Sunday marks the return of HBO’s Da Ali G Show, promising even more awkward interviews between the patois-spewing host and stuffed shirts from Washington and New York’s power corridors. Ali, a nearly incomprehensible British ‘gangsta’ by way of Staines (a suburban hamlet two towns over from Slough, the dreary locale for that other crossover Brit hit The Office), ambushes politicians and celebrities with totally disorienting interviews. Sacha Baron Cohen, creator and star of show, recently told The New York Times that “The best targets—the legitimate targets—are successful, powerful white men, who rule the country.” This may explain the particular glee Ali exhibits when lobbing spitballs at guys like Newt Gingrich and Brent Scowcroft.
What follows are some of Ali G’s best bits. You may want to consult with HBO.com’s Ali G Glossary to fully appreciate what’s being said.
Ali G interviews Richard Thornburgh, former U.S. attorney general (1988–1991), in Episode One, “Law”:
Ali: What is legal?
Thornburgh: Well, I think most conduct most of us engage in on a day-to-day basis is legal.
Ali: So, what is illegal?
Thornburgh: What is illegal is what the elected representatives of the people define as crimes.
Ali: What is barely legal?
Thornburgh: Well, that’s where you get into technicalities and you have trials.
Ali: ‘Cause me saw dis film called Barely Legal Three and it was about these two naughty college girls and them have done their own work and then as punishment they had to have a three-header with their supervisor, this teacher. Is that to do with the law?
Thornburgh: Uh, it’s hard to say. That’s probably governed by the rules of the institution, the college.
Ali G interviews Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former U.N. secretary general (1992–1996), in Episode Two, “War”:
Ali: Is Disneyland a member of the U.N.?
Boutros-Ghali: No, because Disneyland is not an independent state.
Ali: Do you think in a hundred years’ time, Disneyland—or Disneyworld—could have a seat?
Boutros-Ghali: No! Disneyland is not doing politics, Disneyland, it’s not—
Ali: Well, some of them is. Some of them characters.
Ali G interviews former national security advisor (1989–1993) General Brent Scowcroft in Episode Two:
Ali: Did they ever catch the people who sent Tampax through the post?
Scowcroft: No, they did not. And it wasn’t Tampax, it was anthrax.
Ali: I think they is different brand names. Like we say pavement, you say sidewalk whatever. There is different words for the—
Scowcroft: Well, maybe, but anthrax is the germ and Tampax is something very different.
Ali G interviews Donald Trump in Episode Three, “Politics”:
Ali: I’s gots some business idea that I just want to tell you.
Trump: Very quickly.
Ali: What is the most popular thing in the world?
Trump: Tell me.
Ali: Ice cream!
Ali: Everyone has it. And what is the problem with ice cream?
Trump: I have no idea.
Ali: It drips.
Ali: So, me idea is what?
Trump: To make a drip-proof ice cream?
Ali: No. But that’s a fuckin’ brilliant idea. Alright, whatever. You ain’t gonna come out with that though.
Trump: No, I promise you I won’t.
Ali G interviews art critic Arthur C. Danto in Episode Four, “Art”:
Ali: I once painted me Julie [girlfriend] with some chocolate body paint. Is that art?
Danto: The interesting question is not ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but why?
Ali: Well, I did it ’cause I thought, you know, it would turn her on. But it didn’t. It didn’t even taste of chocolate and looked like she’d shat the bed.
Danto: Yeah. It might still have been art but it didn’t do what you wanted it to do.
Ali G interviews Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton in Episode Four:
Ali: Has you ever met . . . Robert De Niro?
Lipton: Robert De Niro was on my show.
Ali: [snaps] Whoa! He is da bomb, man! He’s so good.
Lipton: Robert De Niro is a genius.
Ali: Has you seen Analyze This?
Lipton: Oh, yeah.
Ali: Oh, him doing this thing: You good, no, you, you, you . . . Has you ever interviewed Shakespeares?
Lipton: William Shakespeare?
Ali: No doubt.
Lipton: Well, he died about 400 years ago.
Ali: Not yet, ’cause I seen him on a theater with the school. They made us go to see William Shakespeare.
Lipton: You saw someone playing Shakespeare, which is great.
Ali G interviews astronaut Buzz Aldrin in Episode Four:
Ali: When you arrived on the moon, was the people who lived there very friendly, or was they scared of you?
Aldrin: There was absolutely no thought of encountering any living beings whatsoever.
Ali: Do you ever think man will walk on the sun?
Aldrin: No. The sun is too hot. It is not a good place to go to.
Ali: What happens if they went in winter when the sun is cold?
Aldrin: The sun is not cold in the winter.
Ali G interviews former surgeon general C. Everett Koop (1982–1989) in Episode Four:
Ali: What is the brain?
Koop: The brain is the thing you have to have. Without the brain, nothing else works.
Ali: Is the brain’s memory any good?
Koop: The brain’s memory is perfect.
Ali: So how come I can’t remember me pin number?
Ali: I think it’s got, like, a four in it.
Koop: I could give you quick answer and say you’re stupid, you know.
Ali: Well, that ain’t obviously the real reason.
Koop: Well, it’s the beginning of truth.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2004