Political satirist or raunchy toilet humorist? British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, the mastermind behind the three faces of “Da Ali G Show,” can be labeled as both. And with the release of the second hilarious season on DVD, you can be the judge.

Ali G became a cultural icon in the U.K. His BBC show took off, and his absurd yet pointed humor appealed to someone over at HBO. Each episode of the show consists of Cohen performing as one of three characters – Ali G, Borat or Bruno – and interacting with real people. Unlike similar bits on, say, “The Tom Green Show,” Cohen’s barbed attacks on Americana have some cultural relevance.

Cohen seems most at home under the guise of Ali G, the wannabe-rapper from middle-class Staines who speaks an almost incomprehensible rapper dialect. The beauty of the character lies in how well he’s deployed to humiliate prominent media figures like Pat Buchanan and Gore Vidal. The man-on-the-street bits featuring Ali G, however, don’t fare quite as well as his embarrassing interview segments.

But the Bruno persona didn’t click at all in the first HBO season. Bruno is an Austrian fashion reporter, and, most importantly, he’s flamboyantly gay. In nearly all of his segments, he surprises unsuspecting victims into thinking they are involved in standard fashion features, only to reveal an incredibly perverse twist. The bit wears thin quickly and becomes more irritating than funny. Yet, it’s still a marked improvement over the previous year’s Bruno segments.

In spite of the shortcomings of these two characters, Cohen’s Borat is comedic gold. He’s a Kazakh reporter; Borat interviews regular Americans about a variety of banal activities. What separates Borat from the other personas is that he comes across as naA_ve and innocent. He can make racist or anti-Semitic remarks and get away with it because he seems to be nothing more than a friendly, curious foreigner. Through Borat, the subjects’ interviews often reveal their true prejudices, producing both hilarious and downright depressing results.

One of these awkward confrontations culminates with an episode so outrageous it entered mainstream news outlets. In the season’s highlight, Borat sings a song he wrote, entitled “In My Country There Is Problem,” to a packed country-Western bar. The problem he sings about? As Borat so plainly puts it, “the Jews.” While the audience initially reacts with an appropriately disgusted response, they soon begin to sing along with the catchy tune and even pantomime along with their Kazakh friend.

The season two DVD itself is pretty bare when it comes to special features. It contains an in-character commencement address at Harvard by Ali G, as well as a few deleted bits. Regardless, fans aren’t looking to “Da Ali G Show” for extensive making-of featurettes or commentaries; rather the episodes themselves, as well as and their irreverent ability to strike a nerve appeal to viewers.

Cohen subverts standard societal behavior and elicits results that reveal many Americans’ true nature. Unfortunately, he too often leans toward the lowest common denominator in his humor – choosing to make scatological and sexual jokes instead of riffing on the ignorance and prejudices of American society. Nevertheless, when “Da Ali G: Da Compleet Second Seazon” is at its best, it captures a comedian and concept in peak form.

 

Ratings:

Series: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Picture/Sound: 3 stars out of 5

Features: 2 stars out of 5

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.