" or "Aiii" (alright), "Booyakasha", "Big up Yaself", "Wagwaan", "West Side", "Batty Boy" "Respek", "For Real", "Punani", "Check It", "Wicked" and "Keep It Real". His trademark hand gesture closely resembles the "dip snap".

Criticisms

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.[15][16][17] The sociologist Tara Alturi observed that, by presenting as racially ambiguous, Ali G both exploits minstrel show racial stereotypes for humour and ridicules white minstrel expropriation.[18]

The comedian Felix Dexter has said that he appreciated the humour of an innocent ignoramus confronting an expert with neither understanding the other, but felt 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".[19] Fellow comedian Victoria Wood criticised Baron Cohen's style of comedy, saying that his "endless setting up of victims" was "tiresome" and akin to "laughing at lunatics".[20]

People interviewed by Ali G

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Discography

In popular culture

References

  1. ^ Mylod, Mark (Director) (22 March 2002). Ali G Indahouse (Motion picture).
  2. ^ "100 Greatest TV Characters". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  3. ^ "100 Greatest ... (100 Greatest TV Characters (Part 1))". ITN Source. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Borat and Ali G are dead for Sacha Baron Cohen". actressarchives.com. 21 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  5. ^ Jackson, James (13 December 2012). "Ali G mocks Jimmy Savile at British Comedy Awards". The Times. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Ali G Has Been 'Rezurected' For New TV Series On FXX". HuffPost. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Sacha Baron Cohen – The Real Borat – finally speaks, Rolling Stone, 14 November 2006.
  8. ^ "'He becomes the character, certainly with Ali G and Borat. He has a mix of Sellers' acting and Rod Hull's bottle'" by Kirsty Scott, The Guardian, 29 September 2006.
  9. ^ Interview with Gerry Robinson from Ali G – Innit
  10. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUCy75CA3Aw
  11. ^ "NBA commercials with Ali G". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Top 'TRL' Video Cameos: Ali G Shows Madonna The Real Big Ben!". MTV. 13 November 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  13. ^ "Ali G 'stars in Madonna video'". BBC News. 30 April 2000.
  14. ^ "Oscars: Sacha Baron Cohen Says Academy Didn't Know He'd Present as Ali G". Hollywood Reporter. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Affronted feminist Naomi Wolf takes a bite out of 'racist' Ali G". The Sunday Times. London. 9 March 2003. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  16. ^ Kelso, Paul (21 March 2002). "Race protest at Ali G's film premiere". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  17. ^ Walsh, John (16 March 2002). "Ali G: Keepin' it real, for real". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  18. ^ Atluri, Tara (March 2009). "Lighten up?! Humour, Race, and Da off colour joke of Ali G". Media, Culture & Society. 31 (2): 197–214. doi:10.1177/0163443708100314. ISSN 0163-4437. S2CID 145704634.
  19. ^ Gibson, Janine (11 January 2000). "Comics find Ali G is an alibi for racism". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  20. ^ "Comic Wood slams 'tiresome' Ali G". BBC News. 31 January 2005. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
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  31. ^ "Gingrich holds no grudge against 'Ali G'". Politico. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
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  35. ^ "Jacob Rees-Mogg: a Boris in the making?". Total Politics. 8 July 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
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  38. ^ Robert A. Saunders (2008). The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle Over Borat. p. 38. ISBN 9780739123379. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  39. ^ "Donald Trump Biography Reality Television Star, U.S. President, Business Leader". biography.com. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
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  41. ^ "It's time we took a closer look at Ali G's Trump interview". sbs. Retrieved 18 April 2018.