Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez
Who is Sacha Baron Cohen? The star of 2006's pop-culture sensation Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan has spent much of his time promoting the film in character, granting few interviews as himself. It's an impressive feat, Andy Kaufman-esque, but it begs the question: Who is this man behind the accents? His bio suggests a very smart person (though it's not as if his comedy didn't) who almost went for his Ph.D. at Cambridge but fell into comedy instead. At least Cohen isn't afraid to comment on his art, as he recently did in Rolling Stone, and on the one commentary included with Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez. In the commentary, he talks about how it takes him weeks to get prepared for each character as the hair must be grown (since so much of work is with unsuspecting people/victims, this shouldn't be a surprise), and he comes across as articulate about his process. It appears that many of the segments are edited down to the money bits of particularly fascinating buffoonery. But Cohen's commitment to his characters is outstanding, and if rumor is to be believed, he once got so drunk as Borat that he passed out and woke up all in character. It's hilarious, but perhaps borderline sociopathic, which may be where great comedy comes from.
Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez collects the two seasons that Da Ali G Show ran on HBO from 2003 through 2004, itself a spin-off of the British version that was so successful Cohen could no longer play any of the characters in England without being recognized. The American version is hosted by Cohen's Ali G, a would-be gangsta from Staines, England (a neighborhood not too far from the Queen's) who constantly speaks slang and says "Respect" a lot. The tone for the show is set in it when he asks former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburg "What is the difference between legal and barely legal?" Ali G also talks to people like Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Newt Gingrich, Buzz Aldrin (whom he calls Buzz Lightyear), and Andy Rooney, who walks off the show because of Ali's bad grammar (G's response: "Is it 'cos I is black?"). There are also roundtable discussions with G, where he will talk to a group of people about issues of the day like abstinence, and Ali will also hit the streets, pitching his idea for an ice cream glove, or trying to sell his action movie "Spyz" starring himself as James Bond. The second character is the racist and sexist Borat (again, Cohen) who is from Kazakhstan, and who tries out the speed dating scene, but mostly hangs out in the South trying to learn about American culture. In one of the show's most YouTube'd moments, Borat sings a country song called "Throw a Jew Down a Well (So My Country Can Be Free)." The final character is German fashion maven Bruno (Cohen), who sneaks onto a runway in the first episode and often interacts with fashion people, though as the show went on, Bruno treks to both Florida and Alabama, where the comedy comes mostly from the fear of seeing Bruno nearly killed by homophobic rednecks.
The comedy is two pronged: Cohen's characters are obviously idiotic or insane or both, but the sneak attack of that is in how the people who've been suckered in respond. His comedy can offer a mirror to these people who try to be genial, but are sometimes punked when they let down their guards. But as some have called this sort of comedy mean spirited, for the most part the joke is on Cohen's characters. And the laughs are steady and hard. From Ali G suggesting that "One time when me was high, me sold me car for like 24 Chicken McNuggets." to Borat analyzing that "America national sport is called baseballs. It very similar to our sport, Shurik, where we take dogs, shoot them in a field, and then have a party," to Bruno on a road trip saying "Being gay is the new coolest thing, which is why I came to gayest part of America! Alabama!" pound for pound this is one of the funniest and most quotable TV shows ever created (Borat practically begs to be mimicked, which with the recent movie is already growing wearisome). With a deal at Universal for a Bruno based movie, Da Ali G Show will have completed its cinematic trifecta by having each character produce their own films (that said, 2002's Ali G Indahouse is not worth the effort). Hopefully Bruno will be as funny as the show that spawned it.
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HBO Home Video presents all 12 episodes of Da Ali G Show over four discs, with each season in its own keep-case. Essentially, it's a repackaging of the first and second seasons in a new box with a lenticular cover that highlights the presence of both Ali G and Borat, making this an obvious cash-in on the movie (one wonders what they will do when the Bruno movie comes out). All episodes are presented in full-frame and in 2.0 stereo. As for supplements, Disc One of Season One houses a commentary by Sacha Baron Cohen and series writer and producer Dan Mazar, and two cut scenes of Borat (15 min.). On Disc Two is the uncut version of "Spyz" (8 min.), and an "Ali G Glossary" offering definitions for some of G's most quotable sayings. For Two, on Disc One there's "Ali G's Harvard Commencement Speech" (15 min.), which is (as one would expect) deliriously inappropriate, so much so that Cohen nearly breaks out of character to apologize for it. Disc Two offers three deleted Ali G sequences (10 min.), three Borat sequences (16 min.), and two Bruno bits (12 min.), one where Bruno has a psychic contact his dead lover and asks the psychic to pretend the two are dating to make his dead lover jealous. Two Dual-DVD keep-cases in paperboard slipcover.