April 27, 2005

I came in a bit late on the Ali G wave and I’ve just recently watched one of his shows. That’s mostly because I watch tv sporadically and when I do it isn’t HBO. Most “edgy” HBO originals seem to last a few episodes and then sort of continue on for the sake of continuing, like they’re propelled by their own hype, which bores the hell out of me. Band of Brothers had a true story to tell and Curb Your Enthusiasm is basically a (very good) sitcom, but stuff like The Sopranos and Deadwood just seem to float along and end up no where. Each episode has just enough drama to lead up to the next episode, like a soap opera, and then it gets boring.

Ali G is definitely not the typical HBO original. First of all, it originally aired in the UK. It ended once Cohen was well known and couldn’t get away with his shenanigans any longer. Secondly, it’s a comedy, and an original one at that. Sasha Cohen plays three characters: Ali G – a British wigger, Borat – a clueless tourist from Kazakhstan, and Bruno – a gay, Austrian fashion expert. Each of them is done incredibly well, so it goes without saying that he’s a pretty intelligent and quick witted guy. I saw Borat for the first time on Conan O’Brien and almost had a hernia. Cohen’s got the stereotype of a clueless eastern man in a complicated western world down pretty well. Then there is Ali G, who I had heard about but never looked into until a rather cocky British guy I know started to recite lines from the show. The lisp and wanna-be slang made me laugh and so I checked it out. It’s now one of my favorite shows.

Part of me loves Cohen’s comedy because he has that “nothing is sacred” mentality – anything and anyone is open to laughing at, because life is short and cruel and you might as well just laugh. Nothing is worth taking seriously, etc. Not everyone agrees with that, of course, but it’s part of the fun. The show is made to get a reaction, and it does that very well.

For instance, in one episode, Borat manages to get a bar full of country western fans to sing “Throw the Jew down the well,” a song about ridding the Jews from his home country. This caused the Anti-Defamation League to get up in arms along with a lot of Jewish people. The Jews were angry not because Cohen (who is Jewish himself) made the song, but because the rednecks were actually up to singing along with him.

If these people would get over themselves I think they would see that most of the people who were singing were probably drunken rednecks who wanted nothing but to cheer on this poor, mislead, ass backwards Ay-Rab for actually having the balls to get up and sing a song in front of them. He clearly had no concept of what real country music was and so it looked to me like they wanted to humor him – not that they were out to hate some Jews. Do the people that are complaining really believe the average southerner even comes in contact with a member of the Jewish faith very often? That they care? Get over yourselves. I sure haven’t run into many stein’s or berg’s in my neck of the woods, nor have I met many Jews in any of the other small country towns I’ve lived in. Anti-Semitism isn’t a big issue, if only because there aren’t many Jews around to hate. The fact is that those country bumpkins probably did not care at all, or didn’t know any better, or again, they were probably drunk. Maybe they were racists. Who cares? When I first saw the clip I was positive that they’d start to throw bottles at him ala The Blues Brothers, if not partially because he was an Arab man, but they sang along and I was sort of happy that they did. Even I would have sung along because it was so ridiculous and funny and I’ve nothing against Jews – at least nothing more than the followers of any other religion. Sorry. Either way, I really wish that some people, like those at [this site] would stop being so god damn sensitive about things like that. Cry me a river, would you?

Cohen claims he plans it all, that he likes to get people to let their guard down around someone as naive as Borat so that they will show their true colors.. but that sounds iffy to me. I can’t believe it was his mission in the first place. I’m sure he knew something interesting was going to happen – putting a man like that in a room full of people like that – but I don’t think it was his goal. Part of the fun is the reaction, is it not? You never know what it will be, but it’s probably going to be outrageous and entertaining. Something tells me he didn’t do it to show the plight of the average Jew.

That said, the other half of me does sort of feel a little pity for the people Cohen attacks. For instance, he interviews completely oblivious and in some cases, innocent people, who give him the benefit of the doubt and who patiently answer all of his questions, no matter how moronic they might be. He wasn’t well known at the time of the making of the series and so he could sneak in interviews with people like Buzz Aldrin, James Lipton, the former Secretary General of the UN, a Catholic priest, and ask them all completely ignorant but seemingly sincere questions like “Will man ever walk on the sun?”, “Is acting for the gays?”, “What is the funniest sounding language?”, and ““Isn’t God just an over hyped David Blaine?” These people assume that he is just another misguided fool and one of today’s corrupt youth, a victim of a culture gone bad – because there are very stupid people out there and some of them do host tv shows. When you put yourself in their positions, you have to feel a little bad. They got duped; all the while being kind enough to humor him… it says something about being a nice person. The highlight is that he mostly interviews people who deserve to be duped and either way, that’s the nothing is sacred policy – nothing should be taken too seriously. Hopefully, people like Aldrin laugh it off. That is…if they ever discover it’s all fake.

I’ve yet to see the Ali G movie, mostly because of the bad reviews it gets, but Borat, which is coming out this year, is something I’m definitely going to watch. The director of Old School quit the project because of a near riot at a rodeo caused by innocent little Borat himself.

After telling the crowd he supported America’s war on terrorism, he said, “I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards … And may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq.” He then sang a garbled version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Roanoke Times reported that the crowd turned “downright nasty.” One observer said “If he had been out there a minute longer, I think somebody would have shot him.”

Sounds like good stuff to me.


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