In 10 Words or Less
Hilarious Brit's characters create interview gold
My first exposure to Ali G was a Madonna video. I dismissed him as a one-note fad UK joke, used by Madonna to show her amazing connection to Great Britain. The next time I saw him was in a screening of his film, Ali G Indahouse. The film was crude and never released in the US, I'm sure due to the fact that more than half the audience walked out, but I saw the comedy possible with this character. So when I saw my first episode of "Da Ali G Show," I was happy to see that potential fulfilled.
Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a one-man gang, portraying three characters, each of which is a distinct personality, though they are all essentially interviewers, creating a show that's a blend of script and reality. There are several interview/report vignettes per 30-minute episode, normally with the interview subject being the butt of the joke. It's not mean-spirited though, because the jokes tend to lean toward the nonsensical.
Ali G is a "wigger," a suburban white guy who mimics black culture to unintentionally humorous effect (at least on the character's part). He's completely "street," speaking in a dialect that's a mélange of hip-hop, Brit and Jamaican, while also playing dumb-as-a-rock. When he interviews people, you cringe for them, as his intentional misunderstandings put them in uncomfortable and hilarious spots. He manages to get VIPs, panels of experts and ordinary American citizens to sit down with him, and treats them all the same, trying to rattle them, while never letting anyone in the joke.
Whereas Ali G is outlandish and outspoken, Borat, a Kazakhstan TV personality, is quiet and "innocent." Hosting his public access-quality show, "Borat's Guide to America," he travels around the country's fringe, exploring dating, minor-league baseball and rodeo. His eccentric background and broken English put his interview subjects off-balance, enabling him to ask insane questions. As they try to answer him, without insulting his supposed ignorance, the level of comedy achieved is high. With Borat, the comedy is more subtle than with the Ali G character, as much of what's funny is what the camera observes, instead of jokes and humorous dialogue.
Subtle is one thing Bruno, the gay Austrian host of "Funkyzeit Mit Bruno," is not. His interviews with people from the world of high fashion are outrageous, as he carries himself on a constant high, portraying a flamboyant and manic fashionista. While this character could have easily become the usual pansy gay stereotype that comedy makes out of gay characters, Bruno is a bit more "real" than one might expect from Ali G and his rapid-fire delivery helps create confusion and keeps his segments moving fast. It's amazing how stupid, self-centered and simply immoral fashion people are, and this segment shows them for what they truly are.
I can't say I have a favorite character, but the Ali G segments tend to be the funniest, because he's the most out-there, and he gets the best guests, including Ralph Nader, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich. At their short length, the episodes tend to fly by, but it's hard to tell if the show would be stretched too thin if it was an hour. At any rate, six episodes of Ali G is hardly enough. Check out Bruno in Alabama (Episode 6), Ali G with the nuclear protestors (Episode 5) and Borat's Guide to Dating (Episode 1) to see the best of each character.
The two-disc set comes in a standard Amaray case. The six episodes are spread evenly over the two discs, with a small selection of extras. The animated episode/scene selection menus are nicely done, including the option to select scenes in each episode by character. On disc one, there's an easter egg for the DVDs' credits. (Note: The menus are not censored, as they are in the screenshot on this page.)
• EP1: LAW- Ali G: Police, Richard Thornburgh, Ed Meese; Borat: Dating; Bruno: On the Catwalk
• EP2: WAR- Ali G: At the U.N., Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Religion Roundtable, General Brent Scowcroft; Borat: Guide to Etiquette
• EP3: POLITICS- Ali G: Newt Gingrich, Ice Cream Glove, Donald Trump, Drugs; Borat: Guide to Hobbies; Bruno: NY Fashion Week
• EP4: ART- Ali G: Art, James Lipton, Media Roundtable, Buzz Aldrin; Borat: Acting; Bruno: Los Angeles
• EP5: SCIENCE- Ali G: Science Roundtable, Ralph Nader, C. Everett Coop, Nuclear Protestors; Borat: Minor league baseball
• EP6: BELIEF- Ali G: Goes to Hollywood, Sex Roundtable, James Baker, Marlon Fitzwater; Borat: Guide to the South; Bruno: Alabama
There's a small selection of extras for "Da Ali G Show," and it's a decent collection. Kicking things off is a commentary for the first episode, with Sacha Baron Cohen and producer Dan Mazer. After a quick burst, there's some silence, but then the info comes fast and furious, with notes on how each character is created and how the show is shot. There's a lot of good behind-the-scenes knowledge shared here.
A pair of unaired Borat segments, on Animals and Patriotism, are also found on the first disc. It's obvious why they never made it to the air, but they are still interesting. On disc two, the full-length Spyz movie, which is part of episode six, is available to view in all its (non-)glory, along with a text glossary of Ali G's vocabulary. It's unlikely you'll check these out more than once, but for the Brit-uninitiated, the glossary is actually handy. Spyz, a short homemade movie about sex and violence, is simply ridiculous.
The full-frame video is crystal clear on all six episodes, with some slight shimmering on Ali G's brightly colored track suits. Though the color and clarity does vary at times, it's intentional. Considering that everything is shot with no lighting, and on the fly, it looks impressive.
The audio is a clear stereo mix that brings the goods across all six episodes. The mix sounds very good, with distinct separations between the dialogue and music.
The Bottom Line
Ali G has been known to get on viewers' nerves, as his style of talking can rub the wrong way. But if you enjoy wild comedy and seeing people's egos cut down to size, this is a definite pick-up, especially since the commentary answers lots of question you may have about how they get away with what they do. But, if you've never seen an Ali G outing, you may want to flip over to one of the many HBO channels to check out an episode from the current second season before investing in a complete set.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.