Ali G

From Academic Kids

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Ali G, delivering the Class Day speech to the Harvard class of 2004.

Ali G is a satirical character invented by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.


Ali G first appeared on Channel 4's The Eleven O'Clock Show as the "voice of youth". He interviewed British public figures, who, too scared to appear "uncool", were completely wrong-footed by his idiosyncratic interviewing technique, based mostly on the simple stratagem of pretending to be stupid.

He is a member of the "West Staines Massiv", and lives at 36 Cherry Blossom Close in the heart of the "Staines Ghetto". He was educated at what he calls "Da Matthew Arnold Skool". [1] ( Staines is a middle-class suburb of London that has been the butt of jokes for many years. Anywhere further from an American inner-city ghetto would be hard to imagine. This fact is lost on Ali G, who believes himself to exemplify "Gangsta" culture.

Ali G has subsequently become a UK media phenomenon, with his own TV show. He was featured in Madonna's music video for her song Music as a limousine driver and subsequently recorded his own record with the rap/reggae performer Shaggy. In 2002 he was the central character in the feature film Ali G Indahouse, in which he became elected to Parliament and had to foil a plot to bulldoze Staines. He is now the main character of HBO's Da Ali G Show, which also features two other characters, Borat Sagdiyev and Bruno.


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Ali G is the main character of Da Ali G Show.

Because Sacha Baron Cohen is not black himself, but portrays a character who purports to be black and who is stupid, ignorant and misogynistic, he has been accused by some of racism and of ridiculing black street culture. The West End premiere of Ali G Indahouse was met with anti-racist demonstrators protesting outside. However, others have suggested that the implication that black street culture is not a legitimate subject for parody is itself racist.

There is also some question about whether one is expected to believe that the character Ali G is black, or a parody of suburban white and Asian boys who attempt to gain credibility by adopting the paraphernalia and language of black urban culture (see also Tim Westwood). This question is cast into relief by one of Ali G's catchphrases, "Is it because I is black?" However, as with many other forms of satirical entertainment, this question may simply be the product of over-analysis. Cohen's character is an uneducated thug, with the Tommy Hilfiger and Nike shoes adding to the effect that he is a "consumer whore." Ali G does not believe he is black, and yet, does not believe he is white either.

Harry Thompson, a former producer of The Eleven O'Clock Show, has said the character was given the name Ali G so he would have "a whiff of Islam about him," but Ali G's full name has since been revealed to be Alistair Leslie Graham.

From an American point of view, though, the Ali G character is a commentary on the adoption of American black street culture by non-Americans and people who aren't black. Because Cohen is a middle-class, Cambridge University educated actor portraying a suburban, presumably middle-class Briton of undetermined extraction who is, in turn, styling himself on American street life, the show maintains a certain Victor/Victoria quality. To many critics, Ali G is not satirising black urban culture, but those non-blacks and non-urbanites who embrace it.

External links

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