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Da Ali G Show (2000)

Courtesy of Fremantlemedia

Main image of Da Ali G Show (2000)
Channel 4, tx. 31/3-5/5/2000, 6 x 30 min episodes
ProducersDan Mazer
 Harry Thompson
Production CompanyTalkback
DirectorsJames Bobin
 Steve Smith

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G/Borat)

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Interviews and investigations hosted by Ali G and Kazakhstani reporter Borat Sagdiyev.

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After gaining cult popularity in the 11 O'Clock Show(Channel 4, 1999-2000), Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy creation Ali G was soon rewarded with his own show and became the "voice of yoof" in Britain, even delivering Channel 4's alternative Christmas message on Christmas Day 1999. The Fubu-clad Ali G, with his tales of life on the mean streets of Staines, and sex and getting high constantly on his mind, was never too far from making a fool of himself with his own ignorance and misunderstandings.

But much of the show's humour came from the guests' inability to realise they were talking to a comic creation rather than a real person. The sight of guests, including Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton and TV presenter Gail Porter, earnestly trying to engage in serious discussion with a character whose sole purpose was to confuse and humiliate them became a regular feature. One memorable discussion even had a guest commenting on the fact that Ali is Black.

With this blurring of reality and fiction, the show and its star garnered considerable controversy. Initially the character was seen as an affectionate homage to Hip Hop culture, and by extension the dominant position of urban black music and fashion in youth culture. But Ali G's creator found himself under fire from some Black comedians and commentators for his refusal to explain the ethnic origins of the character. Although some saw Ali G, with his constant uttering of 'street' phrases like "Bo Selecta" and "Aiight", as a take off of young white or Asian kids trying to be Black, others increasingly felt the character was mocking urban culture itself, and consequently Black people in Britain.

The show also introduced another Baron Cohen character, the Kazakhstani reporter Borat, a bumbling innocent travelling across the country commenting on the vagaries of British life. For the actor's critics the character was further evidence of his careless propagation of racial stereotypes under the guise of comedy.

Despite his critics' concerns, the character is funny, with real satirical bite, and remains hugely popular with young black and white audiences alike. Ali G has become a cultural phenomenon, as witness the memorable, and slightly disturbing, sight of Richard Madeley dressing up as the character on This Morning (ITV 2000).

In 2002, the character made his big screen debut with the highly successful Ali G Indahouse (Germany/US/France/UK, d. Mark Mylod).

Ali Jaafar

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Video Clips
1. Line-up (1:19)
2. Roy Hattersley (3:53)
3. Parenting debate (4:14)
4. Third World turntables (1:09)
5. Chrissie Hynde (3:23)
Complete episode (29:03)
Opening titles (0:59)
Baron Cohen, Sacha (1971-)
Channel 4 Comedy
Channel 4 at 25