It’s Borat day!

Tune in as we explore the Kazakh phenom. First up: An early proto-Borat?

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Today, we’ll be exploring the Borat explosion, posting videos we think might help us make sense out of the bushy-browed, anti-Semite sexist as our proud nation prepares to cradle him to its bosom — where he’ll undoubtedly make sexy time.

But before there was Borat, there was Mahir Gağrı, who posted a Web page in his native Turkey in 1999, and whose broken English and charming directness — “I like sex” — made him an early Web phenomenon. Some thought Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh TV journalist, “Borat Sagdiyev” seemed clearly influenced by Gağrı’s Web persona, and Gağrı is threatening a suit against Cohen. (Cohen, meanwhile, insists he was influenced by a Russian doctor he met once.)



But Cohen did play one small role in coopting Cagri’s success: In 2000, Lee Jeans created two Websites, Super Greg (a mirror site of the original is here), a Latin DJ from the barrio, and Rubberburner, a Eurotrash motorcycle racer. Cohen played Super Greg, whose monobrow may suggest Borat, but whose street persona is pure Ali G. The sites were Lee’s early, unsuccessful attempt to create a little Web magic ala Gağrı and capture the kids’ interest. And while Super Greg is long gone, one of his songs, “Da Number One,” still haunts the net.

Kerry Lauerman

Kerry Lauerman is Salon's Editor in Chief. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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