Ali G To Speak At Class Day

Speaker named after weeks of waiting

Ali G is comin’ to da U.S. to bang at ’arvard.

Or so he’d say.

He may even break out a crimson jumpsuit for the occasion.

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, known commonly as Ali G, will address seniors at Class Day on June 9.

Baron Cohen, who will begin his second year hosting an HBO late-night show this summer, usually appears as his alter-ego, “bad boy rapper” Ali G.

“We are excited to welcome this most talented and hilarious performer, along with his yellow jumpsuit and copious amounts of ice, to Harvard’s Class Day,” said Class Marshal and speaker committee Chair John Paul M. Fox ’04 in a statement.

Fox could not be reached for comment Saturday.

“All I can say is Boyashaka,” wrote Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 of the choice in an e-mail.

Ali G was a much sought-after choice, first class Marshal Shaka J. Bahadu ’04 wrote in an e-mail.

“Quite a few seniors e-mailed me throughout the year requesting that we ask Ali G,” Bahadu wrote. “Fortunately, we were able to deliver.”

Though Baron Cohen was secured as the choice at least a month ago, the committee was unable to release his name until Friday.

“The person we have secured has requested for us to hold the announcement to coincide with something else they are working on,” Bahadu wrote in an e-mail last month.

Bahadu said yesterday that he did not know what the project was.

On “Da Ali G Show,” Baron Cohen often surprises interviewees with disarming questions, sexually-suggestive double entendres and misnomers like “the events of 7-11.”

Baron Cohen, who is half-Israeli and half-Welsh, is used to spending time in Cambridge, albeit the British namesake of Harvard’s home—he majored in history at Cambridge University.

Class Marshal Zachary A. Corker ’04 said that Baron Cohen will almost definitely appear as Ali G when he speaks at Harvard.

“He’s always in character. I’ve never read any interview or write up of him where he’s been out of character,” Corker said.

Corker added that he hoped some students were unfamiliar with Ali G, so they could be “pleasantly surprised” by his antics.

The Senior Class Committee will host screenings of “Da Ali G Show,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2003, to introduce Baron Cohen to the class.

“We’ll probably have them correspond with Senior Toast Day, or some other slightly inebriated activity,” Corker said.

In the persona of Ali G, Baron Cohen has interviewed myriad famous figures, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, asking him to translate expletives into French, and throwing superfluous “Boutros”’s into the conversation.

In a 2000 appearance in Britain, he interviewed Real Madrid soccer player David Beckham and his wife, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham, in a burgundy leather suit with the words “Save Africa” written on the back just above a map of Italy.

In a characteristic play on words, he commented to David Beckham, “Cos I heard you was well good at getting round the back and bending your balls in.”

While some play along with Baron Cohen’s antics, others have gotten annoyed or even furious—Donald Trump ended his Ali G interview after two minutes.

Baron Cohen first gained popularity in his native Britain on “The 11 O’clock Show,” a satire of nightly news.

His character is well-known for his unique dialect, a combination of British and street slang that has sparked numerous online translator sites.

In “Da Ali G Show,” he also appears as two other characters, Borat, a naive Kazakhstani reporter who travels to the U.S. to report on American culture, and Bruno, a self-obsessed Austrian fashion reporter.

This year will be the third consecutive Class Day that features a comedian as the speaker—Will Ferrell spoke last year and Al Franken ’73 addressed seniors in 2002.

“Harvard students want to be enlightened, and I think he’ll do that,” Corker said. “These past three years, they’ve all been incredible individuals who have enlightened this world with their insight and their breadth of knowledge, which are core values to Harvard University.”

—Staff writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at kkaplan@fas.harvard.edu.