Catching Up With Aziz Ansari

Comedy Features Aziz Ansari
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Long before he was the fashionable, pop culture-loving Tom Haveford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Aziz Ansari was making people laugh with his stand-up routine. The South Carolina native debuts his latest special, Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive Friday at 3:01 a.m. EST on Netflix. The special, which explores the comedian’s thoughts on getting older, was filmed at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia in April.

The man declared by Rolling Stone magazine to be “the funniest man under 30” recently participated in a conference call with reporters to talk about Buried Alive, how he feels about marriage and starting a family and what’s coming up for Tom.

You have a successful TV and film career. What is it about stand-up that you still enjoy?
  Aziz Ansari : I just think stand-up is a very unique art form. It’s so singular, and you know, I enjoy acting and I like doing Parks and stuff. But stand-up is a platform where I can really discuss whatever I want to discuss—my viewpoints on things. I can think of something today and then work on it tonight on stage and that’s just kind of a really thrilling creative process for me that I don’t think will ever get old.

Although your other specials have been available on Netflix, this is your first comedy special to debut exclusively on the online content provider. Why do you choose Netflix?
Ansari: Well, I just think Netflix is one of the few outlets we have to release material where people that are watching actually get to continue them in the way they like to. I think people now just like to watch stuff whenever they want. I’ve done every kind of method of releasing stuff. I’ve released it myself for $5. I’ve aired stuff on cable. I’ve done every version of it, and I just found when [my specials were] on Netflix, people just seemed to enjoy their user experience.

This special is rather personal, talking about your views on getting older, marriage, family and having children. How did that come about?
Ansari: Well, it just came about organically. I kind of write stand-up about whatever is kind of going on in my life, whatever is in my head and you know, this time it was kind of heavier things—dealing with life and babies and marriage and stuff. And that’s just kind of what happened, and I ended up writing the special mostly about that stuff.

You turned 30 in February. Now that you’ve been 30 for over half a year, do you find yourself changing your views on adulthood and parenthood?
Ansari: When I wrote this stuff, it was a few years ago now. By the time you write a full hour and then tour it and then film it, and edit it, and it gets in the hands of the Netflix people and they do all their stuff, it ends up being a long time. And, yes, definitely my views have changed a little bit here and there but I generally still have that fear. But I think I’m more comfortable with just kind of the idea of like, ‘Oh it’s totally fine if I want to wait and do the stuff later in life. There is no reason to have a ticking clock.’ I don’t have any like, ‘Oh, at this age, I want to get married. At this age, I want to have kids’ or any of that stuff. I think, if you’re a thoughtful person your views on this stuff are constantly evolving based on your life experiences and that’s the case for me.

Early on in the special you make a joke about child molesters. A lot of people have gotten caught up by saying things that were decidedly not politically correct on stage. How do you decide how far you can push the envelope?
Ansari: Any joke I do, I kind of do it case by case to see if it makes sense. You know, that joke, I’m sure if you paraphrase, if you took things out of context, you could make me sound like a horrible person but you know, ultimately that joke is about how I’d be scared to have a kid and I would be so scared for the safety of my kids. That’s the scary thought to me of how parents let their kids run around in the mall by themselves and things like that. And ultimately the root of that joke is about that. Ultimately it’s an anti-child molester joke. You can’t really worry about the pro-child molester people getting mad at you, right?

How has being on Parks and Recreation helped your stand-up career? How do the two fit together?
Ansari: I kind of see those both as separate entities. Whenever I do stand-up, I feel like those are people who know my stand-up. There might be some overlap with Parks fans. I don’t feel there’s many people that are seeing Parks and then they’re like, ‘Oh, well let me spend you know, X amount of dollars to see this guy do stand-up, maybe he’s funny.’ I feel like people who come to these stand-ups know me from my stand-up. I feel like they’re separate things, personally. I’m sure being on Parks has helped my stand-up, but I don’t know how I would quantify that. I wouldn’t intelligently be able to speak to that.

Tatiana Maslany began her guest star arc a few weeks ago as Nadia, a potential love interest for Tom. What’s coming up with those two?
Ansari: There is one more episode with her in it and then hopefully we’ll be able to get her back for some more stuff later this season. She was awesome. I’m a big fan of Orphan Black, so I was really excited that she was on the show. But you know, Tom is dealing with how she’s going to go to Rwanda, so he is trying to figure out how to deal with that situation because he met someone he really likes but she’s going to be leaving soon.

Was the character that you play in Parks and Recreation written for you?
Ansari: Yes. It was written for me. I was cast before they wrote the show. The writers and producers have gotten better at writing towards us as performers, and they grab elements in our real life. For example, you know, I really do listen to some dumb rap music the way Tom does and Nick Offerman really does have a wood shop the same way Ron does.

If you weren’t acting and doing stand up, what would you be doing?
Ansari: I think I’d just be a chubby Indian man living in a mediocre town somewhere.

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