Borat and Mahir Cagri's I Kiss You

Posted on November 4, 2006

An article in Wired points out how the popular new Borat character played by Sacha Baron Cohen are similar to Turkey native Mahir Cagri, whose silly "I Kiss You" website briefly made him an Internet celebrity. Wired recently caught up with Mahir who belives the Borat character is based on him.
Turns out, we're not the only ones who noticed the similarities: "All people know Sacha Baron Cohen imitate only me," Cagri recently fumed via email. "He is stealing my character and giving bad message to USA people." Cagri, who's been struggling to start a career in show business ever since his boom-era glory days, says he intends to sue Baron Cohen. "He never contacted me or got my permission," he writes. "If possible you can help me too for stop this or find good lawyer?" Sorry, we can't do that, but we can give Cagri the third degree - and let Wired readers be the judge.

WIRED: In the mock-doc, Borat is a globe-trotting journalist. Are you also a man of letters?
CAGRI: I do journalism as a freelancer sometimes. I go travel sometimes and take pictures-video-write, meet people for documentary.

Borat travels the US, examining American culture. Any memories from your visit in 1999?
I can't forget party about me in San Francisco. Many people kissed me, took my signature, and took picture. America mix culture and big country, but people don't think about other people. They love their own life only and fun-sex-game-drink.
Mahir's website is currently offline but you can read more about him in this Wikipedia entry. The entry says etour.com even paid Mahir $1 million for a U.S. tour in 2000. It also says the Borat film uses Mahir's "I like sex" catch phrase.
Mahir may have been among the inspirations for British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to create the character Borat Sagdiyev, a fake reporter for Kazakh television, as seen on Da Ali G Show. Chief similarities between Mahir and Borat include facial hair and taste in formal wear. Borat also shouted out Mahir's catchphrase "I like sex" to the crowd at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon and at a Savannah Sand Gnats baseball game. In the upcoming feature film of the same name, Borat not only quotes "I like sex" and "You can stay my home" in the introductory scenes, but poses during a game of ping-pong in revealing red shorts, referencing two of Mahir's famous shots. However, the character "Borat" has been in development since 1995, four years before Mahir's page was online. Baron Cohen has said himself that it was based on a Russian doctor.
The messy homepage for the Borat movie also has the feel of Mahir's famous homepage. The Wikipedia listing for Mahir says Mahir plans to sue Sacha Baron Cohen but he would accept apologies and Sacha's friendship instead of a lawsuit.