Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mopping Up Culture Vomit: Aziz Ansari's Self-Conscious Charm, or "It's Funny 'Cuz It's True"

Every time I try to tell a joke from Aziz Ansari's wonderful new standup record, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, I end up sounding a bit like Michael Scott on that episode of The Office where he tries to tell a Chris Rock joke. But without the racial slurs.

Although it's a given that you sound like a douchebag any time you attempt to recreate a standup comedy bit, Ansari's manic, shout-y routines about hip-hop and molestation make douchebaggery even more of a certainty. Repeat an Aziz joke, and you'll sound just like a white guy doing an impression of Chris Rock. Except Chris Rock doesn't do jokes about fucking with his cousin on Facebook.

Ansari, 26, is a wiry Indian kid who graduated from NYU who doesn't sound remotely like a wiry Indian kid who graduated from NYU. For the most part, he avoids material about being Indian and doesn't indulge in Patton Oswalt-esque flights of intellectual fancy (which isn't a dig on Patton, by the way; he's my favorite standup comedian alive). He keeps his absurd, experimental side (revealed on the brilliant Human Giant sketch comedy show, which ran for two seasons on MTV) in check and only hints subtly at his love for indie rock groups like TV on the Radio and Modest Mouse. Instead, Ansari riffs on the time he hung out with Kanye West and his experience at an R. Kelly show. In short, he's a David Cross-type comedian shooting for a Dane Cook-type audience.

Or is he?

It'd be easier to accept that Ansari was working in a Dane Cook style if he didn't appear to despise the Dane Cook style just as much as everyone else who doesn't listen to Nickelback. His alter-ego, a grotesque parody of physical comedians named Raaaaaaaandy (with 8 A's, of course), is concerned primarily with telling jokes about the odd places he's gotten head: a short documentary about him shows that he has a file for "jokes about me gettin' head."

And Randy's even more manic than the real thing; he leaps around the stage, yelling about "the most baller death of all time" while his DJ (DJ Ol' Youngin', who used to be a dental hygenist) spins siren noises and clips of Randy's name ("R-R-R-RANDY! RANDY!") in the background. It's an absurdly idiotic concept and funny as hell because we're all in on the joke.


You see, several Randy jokes have made their way into Ansari's normal routine in a slightly less hyper form. His jokes about Cold Stone and Craigslist are largely identical except for the lack of unnecessary dance moves and sound effects. And although the real Aziz doesn't have a DJ, his aforementioned affinity for stories about hip-hop stars evinces his status as a dyed-in-the-wool Indian wigger (I'd come up with a new portmanteau, but it'd probably be racist).

That Ansari exists in this netherworld between irony and sincerity is what has made him such a quickly-rising star. He's funny as hell because watching a skinny Indian kid leap around the stage yelling about hip-hop (DJed or not DJed), but he's likable as all get-out because he both sends up and embodies the college-educated hipster pretending to be black. We all know it's lame to blast the Wu-Tang Clan driving around suburbia in our Prius, but we do it anyway.

And Aziz is right there, making fun of us the whole way.

PS - Presale tickets for Aziz's Dangerously Delicious Tour just went on sale. GET THAT SHIT.

Jordan Pedersen just found out that if you put Raaaaaandy (with six A's) into Google, it adds two more.