For real! MTV faces a Staines massive fine over Ali G's lack of respec' for the stars of pop music
As the gangsta-rapping comedy king of the Staines massive might have put it himself: "Is it 'coz I is putting my Nike-clad foot in it, innit?"
The music television channel MTV was facing a swingeing fine for a shattering potential breach of broadcasting rules last night after an X-rated performance by Ali G at its Europe music awards.
The Cambridge-educated spoof rapper, hailed for his iconoclastic humour sprinkled with references to "bitches" and "benders", was hired by the station to present the cutting edge of popular culture at its star-studded ceremony on Thursday night in Frankfurt.
But after two hours in front of a television audience of up to a billion people in 139 countries, MTV executives were left ruing their decision not to demand prior approval of the script of Ali G's creator, Sacha Baron Cohen.
Casting aside normal showbiz etiquette for handing gongs to the great and the good, the self-styled scourge of "yoof" culture set about deconstructing stars from Kylie Minogue to Claudia Schiffer.
By the time of the after-show party, a global audience had been treated to a stream of innuendo, put-downs and one-liners with liberal use of choice Ali G vocabulary from "slapper" to "dildo".
The Independent Television Commission (ITC) said it was reviewing the show after the comedian "bigged it up" by taking a swipe at a galaxy of pop stars - not to mention Boris Becker and the population of Norway.
Channel 4, which is due to broadcast a repeat of the ceremony tonight, said it would review the recording before deciding whether to screen it.
Appearing before an audience of 7,000, the comic, clad in a zebra-skin tracksuit (one of eight costumes for the evening), ploughed into the reputations of performers with characteristic irreverence.
Atomic Kitten... slappers
Introducing girl band Atomic Kitten, he said: "There are a few slappers here tonight, mentioning no names, Atomic Kitten." Next up was the British singer Dido, who was named best new act. She was welcomed with the epithet: "Big it up for Dildo - strap it on, girl."
With his chunky gold jewellery and wrap-around shades twinkling off the spotlights, the 29-year-old comedian reserved his indiscreet best for the three-times Wimbledon champion Becker and pop veterans Depeche Mode.
Ali G said Becker was a role model not just for his tennis, but also for his assignation with a waitress in a cupboard at the London restaurant Nobu - an encounter the comedian referred to in graphic terms. "Respec', Boris!" he said.
Then, commenting on the German supermodel helping Becker to present an award, he added: "With him is Heidi Klum, who's here 'coz she's fit. Heidi should watch out for Boris in the lift."
Of Depeche Mode, he said: "There will be one billion people watching this, until Depeche Mode come on.
"From the rainforests of Egypt to the mountains of Holland, there will be some watching this without televisions. This is being watched by people in Third World countries - give yourself a big up, Norway."
German television producers hosting the ceremony took the precaution of adding a five-minute transmission delay to excise any expletives. But the exercise may have been pointless. There were suggestions that the Ali G experience was largely lost on the non-British contingent of the ceremony audience, with some gags being met by a stony silence.
But by the time Baron Cohen had finished - with a suggestion that the supermodel Claudia Schiffer had made the "ultimate sacrifice" by sleeping with her former American boyfriend, the magician David Copperfield, and by signalling his carnal availability for Kylie Minogue - regulators were licking their lips.
The ITC, the statutory watchdog with the power to fine broadcasters for breaking controls on "language, taste and decency", said it would be looking at the tapes. The ITC has shown itself prepared to impose substantial penalties. In 1998, it fined Carlton Television a record Ł2m for fabricating footage in The Connection
, a documentary on the drug smuggling trade.
Channel 4, which hosts the comedian's Da Ali G Show
, said its lawyers were checking the show to ensure it met broadcasting codes. A spokesman said: "The lawyers watch everything to make sure it's compliant. It can come down to a judgement call, and audience expectation is a key point." MTV declined to discuss Baron Cohen's performance, but an insider at the channel, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in August, admitted executives had been caught unawares. One manager said: "We gave Sacha the freedom he required to put together his own gags and not have them legalled by our department. We thought it was worth the risk and certainly the audience and the performers enjoyed it. But we do take our obligations under the ITC code very seriously - there are a few uneasy faces around today."
Baren Cohen has risen to fame in three years thanks to his cross-racial alter ego, a post-modern parody of a white boy pretending to be a black gangsta rapper from the Middlesex town of Staines.
His background could not be more different. He is half Welsh and half Jewish, from an affluent family in Hampstead Garden suburb. He went to a public school before reading history at Christ's College, Cambridge.
From his beginnings on the 11 O'Clock Show
- a series of mock interviews on Channel 4 that duped figures from Tony Benn to the former American Secretary of State Alexander Haig - he recently received the stamp of approval of the showbiz cognoscenti by appearing in a Madonna video.
A film, Ali G In Da House
, is due for release in March.
The comedian was not the only celebrity determined to use the MTV awards as a showcase for his opinions. Damon Albarn, the frontman of the Gorillaz, which won trophies for best dance act and song, delivered a diatribe against the bombing of Afghanistan while holding up a CND badge. He said: "Fuck the music. See this symbol, it's the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Bombing one of the poorest countries in the world is wrong. You've got a voice, use it."
Away from the evening's key business of controversy, the awards themselves were dominated by Craig David, who was named best R&B act and best UK and Ireland act.
Introducing David, Ali G said: "His music has helped many 19-year-old men lose their virginity and maybe it will help him too, one day."
A spokeswoman for the comedian accused his critics of a post-modern sense of humour failure. She said: "Ali G is Ali G. It's a character. He is supposed to be a rapper from Staines. None of the language he uses is ever bad language - he doesn't swear as such, it is just Ali G speak."
Source: The Independent
It's a bit ironic how this year's MTV Europe Music Awards was hosted by a comedian in a country renowned for its (lack of) sense of humour. A lot of the gags were lost on the German audience, I'm not even sure if they knew who he was. Ali G ended the night with, "And remember, no matter if you're black, white, brown or Pakistani. We all come from the same place. Da punani."