Ali G
Da Ali G Show character
Ali G giving a commencement speech at Harvard in 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, MP, Ambassador
HomeStaines, England

Alistair Leslie Graham, better known as Ali G, is a satirical fictional character created and performed by English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. A faux-streetwise poseur from Staines, England, Ali G speaks in rude boy-style Multicultural London English and brags about coming up "in da heart of da Staines ghetto" and leading a local street gang, "Da West Staines Massiv." He conducts interviews with unsuspecting subjects who do not realise they have been set up.[2]

Ali G first appeared as the "voice of da yoof" on Channel 4's The 11 O'Clock Show in 1998, and he subsequently became the title character of Da Ali G Show in the early 2000s, and was 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.[3][4]

In a 2007 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baron Cohen announced that Ali G, along with Borat (another fictional character made by Baron Cohen), had been retired.[5] 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.[6] Ali G returned to television with Ali G Rezurection in 2014.[7] Rezurection features new footage of Ali G introducing old highlights of Da Ali G Show, while Borat reappeared for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in 2020.


Ali G is a fictional stereotype of a British suburban male "chav" also known as Alex; 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. He also lived part of his life in Staines.

Baron Cohen has stated that BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood was an influence on the development of his character.[8] Westwood used to host Radio 1's Rap Show and became known for speaking in a Multicultural London English dialect. Ali G's middle-class credentials mirror Westwood's, as the latter was brought up in Lowestoft as a bishop's son.[8] Prior to his character's first appearance on The 11 O'Clock Show, Baron Cohen had portrayed an early incarnation of him named MC Jocelyn Cheadle-Hume on a show he presented called F2F, which ran on the satellite channel Granada Talk TV. While in character, Baron Cohen chatted to a group of skateboarders and realised that people could be led to believe his character was real; he then filmed a number of segments which were ordered off-air by London Weekend Television.[8]

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.[9] 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 interviewee to agree to some shocking 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 asking 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?"[10]

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[11] 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.[12]

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.[13][14]

Baron Cohen received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2012 British Comedy Awards and appeared in character as Ali G to accept the trophy.[15]

In 2015 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.[16]


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".


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.[17][18][19] 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.[20]

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".[21] 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".[22]

People interviewed by Ali G

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In popular culture


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  19. ^ 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.
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