The Unofficial Borat Homepage
Interview with Dan Mazer, Producer of Da Ali G Show
The Unofficial Borat Site has been granted an exclusive interview with the co-writer, co-creator and producer of Da Ali G Show. Along with Sacha Baron Cohen, Dan is one of the main men behind Borat Sagdiyev. Unlike the webmaster's CV, which includes a GCSE in woodwork, Mr Mazer has been editor of the Big Breakfast, producer of Fantasy Football World Cup, (executive) producer of Daisy Daisy and, of course, producer of all things Ali G.
Unoffical Borat Site (UBS): Were you pleased with how the American audience received Da Ali G Show and more specifically Borat?
Dan Mazer (DM): We were incredibly pleased. People were saying that the American audience would not get the irony but actually they were very sophisticated. They also got the satire better than the British audience.
UBS: Were there any differences in reactions between the people you interviewed in America and those in Britain?
DM: The people we interviewed were more polite, but only up to a point. If we pushed them too hard then they could suddenly become furious, at times violently angry. The chap watching the baseball game who Borat was trying to get to bribe the umpire was very polite but he exploded two minutes after what was seen on TV. He was trying to attack us and we had to walk away.
In England the people we interviewed are "slower burners", you can start things off slow, go harder for laughs and then slow it down again. The time at the Bowling Club was the best, in the toilet when Borat was asking if he could "do a dirt" in the urinals we felt we could get away with anything. The other chap at the club, Todd Slaughter, was also a dream come true.
UBS: Does Sacha get nervous at all before doing any of the filming? For example, singing the National Anthem of Kazakhstan to the baseball crowd must have been pretty nerve-wracking?
DM: Sacha thrives on it, he has no fear. The more nerve wracking the situation the more brilliant he is. Sacha sometimes is quiet and maybe has a few nerves in the car on the way to an interview, but when he is in character and actually becomes Borat then he is "in the zone". I think he thinks he actually has become Borat.
UBS: It must be hard to edit one or two hours worth of material down to around five minutes. Do you have any plans to do anything with all the unseen footage?
DM: It's the hardest thing, there is so much footage that we love but we know we must lose. For example at the Edinburgh Festival we had Borat speaking to a dancer about how "a man in the theatre is like a man in a house. And a woman in the theatre is like a woman in a house". Well, we loved this idea and in America we had a similar situation where Borat was saying how a "woman is like a horse" and so on. Borat talked like this for five and a half minutes with the person sitting politely listening, but there is no way we can put that all on TV.
We hope to be able to use some of the unseen footage on E4 or on an extra DVD. However, this is all up in the air at the moment.
UBS: Whilst in the guise of Borat, have you ever met anyone with any knowledge of Kazakhstan who has called your bluff?
DM: We chose a country such as Kazakhstan as we were confident that there was little chance of meeting anyone who knew anything about it. However, we have met people who have said that Jagshemash and Gendobrie are similar to Polish. Borat just answers this by saying that the words are the same in both languages.
One time when Sacha was nearly caught out was when he was getting a group of English rugby players to sing songs for him in Cambridge. They then asked him to sing a Kazakhstani song, he was floundering but then basically repeated the same word about fifty times to some made up tune. I think he got away with it as they were so pissed.
UBS: How detailed a plan for Borat's character and background did you have before you started doing him?
DM: We haven't really got one. With Ali G we have a plan of his family and his background, Ricky C, Uncle Jamal, Me Julie and others. However, with Borat you will have noticed that there is no real consistency, sometimes his wife is dead and sometimes he is married.
UBS: What about the rest of the Borat family, little Vilo and the home village? Where was that actually filmed?
DM: Romania actually. We were all set to go to Kazakhstan but we found that the people from Kazakhstan looked nothing like Borat. We went to a little village in Romania and in exchange for letting us film we bought them a pig. It was actually the pig which you see Borat introducing and then later eating. It was a great day filming. Borat's wives, his mother, little Vilo were all Romanians from a strange little village we found.
UBS: When Borat first started off there were a few articles in the press about the Kazakhstani Embassy in London trying to ban you. How much truth was there in these rumours or was it mainly a little spin from the production team?
DM: Great story. But to the best of my knowledge it was all just a made up story by the press. As far as I know, the Kazkhstani Embassy has never made any comments about Borat.
UBS: In the UK Guide to Sport, when you are in the bowling club toilets asking about "doing a dirt" in the urinals, it is clear that Sacha is finding it hard not to burst out laughing. What is the closest a scene has come to being ruined through laughing yourselves?
DM: In that scene in the bowling club toilets Sacha was almost gone. With Ali G we all cracked up in America when Ali got muddled up between the Anthrax/Tampax weapons of mass destruction. We were all laughing, the general we were interviewing, Ali and all of the production team.
UBS: The Unofficial Borat Site has interviewed a number of people you have interviewed for a behind the scenes section. Petra Heskell from the London Flirting Academy mentioned how your whole camera team plays along with the act of "being lumbered with this stupid foreign guy". Is it a big team effort from everyone off camera too?
DM: What we do is pretend that we are a London film crew who have been landed with him on that morning. We plead ignorance. We tell them not to blame us, we just apologise.
UBS: An online vote by fans on the Unofficial Borat Site for the funniest Borat moment got over 1200 votes. Your interview with the animal right protestors about hunting bears was voted the clear winner. What are your top two or three Borat moments?
DM: We love the bowling club scenes, I must have watched that over 1000 times. Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine we would get such people for Borat to chat with.
I also like the "I will crush her" quote from Borat. He will cheat on his wife, but if she cheats on him he will crush her.
Finally, coming up with the ideas of the naked photos of Borat's wife in a brain storming session was a great moment. We just had to make sure we got the moment right to use them. A number of times I could see Sacha, as Borat, ready to get the photos out to show someone, but the time wasn't quite right. In the baseball crowd Borat was going to show the chap he was talking about bribery with. I had to stop the interview by saying that we had ran out of film as we were waiting for the right moment.
UBS: Harry Enfield never kept a character for more than a couple of series (i.e. Loadsamoney, Double Take Brothers, Smashie and Nicey). Have you any plans to move on to new characters or will you stick with the same ones as, say, Steve Coogan has done?
DM: We honestly don't know. The Borat character still has loads of life left in him, possibly more than Ali. Sacha and I both enjoyed doing Borat more in the last series than Ali. There will be more characters on the horizon. But at the moment we are taking a little bit of a break.
UBS: So no current work in progress with Borat?
DM: Sacha and I are currently both working on separate projects. But the Borat fans needn't worry, Borat will be back and he will loom large once more.
UBS: And finally, how did you actually get the Polaroids of Borat's "wife" that were being shown around at the US Rodeo? Did a fan mail them in or did a "lucky" researcher have to go out and get them?
DM: We said to a researcher, "find us a nude model to pose to be Borat's wife". He bought a seedy porno catalogue and finally brought this woman into the offices. She was invited into the basement where we had the settee. But the researcher bottled it and wouldn't do it. Jason, the wardrobe man, actually took the photo shoot in the end. At one point he asked her to pose in the "flying V" position. The "flying V" position was something we had never heard of. Jason must have had experience doing this before.
UBS: Thanks for your time, really interesting stuff!
DM: Thanks Stephen, can I say how fantastic both Sacha and I think your website is. We often visit it to see what people like and don't like, so for us its an invaluable resource.
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