The A'ight Stuff

WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

By: Chris NorrisWhat is this thing called Ali G? This goggle-eyed Brit flashinggang signs on posters? This chattering playa chauffeuring Madonnain the "Music" video? This is HBO's newest star, a man eager toentertain the country he credits with inventing "the bestest thingsin the world: McDonald's, gangsta rap, spaghetti, and swimming."This is the hero of Da Ali G Show, who this February hit ourscreens, waved his hand, and called out his greeting, "Booyakasha!"To which a grateful nation c

Some explanation may be in order. The alter ego of 31-year-old comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Ali G is a white gangsta wannabe from a lame London suburb--a schtick that translates oddly to Americans. For one thing, the ethnic demographic represented by this London-born, Cambridge-educated cutup (who once lived on an Israeli kibbutz) may be a bit obscure for our 8 Mile minds. "Listen up, rudeboi," emails Ali G, the only voice in which Cohen will give interviews. "Black, white, brown, or Pakistani--we all come from the same place to punani a'ight?" But surely, this Brit-hop mix of reggae, cockney, and gangsta slang is a bit alien for U.S. viewers? "Me don't care 'cause me know that half the audience is watchin' the show with both the sound and their panties turned down," writes our unflappable Ali G. "I mean flickin' themselves off."
Fair enough. In fact, it may be this indefinable otherness that makes the show's focus--a mix of field reporting, roundtable discussions, and one-on-one interviews with unsuspecting guests--so successful. While no halfway media-savvy figure would sit for an interview with an obvious wiseass, a surreal range of demi-celebrities (from ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton to former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali) do, out of cultural sensitivity, submit to the clearly foreign Ali G--to their eventual dismay and/or rage. Ali G to a Catholic priest: "Let's talk about this man, the main man, the mack daddy of the Christian faith--what was his name again?" To a stoked bald youth at a skinhead rally: "So, are there any skinheads who aren't gay?"
Understandably, Ali G won't reveal how these gullible subjects are booked. But the reason for his change of venue is clear: After perfecting his routine in the late '90s on the British comedy The 11 O'Clock Show, he had become as recognizable as Tony Blair, making his trademark ambushes almost impossible. Stateside, however, his celebrity offers no protection. Asked who came closest to kicking his ass, Ali G names feminist author Naomi Wolf--or, as he calls her, "the world's most famous lezza. She didn't come close to kickin' me ass, but she did come close to lickin' it, a'ight." And apparently, he's no longer as tight with Madonna, "after we got a little too mashed with some Moroccan black and one thing led to another. I ain't sayin' nothin', but next time you look at little Rocco imagine him with a goatee beard and yellow glasses, a'ight."
Despite such imbroglios, Ali G is committed to using his platform to tackle issues as weighty as America's geopolitical plight, which he likens to a problem he had with a rival crew back home that he feared had weapons of mass destruction. "Our evidence was that me mate Dave had seen one of them in Toys "R" Us buyin' a pack of 100 balloons, which we suspected would be used in the manafacture of water bombs," he recounts. "Me thought what would George [W. Bush] do? So me went 'round to Hassan B's nana's house and torched it. They claim that the balloons was to be used in his younger brother's birthday party--but better safe than sorry." Respek.
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ALI?
Four more questions for the ever-thoughtful Mr. G
Could you translate your catchphrases "booyakasha" and "wagwaan"?
"Booyakasha" means "listen up rudeboi everytin irie whayaso lickylicky ya wangagot fifiman." "Wagwaan" means "booyakasha."
What is your 'hood of West Staines [a London suburb] like?
It's the baddest ghetto ever--they wanted to film the movie Boyz in da Hood there--but Ice Cube got driven down to the Elmsleigh Shoppin' Centre in Staines--took one look and shat himself. Me heard from the driver that Ice actually cried like a girl.
Brent Scowcroft, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Newt Gingrich--aren't these guests sort of B-list for someone like Ali G?
What you talkin 'bout? I ain't heard of none of these people, has me interviewed them? If so me do agree with you--they does sound shit. Me did want to interview that geeza who used to be president but got shot, Jeff K. His mates must be well proud 'cause he was the first person ever to be smoked in a drive-by--respek.
You look and dress hip-hop, but the interstitial music on your show is all crazy, fast jungly electronic jams. Just what kind of scene are you in?
Me is the mack daddy of the Staines and Langley Village R&B scene, and that's why me run this bangin' hip-hop night called "AK Forty Heaven" every other Thursday at the Sunnyvale Home for the Elderly--7 til 9 keepin' it gangsta. Big up to the Spin massive and shout goin' out to all my brothers on lockdown. Westside I met his niece on holiday in Florida. If she's reading this now, you still owe me 50 bucks for that special "English tea" me gave you.

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