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Aziz Ansari's Nightclub Comedian feel more like an act of defiance than a standup special, which might have been the intent

  • Mic

    "In this new special — his first since 2019, when he put out Aziz Ansari: Right Now, which was widely panned as a bitter rant against cancel culture — he opts instead for the conceit of innocence," says Chloe Stillwell. "Even the name itself suggests it, in that 'nightclub comedians' are just regular comics out there hustling, not the super famous arena-packing ones like Aziz. Before he takes the stage, we see Ansari standing in the back of the club chuckling at the comic in front of him, waiting to go on holding his notebook. It’s a scene any comic whose played nightclubs knows well — and a far cry from the glamorous greenrooms and pampered intros of the pros. He reminds us of his humble beginnings and drops the anger at the door, bringing to the mic once he goes on instead a comic adamantly pretending that nothing ever happened. He brings some of his Tom Haverford goofiness as well, adding in somewhat contrived, choked laughter in between his own jokes that scream 'I’m just a regular guy!' as he waits for the audience to join him. He keeps things mostly corny and clean. And he speaks from a moral high ground that seems to suggest someone who has done no wrong. He critiques our materialist, capitalist, technology crazed world that values buying NFTs over giving the homeless man on the street a spare dollar. He gets into the fact that if we all tried to understand the other side in our divisive political climate, we might comprehend why people come to the conclusions that they do — but not to linger too long or you’ll start shouting 'Fauci’s a pedophile.' The zingers are there, but so is a lot of insistence on heart. He suggests having compassion for anti-vaxxers, like Aaron Rodgers, with the joke there being that he’s just a dumb football player, so what did we expect? It’s a middling joke, but he keeps the bit going into somberness when he talks about his unvaccinated uncle dying of Covid recently, and considers how unproductive videos mocking the dead unvaccinated are. He keeps that kind of tone up, admonishing us for complaining about the pandemic creating a shortage of workers we never appreciated in the first place. It’s not that the jokes aren’t there, there’s just a lot of moral imperatives amongst them."


    • Aziz Ansari's sexual misconduct scandal seems to have left an indelible imprint on his relationship with the Internet, his audiences, and our culture: "Ansari has never been the type to get too personal or introspective in his specials, which leaves him in a tricky place," says Carrie Batton. "He’s a guy who used to talk primarily about digital life who’s grown so frustrated by digital life that he’s thrown away his smartphone. He’s a guy who used to rail against creepy guys who sent lewd photos to women, only to be classified in Internet forums as a creepy guy himself. He’s a guy who doesn’t want to be online anymore but still seems so consumed by the ways we communicate online that he cannot help but fixate on it. Ansari came to prominence in part because of his character on Parks and Recreation, but also because he was an affable avatar for a generational cohort newly concerned with social media and social justice. Now he’s alienated from the very subjects that defined him. His comedy, as a result, has become a tightrope act that leaves him grasping for subject matter. In the case of Nightclub Comedian, which is a short and sweet twenty-nine minutes, he finds a few topics to explore: vaccines, facial-recognition technology, labor shortages, flip phones, celebrity sponsorships. There are flashes of hilarity, but they’re often drowned out by cynicism."

    TOPICS: Aziz Ansari, Netflix, Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian, Standup Comedy