Last year, I asked my high school buddies and a few college friends if they wanted to take a trip to run-down Atlantic City, get faded for the first weekend in December, and get our best Gyp Rosseti of Boardwalk Empire impression on.
After a few vocal complaints of Atlantic City not being shit (it isn’t), I admitted the truth of why I picked the location: Aziz Ansari was playing a show there. After getting into stand up comedy on the back end of 2018, I figured seeing the creator and writer of Master of None, one of my favorite shows, was essential to study the “craft.” Master of None is a very fun and urban millennial show with a memorable first season and an insanely good season two. The ending of Season Two, Episode Five, “The Dinner Party,” remains one of the most powerfully relatable and heartbreaking romantic moments I have ever seen on camera. Aziz’s character Dev is backed by the “upbeat music” (as the subtitles read) of Soft Cell pleading, “Take your hands off me / I don’t belong to you, you see / Take a look at my face / For the last time I never knew you / You never knew me / Say hello, goodbye.” as he sits alone in the back of a cab wondering why his love interest Francesca will not return his romantic feelings.
Aziz and his character Dev are of course good guys. In fact, their behavior has probably been inspiration for a post or two on awards for good boys. In the past, Aziz has portrayed himself as the artist who is woke, feminist, and all-together down for progressvism in the real world. Aziz did find his big break working on the female-led classic Parks and Recreation alongside Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones. A small Indian-American man, Aziz certainly does not fit the standard of Hollywood beauty nor peak masculinity. For most of his career, he positioned himself as the antithesis of these ideas. That is, until a date became either an awkward sexual encounter or sexual misconduct, forcing Aziz out of the spotlight (somewhat) for the better part of 2018 and leaving people either against him or curious for a third season of Master of None.
Now, I am not the biggest Aziz fan and admittedly did not watch Parks and Recreation, but Master of None is a work of art. Despite season two ending with a condemnation of creepy dudes and sexual harassment which now reads as pure hypocrisy, I would still like to receive a season three. Perhaps I am part of the problem, though I leave that up to others to decide.
When Aziz announced shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May, this time I did not ask anyone to go with me. The show was overall entertaining and left with me varying thoughts and feelings, but obviously without a phone due to Yondr pouches, I was unable to take notes (fuck a notepad, this is 2019). Luckily for me, Aziz decided to record the series of shows for a Netflix special release titled “Right Now,” an ode to living in the moment, something Aziz preaches in his post sexual misconduct life.
In the first five minutes, Aziz addresses, “that whole thing,” in the best way that he can, which unfortunately is not that great. He introduces the topic using a clever joke about being misidentified as another funny American-Indian comic, Hasan Minhaj, until the person who misidentified him brings up the misconduct, to which he says, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. That was Hasan.” The crowd laughed, but I did not. Maybe Hasan did not mind, but if a friend tried to jokingly blame his sexual misconduct on me to downplay the severity, I would be pissed. In the first moment to own up to what happened, Aziz does not.
Taking a serious tone, Aziz admits over the past year and change, “There’s times I felt scared, there’s time I felt humiliated, there’s times I felt embarrassed,” though he does not mention much about the victim of the situation. The moment is very much about him and what he’s taken away from it. He laments “I hope I’ve become a better person;” we really do not know if he has or has not considering he has been out of the spotlight for a year, which in millennial years is forever, but in the sands of time is nothing. As Aziz pats himself on the back about “other people being more thoughtful and that’s a good thing” because of “that whole thing,” it’s hard not to see him as somehow flipping a completely negative situation that he caused into a situation where his wrong has created more rights.
Aziz, however, is no martyr, nor should we allow him to feel like one. He is still wealthy, successful, and selling out comedy shows. I would have loved for him to go deeper, a la Hannah Gadsby, making his whole set about gender relations and rape culture through funny yet serious commentary. However, it seems he doesn’t have it in him. The moment is over. The first five minutes was all he would give the audience about “that whole thing.”
The next sixty minutes find Aziz hitting some jokes on the nose, and hitting white people particularly hard in the gut. As a POC, I can admit whenever I fuck up I too defer to the shittiness of white culture and the patriarchy; however, my platform is not as large as his. In 2019 and forward, Aziz will paint himself as someone who is culturally aware, but unconcerned with being “woke”. He cannot pretend to be “woke” anymore. We know he is not. But I’m still hyped for Master of None Season 3.