The Power of Ali G: Ridiculed UK Town May Change Name

Ali GWhat next? Will Kazakhstan decide it needs to become Somethingelse-stan? You have to hand it to Sacha Baron Cohen — his characters wield uncanny power. Report from AP via LA Times:

Staines wants the world to know it’s no blot on the landscape.

Sandwiched between Heathrow Airport, a cluster of reservoirs and a bleak industrial park, some in this London commuter town feel Staines has received some bad press — and needs a change of name to change its fortunes.

Middle-class Staines might have wallowed in happy obscurity had it not been picked by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as the home of Ali G, his tracksuit-wearing wannabe gangsta who specialized in hip-hop-inflected malapropisms.

Ali G’s adventures cast the town of 45,000 as an urban wasteland whose main attractions include a traffic circle and the local KFC. The town initially welcomed Baron Cohen’s fame, but the negative connotations lingered even as the comedian moved on to other projects, including the movies “Borat” and “Bruno.”

A 2008 Australian tourism campaign cast Staines as the epitome of glum, soggy and industrial Britain. Staines business leader Alex Tribick said that was an unfair picture of a picturesque riverside settlement whose history stretches back to Roman times.

“Ali G did us a favor and put Staines on the map,” Tribick told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “The trouble is, no one knows where on the map it is.”

Tribick argued for changing the name to Staines-on-Thames or Staines-upon-Thames, which would highlight the area’s proximity to the River Thames, the lifeline that also cuts through London. It might even boost business and tourism in time for the 2012 Olympics, he says.

Some critics say the proposed rebranding would be prohibitively expensive and point out that the proposed name — Staines-upon-Thames — might draw the same kind of ridicule. If the new name were to be approved, maps, street signs and a whole host of other documents would have to be changed…

[continues at AP via LA Times]

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  • Anonymous

    I just watched his interview with Noam Chomsky again the other day. Hilarious as usual.

  • $927230

    I just watched his interview with Noam Chomsky again the other day. Hilarious as usual.

    • chonus

      I did too for some reason. He made Noam laugh at the end. Good stuff.

  • Anonymous

    I did too for some reason. He made Noam laugh at the end. Good stuff.

  • gemmarama

    i don’t even like ali g but i still think he’s probably the most interesting thing about staines…

  • gemmarama

    i don’t even like ali g but i still think he’s probably the most interesting thing about staines…