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Aziz Ansari's Nightclub Comedian shows the pitfalls of capturing topical comedy for posterity

  • "Like most other standup hours in the past 18 months, Ansari front-loads his set with COVID material," says Joe Berkowitz. "(At this point, Netflix should at least consider adding a 'Skip COVID material' button on its new comedy specials except that, in this case, it would leave only about 10 minutes of the notably slim 29-minute special.) Nightclub Comedian is also top heavy with the pandemic jokes that go down the smoothest. He commiserates with the audience, poking fun at some of the U.S.’s more questionable COVID decisions, like making eminently duplicable vaccine passports. The problems start when he wades into the topic of anti-vaxxers. The desire to challenge audiences and prod them out of their ideological bubbles is commendable. It’s the opposite of pandering, which is often comedy’s nadir. The subject of anti-vaxxers in the 'unconscionably prolonged' phase of a pandemic, however, requires a level of nuance that the frequently frenetic Ansari is not known for. He approaches this territory as though he had walked in on the audience viciously wishing that Aaron Rodgers would just die of COVID already, and thus gently tries to steer them toward seeing things from Rodgers’ side...Well, first of all, without giving away any punchlines, the gist of Ansari’s jokes about Rodgers and Kyrie Irving is that they are anti-vax because they are dumb. He is chiding the audience for apparently calling such people idiots, even though he just did the same thing! More importantly, though, why the need to both-sides the anti-vax movement in the middle of a pandemic? One side is wrong and dangerous; the other is right and can be obnoxious. These are not equally valid perspectives worth comparing."

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