The Jester’s Privilege ~ Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian
Ah, Aziz. We went from performing at the Madison Square Garden in a trendy suit to sitting at the Comedy Cellar in a Carhartt jacket and the most oversized beanie I’ve ever seen. It’s like watching Nightmare Alley in real life.
Before this review begins, it’s no secret to anyone with a couple of brain cells and access to the Internet in 2018 that the name Aziz Ansari comes with some serious baggage that people way smarter and more qualified than me are able to unpack. There’s a lot of nuance and lessons to be learned from this story of sexual misconduct, and I’m sure all men, myself included, had a LOT of reflection to do with their own interpersonal relationships, both past and present.
I’m here to talk about what Ansari has done since this incident, and the answer is not that great. Most of it seems to be mostly easing his own conscience and pretentiously portraying himself as a serious artist. Right Now, his special from 2019, was the peak of his pity party, going on about being the victim of cancel culture and how he was matured, authentic, and misunderstood… and yeah, this is why sarcasm and writing don’t meld well. Just read that last part in a southern-belle-damsel-in-distress dialect, you’ll get the picture.
Whatever you may think of Ansari, there’s no escaping the fact that the incident does and should inform the way we engage with him from here on out, in the creative sense and, well, perhaps literally (stay safe out there). So, when his stand-alone, half-hour special Nightclub Comedian came out, that’s what I felt was the most responsible thing to do. In doing so, there are a few points that should be addressed.
Firstly, as I exasperatedly sigh into my laptop, he’s funny. Like, really funny. It comes as no surprise if you are familiar with Parks and Recreation or any other specials he has done, but he’s a talented guy. He has an excellent ability to execute jokes with a mixture of a goofy voice and a unique, inoffensive perspective on hot topics that has got him as far as he is in the comedy world. His jokes about coronavirus made me laugh out loud and his Aaron Rodgers bit hit a soft spot for me as a proud Wisconsinite and as a little-less-proud Green Bay Packer fan.
Secondly, he is still trying really hard to seem more mature. While it’s only a half hour long, maybe 20 minutes of it was humorous. Near the end, he rambled on about compassion, empathy, and making a better effort to understand one another. I don’t fault him too much, since it was clearly an impromptu set, but he also could have simply, you know, not. There was even a bit about how people are quick to jump on people for doing wrong things instead of using empathy to allow them to grow, and I don’t really know if it’s wise for him to position himself as an expert on that.
Maybe it’s the voice, maybe it’s the everything else, but I just can’t take his sincerity seriously. The comedy is good, but he spends too much time trying to be an oracle of centrism when he’s more like a cautionary tale of self-importance. Which brings me back to my dichotomous opinion: he’s funny, which is my main thought on this comedy special, and I don’t like him, which is my main thought on Aziz Ansari.