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Ali G

Ali G
Da Ali G Show character
Portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen
Duration 1998–2000 (The 11 O'Clock Show)
2000–2004 (Da Ali G Show)
2002 (Ali G Indahouse)
2014 (Ali G Rezurection)
First appearance The 11 O'Clock Show
Created by Sacha Baron Cohen
Occupation Interviewer, singer, rapper, junglist
Residence Staines (now Staines-upon-Thames), England

Ali G is a satirical fictional character created and performed by British 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 December 2007, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baron Cohen announced that Ali G, along with Borat, had been retired.[1] 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.[2] Ali G returned to television with Ali G Rezurection on the basic cable network FXX in 2014.[3]


  • Development 1
  • History and appearances 2
  • Background 3
  • Criticisms 4
  • Notable people interviewed by Ali G 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Ali G is a fictional character and he is a stereotype of a White British suburban male who imitates rap culture as well as urban British and British Jamaican culture, particularly through hip hop, reggae, drum and bass and jungle music, as well as speaking in rude boy-style English with borrowed expressions from Jamaican Patois. Ali G was part of a group called "Berkshire Massif", and grew up in an area of Slough called Langley (actually a middle class village just outside the town). He also lived part of his life in Staines (now Staines-upon-Thames), Surrey. Baron Cohen has stated that BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood was an influence on the development of his character – Westwood hosts Radio 1's Rap Show and speaks in a faux Multicultural London English and hip hop dialect. Ali G's middle class credentials mirror Westwood's: the latter was brought up in Lowestoft, Suffolk as a bishop's son.[4]

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 satellite channel Talk TV (owned by Granada Television). 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.[4]

History and appearances

Ali G, a boorish, uneducated, 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.[5] 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?"[6]

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.[7]

Ali G was also featured in the music video "Music" by Madonna as her limo driver. He complains that her "babalons" are not as big as they appear to be on TV and calls her "Maradona" when asking to be in her next video.[8][9]


Ali G is a fictional gang member of the "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"; the Matthew Arnold School is a real secondary school. He is a massive fan of English Football team Tottenham Hotspur.

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

Ali G speaks a comical patois in keeping with his delusions of being black of Jamaican ancestry and peppered with such catchphrases as "Aight" (alright), "Booyakasha", "Big up Yaself", "Wagwaan", "West Side", "Batty Boy" "Respek" (respect), "For Real", "Poonani", "Timperley Mandem", "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.[10][11][12]

The comedian Felix Dexter has said that he appreciated the humour of an innocent 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".[13]

Notable people interviewed by Ali G


  1. ^ "Borat and Ali G are dead for Sacha Baron Cohen". (The Daily Telegraph). 21 December 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "I'm Jimmy Savile! Sacha Baron Cohen makes crude joke about paedophile comedian as he brings back Ali G (and he's even wearing the famous gold tracksuit)".  
  3. ^ "Ali G Has Been 'Rezurected' For New TV Series On FXX".  
  4. ^ a b Sacha Baron Cohen - The Real Borat - finally speaks, Rolling Stone, 14 November 2006.
  5. ^ "'He becomes the character, certainly with Ali G and Borat. He has a mix of Sellers's acting and Rod Hull's bottle'" by Kirsty Scott, The Guardian, 29 September 2006.
  6. ^ Ali G - InnitInterview with Gerry Robinson from
  7. ^ NBA commercials with Ali G
  8. ^ "Top ‘TRL’ Video Cameos: Ali G Shows Madonna The Real Big Ben!". 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  9. ^ "'"Ali G 'stars in Madonna video. BBC News. 2000-04-30. 
  10. ^ "Affronted feminist Naomi Wolf takes a bite out of 'racist' Ali G". The Sunday Times (London). 9 March 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Kelso, Paul (21 March 2002). "Race protest at Ali G's film premiere". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  12. ^ Walsh, John (16 March 2002). "Ali G: Keepin' it real, for real". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  13. ^ Gibson, Janine (11 January 2000). "Comics find Ali G is an alibi for racism". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Ali G - Economics and Selling Stocks High". YouTube. 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 

External links

  • Channel 4 Ali G website
  • Sacha Baron Cohen interview with NPR's Robert Siegel
  • An article in the Guardian
  • Tricked into Silly interview with Ali G, Alex Alonso,, March 12, 2002
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