Tricked into Silly Interview with Wanna Be Gangster Ali G of Britain

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By Alex Alonso (Streetgangs.com)
March 12, 2002

LOS ANGELES – During the last few years I have appeared on several radio and television programs in the United States, England, Canada and Japan. There are many shows that I have declined to appear on either because I felt that the subject matter was not being treated seriously or the producers were not willing to compensate me for my time. I will not appear on comedy shows or exploitative magazine shows that want to use the subject matter more for entertainment purposes rather than educational value.

But I was surely tricked into appearing on one of the most silliest programs in Britain and apparently one of the most popular variety shows in their country hosted by Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen). Because Ali G is not well known in the US, he and his producers were able to convince me to do an on camera interview for his program. If you are not familiar with Ali G, you may have noticed him as the limousine driver in a recent Madonna video named Music.

alig2_webI was contacted by Chloe Court of TalkBack Productions from London about an idea that they had regarding Los Angeles gangs for purposes of educating the English youth about gangs and informing the general public about how destructive street gangs have been for many American youth. I thought that this was a decent topic and agreed to participate. They claimed that the name of the show was “The Message,” a working title, which is a late-night factual-entertainment program, which turned out to be a lie. The name of the show was “The 11 O’Clock Show” on NBC and they were already in their second season of conducting ridiculous interviews with unsuspecting guest, such as myself. [View initial letter from TalkBack Productions to Mr. Alonso - 172 k PDF].

When I finally met Ali G, which was moments before the interview was to begin, I sensed that this guy had another plan. He was dressed in yellow athletic apparel with a matching head beanie and large goggles. I knew that this chap could not be taken seriously and I was not prepared for the questions he was about to ask. After the interview began, I was not sure how to behave, because he was asking some really silly questions, I wanted to laugh, but I just maintained a calm demeanor and continued to do the interview. It turns out that Ali G, the character that Mr. Cohen created is a spoof gangster from the West End Massive that communicates a bizarre street lingo, heavy with slang and plenty of accent.

Other Americans that have been unsuspectingly interviewed by Ali G include former Secretary of State Alexander Haig(1981-82 under Ronald Reagan), Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, Admiral Stansfield Turner and former head of the CIA, and Emeritus Professor of Economics at Harvard John Kenneth Galbraith.

One website describes him as:

He’s the most talked-about comic on television: a Jewish, Cambridge-educated white man who plays an uneducated, misogynistic, black man from Staines. Now a number of black comedians have taken offense.

The interview took place in Los Angeles on the streets of South LA in 1999 and the laugh tracks were added after. How do you think I did?

alexalonso Posted by on Mar 12 2002. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 comments on “Tricked into Silly Interview with Wanna Be Gangster Ali G of Britain

  1. Johnnie Mousico on said:

    Dear Mr. Alonso,

    I read your article about the interview you gave with English Comedian Ali G and I also saw the interview on Television. With the utmost respect, I feel that you have very much misunderstood Sacha Baron Cohen and his character. First and foremost, the creation of the character is far from silly and very cleverly put together.

    He is most definitely not playing a character that is supposed to be black. I have lived in Ethnic London all of my life and I can tell you that there is a certain type of youth in London, and indeed in many other Urban parts of Britain, that is white and trys to act and talk black. This, I guess, is because the Caribbean culture in London is the largest influence on the urban youth scene as it was when I went to school and grew up on the streets. Ali G is a character of this type and has therefore been created to ridicule this type of person that is trying to be something that they are not. If you watched his show regularly you would have seen that there was a Jamaican DJ that regularly appeared on the show who would talk Jamaican patios to Ali G and basically mock him when he couldn’t understand.

    You must understand that this character cannot and must not be taken seriously otherwise you will have missed the very essence of what Sacha Baron Cohen is trying to achieve. Ali G always chooses his victims carefully. They are very often members of England’s upper classes like Aristocrats or politicians that are never in touch with street culture and therefore usually think that he is a real character and they very often pity him thinking that he is from the streets and therefore uneducated and this is usually their undoing.

    In the interview with you, however, I think it was quite clear that you had worked out early on that he was there for entertainment purposes and I don’t think that he ridiculed you at all like he did some of his victims. The FBI official that he interviewed was made to look like a complete imbecile. I think you came out of that one very well compared to most.

    Incidentally, there is a neighbourhood in London near Heathrow Airport called “Staines” and Ali G is supposed to be from there so when he talks about his gang, he talks about the “West Staines” massive not the “West End” which is the very busy part of central London and far away from Staines.

    I have read a lot about some of the things you do and the subject is very interesting to me and I think you are doing some great things in a very troubled part of the world. If I ever come to L.A. again, I may look you up.

    Best Wishes

    Johnnie Mousico from North London

  2. stand up comedy jokes on said:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles. You obviously know what you are talking about! Your site is so easy to navigate too, I’ve bookmarked it in my favourites :-D

  3. dhamm818 on said:

    What it do Alex!
    Habari gani Askari?(I’m learning Swahili from one of the homies so I was just asking “How are you. warrior”) I wanted to say taht I agree with the first poster from London on the Ali G situation. I’ve watched his show on HBO and he lets these upper class,aristocratic people he interviews have it. I think Mr. Cohen actually showed alot of respect for you and our situation in L.A. County (I’m from Pakoima). I think he was trying to show how NOT hard those guys are in London. There are some West Indian gangs like the different “Yardie” & dangerous. There are also two books written by Peter Walsh called “Cocky” and “Gang War” which chronicle the Manchester gang scene.
    I think Mr. Cohen was very respectful of you and our gang problem while trying to make it funny. It was informative and hilarious at the same time. Peace, Brother Alex, and keep doing what you are doing by making our struggle to the world and shedding light on our problem from an authentic perspective with going “Hollywood”.

    Peace,
    dhamm818

    P.S.

    Mr. Cohen had no choice but to respect you because those F.O.I. brothers you had with you looked like they did not play, LOL!

  4. Margaretta Carp on said:

    Enjoy the idea. Hope vitamins minerals resource may assist someone out there.

  5. hmm on said:

    Maybe try going and checking out the violent urban inner city gang life in London UK and in Birmingham UK.

  6. Stefan Hiner on said:

    You have some very interesting articles and view points, although I dont totally agree with everything in the article its still a very interesting opinion, look forward to coming back again soon. Have bookmarked you for future reference.

  7. Everette Mavro on said:

    Excelente artículo! Me sirvió muchísimo, muchas gracias. Si te interesa, yo manejo un sitio web con mucha información sobre Televisiones Baratas.

  8. Mario Harnois on said:

    I like doing stand up. Stand up is tough to do, but interesting!!

  9. Mr. Alonso, I thought it was a pretty funny bit. I’m sure they saw you on TV and figured you’d play the straight man, and he’d do his usual bit and play the fool. Usually, his victims get flustered or angry and end up the butt of the joke, but you kept him in his role as the fool. That really made it good.

  10. Zarathustra on said:

    Mr. Alonso,

    i completely agree with the statement above by Mr. Mousico. id advise watching other interviews carefully by Cohen and you can clearly see how superb your interview was. your reaction was very positive compared to most others. this speaks volumes about your personal character as well as what you represent in the interview. and makes myself and others aware of your work. i feel that Mr. Cohen’s comedic work is both intelligent and enlightening considering the often serious nature of his subject matter….after all…in no other ‘known’ situation could you, and others, have represented themselves so very well if not in an ‘unknowing’ state. i believe it should be a real privilege to be represented by ali g considering the others he usually interviews and the fact that what you do is MORE important comes to the foreground. Cohen is a comedian, and one that brings very serious issues to light and exposes those who are not as genuine as yourself, as you have shown by your sincerity in the unknown ‘joke’. ‘tricked’ isnt always a bad thing.

    good regards,

    Z

  11. Son Bouie on said:

    Wow, thats a very crazy article . I like your blog. Maybe you should write more articles of these type. By the way, sorry for my bad english ;) (:

  12. antonia kyle on said:

    I think he is a great comedian and if we all can’t take the humor or sarcasm in it,well, come on. People are getting way too deep on this stuff. Ali G is a character not a real person. very inventive of our times and we should treat mr. cohen as the wonderful comedian he is, not to mention thought provoking. A true artist.

  13. free our price record vouchers, haha quality.

  14. alexalonsoalexalonso on said:

    I was 29 years old when this was shot. Ali-G’s people picked me up from USC and we drove through South LA.

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