10 Fun Facts About Da Ali G Show

Keith Bedford, Getty Images
Keith Bedford, Getty Images

It’s been 20 years since the birth of Ali G, the abrasive alter ego that helped introduce the world to comedian/lawsuit magnet Sacha Baron Cohen. By donning shiny FUBU gear and sitting down for irreverent interviews, Baron Cohen was able to send up comfortably middle-class dudes appropriating culture and pompous public figures at the same time.

He’s broadened his style, his acting resume, and his appeal, but Baron Cohen has kept the costumed apery alive with his latest show, Who is America?. This is where it all started.

Here are 10 facts about the series that gave us Borat, Brüno, and the gold chain-sporting "chav" from the mean streets of Staines.

1. IT STARTED AS A GAG ON THE 11 O’CLOCK SHOW.

Before Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen crafted a similar character called MC Jocelyn Cheadle-Hume for a sketch on a short-lived youth show called F2F. After realizing that people would interact with Cheadle-Hume as if he were a real person, Baron Cohen developed Ali G using BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood as one part of the recipe. The character premiered in 1998 on The 11 O’Clock Show (now famous for launching several careers), with an interview style that was jaw-dropping and gutsy from the start.

2. IT’S REALLY TWO SHOWS.

Since Channel 4 gave Ali G his start, and HBO took the baton, there are two distinct flavors of the program. The first season was a bit more like a traditional talk show, with monologues, scripted sketches, musical guests, and a studio audience providing the laughs. The second and third seasons, which aired on HBO, not only set the series more firmly in the United States, it dropped the scripted bits, music, and canned laughter.

3. THE SIMPSONS PARODIED ITS OPENING.

Ah, the definitive mark of cultural importance: a Simpsons gag. The bold opening titles designed by Garth Jennings start with a naked Ali G whose clothes fly toward him in an exaggerated, stop-motion style. In “Ice Cream of Margie (with the Light Blue Hair)," Homer gets dressed a la Ali G.

4. ALI’S REAL NAME IS ALISTAIR LESLIE GRAHAM.

The foundational gag of the character is that he’s a suburban kid affecting black British and British Jamaican culture with no respect or context. He’s got the privilege to try on the clothing and slang as a hobby, which is why that name and his hometown (the pleasant London Commuter Belt city) are satirically perfect.

5. EACH PERSONA HAD ITS OWN SATIRICAL PURPOSE.

Baron Cohen played Brüno, Borat, and Ali G in uniquely stupid ways for specifically smart reasons. Each was able to draw out the vulnerabilities of different types of interviewees either by making them feel safe or antagonistic. Ali G was paired with politicians and business leaders because of the juxtaposition of seriousness with buffoonery; Borat’s idiocy preyed on people’s condescension and fake politeness toward non-Western foreigners; and Brüno’s flamboyant homosexuality lifted bigotry to the surface of conversations. People felt they had to spar with Ali G, but Borat and Brüno made them feel (wrongfully) that they had the upper hand.

6. SETH ROGEN WROTE FOR THE SHOW.

Ari Perilstein, Getty Images for AMC

In the second season of the second incarnation of the show, Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg came along for a ride through Ali G’s safe sex education, Borat’s conversation with an Oklahoma congressional candidate, and Brüno’s fashionable chat with Leon Hall. It was an early break for both of them: it was Goldberg’s first TV gig as a writer and Rogen’s second after acting in and writing for Judd Apatow’s sleeper powerhouse Undeclared.

7. THEY GOT A CONSERVATIVE POLITICIAN TO SMOKE “WEED."

Neil Hamilton was a Tory MP until a bribery scandal and a general election loss in 1997. Two years later, he appeared on Da Ali G Show, accepting a joint that may have been real but was probably a prop. “Of course I tried it,” Hamilton told the BBC. “I’m always one for new experiences.”

From 2016 until August 2018, Hamilton was the Leader of the UK Independence Party in Wales, so the weed (real or fake) didn't seem to do too much reputational damage.

8. THE INTERVIEW GOAL WAS TO AVOID MAKING THE GUEST LAUGH OR LEAVE.

The challenge of Baron Cohen’s confrontational comedy is the necessity to push the limits without sabotaging the entire segment. He needs an involuntary comic “straight man” or none of it works. Lean too far into absurdity, and it might fall apart. Play it safe, and it won’t be interesting. Interviewees also can’t key into the joke, or the whole exercise becomes unintentionally staged. “The goal is: Don’t let the guest laugh, and don’t get him to walk,” one crew member explained to The New York Times while watching Baron Cohen interview former CIA director R. James Woolsey as Ali G.

9. THEY’VE HAD TO RUN FROM INTERVIEWS.

HBO

The most dangerous it’s ever gotten for Baron Cohen and his co-conspirators came years into the gag when Borat sang a fake national anthem at a rodeo for a huge crowd, but they were taking risks of bodily harm since the beginning. For the first season at HBO, Brüno interviewed armed attendees at a white supremacist rally in Georgia, and things went downhill quickly.

“I can’t remember what the trigger question was, but all of a sudden the guy we were interviewing exploded,” producer Dan Mazer told The New York Times. “He started physically attacking the cameraman and reaching for his gun. We legged it like no one’s ever legged it.” They all got good at spotting when an interviewee was headed toward the end of their rope.

10. ALI G PITCHED ICE CREAM GLOVES TO DONALD TRUMP.

Donald Trump claims that he knew immediately that it was all a goof, but he spent an earnest seven minutes with Ali G that was edited into a two-minute segment where the Staines goatee enthusiast flatters Trump’s idea for ice cream that doesn’t drip before pitching specialty gloves to wear since you can’t make ice cream that doesn’t drip (unless you’re NASA). Trump was one of dozens of businessmen and politicians Ali G got the best of.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Extremely Valuable Funko Pop! Figures That Might Be Hiding In Your Collection

In the 1990s, collectors salivated over Beanie Babies. In the 2000s, it was Pokemon. Today, the collectibles market is dominated by Funko Pops!, the ubiquitous vinyl figures that turn pop culture characters into block-headed, saucer-eyed cute bombs.

While Funko has a deep bench of licenses, many figures are exclusive to retailers, available for a limited time, or are otherwise hard to find. After perusing recent auction sales and Funko online price guides, we’ve excavated a few figures that are being bought and sold for stacks of cash larger than the toys themselves—and could be hiding in your very own collection. Take a look at 15 of the most sought after and valuable Funko Pop! figures that could net you a small fortune on the secondary market.

1. Ghost Rider Metallic Freddy Funko // $4210

The spirit of vengeance was unleashed as an ultra-exclusive variant edition that's a mash-up of the Marvel hero with Funko mascot Freddy Funko. Released in 2013, it was limited to just 12 figures. As a result, it’s a high-ticket item. The Pop Price Guide, which tracks Funko Pop! values and sales, estimates it at $4210.

2. She-Ra // $690

Funko

The warrior princess of the 1980s Masters of the Universe spin-off cartoon made a splash in 2013. The figure wasn’t a limited edition, but so many fans snapped her up that she’s hard to find.

3. Mike Wazowski Glow-in-the-Dark // $1960

The jolly green creature from 2001’s Monsters, Inc. was available in a limited glow-in-the-dark edition beginning in 2011, but collectors had to go on a scavenger hunt—only 480 were produced.

4. Reggae Rasta // $1200

Walmart

This Bob Marley-inspired figure has been sought after by collectors for sporting a limited-edition green outfit instead of the multi-colored one in the image seen above. That regular version sells for around $400.

5. Holographic Darth Maul // $5070

The horned villain from The Phantom Menace, 1999’s Star Wars prequel, got the glow-in-the-dark treatment from Funko in 2012. San Diego Comic-Con attendees had first crack at the variant, which was limited to 480 figures.

6. Master Chief // $650

Funko

The hero of the Halo 4 video game was a Blockbuster Video exclusive and commands $650 on the open market.

7. Ken Griffey Jr. Bronze // $3150

One of Major League Baseball’s most celebrated players got the Pop! treatment in 2018, with just 24 gold-finish variants made for fans at Seattle's Safeco Field (which was renamed T-Mobile Park in late 2018). The current market value is $3150.

8. Headless Ned Stark // $980

Funko

One of the most tragic and unexpected deaths on Game of Thrones was immortalized in this 2013 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, which features the head of the Stark family and his detachable melon. The Pop Price Guide has valued Stark at $980.

9. Black Ranger Freddy Funko // $1850

This hybrid of Funko mascot Freddy Funko and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was limited to fans attending the Funko Fundays event at 2017's San Diego Comic-Con. Only 24 were produced, which is why they’re extremely difficult to find, even on auction sites.

10. The Notorious B.I.G. Metallic // $1930

Funko

The late rap headliner got the deluxe treatment in 2011, with a metallic coat and hat version that was limited to 240 pieces. (The regular version is pictured.) Its listed value is $1930.

11. Batman Blue Metallic // $1400

The Dark Knight is looking a little more ostentatious in this 2010 San Diego Comic-Con offering, with a shiny blue cowl and accessories.

12. 1970s Elvis Presley Glow-in-the-Dark // $2170

Funko

A 1970s-era Elvis (above) comes in a special glow-in-the-dark version that has an estimated value of $2170. Another limited chase figure that depicts him at the height of his powers in the 1950s will run you as much as $1700.

13. Clown Dumbo // $5900

The ear-shaming of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo continues to strike a chord with people. The 2013 edition of Dumbo in clown make-up was limited to 48 pieces for San Diego Comic-Con attendees.

14. Planet Arlia Vegeta // $3500

Funko

The flame-haired Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z was exclusive to fans at the 2014 New York Comic Con and the Toy Tokyo store in New York City.

15. Bob’s Big Boy // $850

This iconic advertising character was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2016. Only 1000 were made.

This story was updated in 2020.