If you liked Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, interviewing and gleefully offending real people who weren’t in on the joke, and skillfully getting them to reveal their own prejudices in the process, then you’d have loved Da Ali G Show. Turning those kinds of gotcha interviews, often with powerful politicians, into cringe theater was Baron Cohen’s entire raison d’etre, and he did it via three different, equally outrageous characters. One was white hip-hopper Ali G, who spoke in a belligerently stupid patois that made Jar Jar Binks sound like William F. Buckley. One was Borat, the naïf from a remote country where sexism and anti-Semitism lived cheerfully on the surface, instead of just beneath it, as in the West. The third was Bruno, the Austrian fashionista so flamboyantly gay that he made people of every sexual stripe feel uncomfortable.
Aside from their ability to embarrass the powerful and to display Baron Cohen’s chameleonic skill at transforming himself, what these characters had in common was that they were funniest in small doses. (Baron Cohen would make feature-length movies using each of these characters, but only Borat, the least aggressive and slyest of the three, was watchable for more than a few minutes.) The way Baron Cohen incorporated real people into his cringe-comedy was mean and unfair, but if it hadn’t been, it wouldn’t have been so revealing – or so funny.
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