The Rapid Rise of Aziz Ansari

Comedian Aziz Ansari has, seemingly overnight, gone from being another Indian-American hopeful comic (in the same bracket as blog-friend Hari Kondabolu), to the next Desi TV star (potentially the same bracket as Kal Penn and Aasif Mandvi).

There is a great profile of him, which focuses on his unique style of comedy, in the Wall Street Journal today (of all places). Aziz has a starring role alongside Amy Poehler in the upcoming NBC show, Parks and Recreation. He’s also in the current “bromance” comedy, I Love You, Man, an upcoming Seth Rogen starrer called Observe and Report (another movie about a mall cop? really?), as well as in a Judd Apatow film called Funny People coming later this summer (where Aziz will apparently play a comic disposed to extreme profanity). From nearly unknown to three big comedies and a Prime Time TV show with one of Saturday Night Live’s biggest stars… Wow.

As a side note, I have also been following Aziz’s insane Twitter feed, for the past couple of weeks. At first I thought the man is simply out of his mind (he is currently on a “campaign” to save rapper Ludacris from drinking too much Mangosteen juice), but at some point I started to think that the whole thing is an elaborate in-joke. The closing paragraphs of the WSJ profile give a little perspective on what Aziz is up to:

Mr. Ansari moved to Los Angeles a year ago, and his comedy is often fueled by references to pop culture and celebrities. He has launched a Twitter feed, where he sometimes alludes to imaginary plans with famous people he doesn’t know. According to the feed, in recent days he has eaten brunch with the R&B band Boyz II Men, had sushi with “Blood Diamond” actor Djimon Hounsou and beaten World Wrestling Entertainment star John Cena in a push-up competition. None of this is true. He has made a few real celebrity friends. Last year, he got permission from rapper Kanye West to use Mr. West’s “Glow in the Dark Tour” as the tongue-in-cheek name for his own, far smaller stand-up tour. Mr. West came to one of the comedian’s shows, and the two struck up a friendship.(link)

I have my doubts about whether Twitter is just another social networking fad or something bigger, but at least from the Twitterers I follow (a rather limited number), Aziz definitely takes the art of the funny & surreal 140 character message to a whole other level.

44 thoughts on “The Rapid Rise of Aziz Ansari

  1. Aziz Ansari is a f*ckin badass!

    He’s a really talented comedian, and he’s young too. Hopefully he’ll help usher in other Asian-American talent to the stage.

  2. Hung out with him outside a comedy club in LA a few years back and then grabbed a beer. He’s a friend of a friend. Seemed like a really down to Earth guy. Wish him continued success.

  3. Good to see an alternative to Russell Peters. Too bad, Daniel Nainan did not get more exposure.

  4. At first I thought the man is simply out of his mind (he is currently on a “campaign� to save rapper Ludacris from drinking too much Mangosteen juice), but at some point I started to think that the whole thing is an elaborate in-joke.

    i dont think it’s an “in-joke” — just a regular “joke.” i wouldn’t have expected anyone to take as literal a “campaign” by a comedian to get 50 cent to drink less mangosteen juice.

    aziz ansari is hilarious.

  5. Aziz definitely takes the art of the funny & surreal 140 character message to a whole other level.

    Heh. Maybe Anna can resurrect the 55 Fridays into a 140 Friday (for when 55 is just too much)?

  6. Two things. American Indians are really becoming superb.

    Number two. Why are Tamils overtaking all other ethnicities in the ‘cool as f***’ department recently? M.I.A, Rahman, and now Ansari. Something is going on there for sure.

  7. Heh. Maybe Anna can resurrect the 55 Fridays into a 140 Friday (for when 55 is just too much)?

    Interesting idea — Twitter micro-fiction Fridays? If I understand it correctly, I think as long as a Tweet has “@sepiamutiny” in it, it will show up on our feed & people will see it. (I’m still learning the ropes…)

    I’ve also seen various widgets that feed Tweets to blogs dynamically. I wonder if we could do an embedded widget just for a micro-fiction Friday. (Anyone know how to do that?)

  8. Wait, we’re cool as f***?? I feel dizzy, off-kilter, like I’m in some parallel bizarro universe. Yep, there’s Spock with a goatee..

  9. i am a total imdb/wiki addict whenever i watch television, but i cannot believe that until now i only knew aziz ansari as that brown dude from scrubs (and btw i loved that he played an underachieving desi doctor in that). he reminds me so much of one of my friends – love him! and he’s tam!

  10. 4 · unconfused said

    Good to see an alternative to Russell Peters. Too bad, Daniel Nainan did not get more exposure.

    All the exposure in the world wouldn’t help Nainan. He’s crap, derivative, and unfunny.

    4 · Bobby said

    Number two. Why are Tamils overtaking all other ethnicities in the ‘cool as f***’ department recently? M.I.A, Rahman, and now Ansari. Something is going on there for sure.

    You could add M.Night Shyamalan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Padma Lakshmi, and Rachel Roy to that list. But then again, if you wanted to make a list of other people with specific Indian heritages, I’m betting you could come up with an equally long list.

  11. M.Night Shyamalan hey, he’s Malayalee thx very much, but his movies haven’t been very good, so you guys can have him :) . His family are doctors and a lot of Kerala doctors seem to know each other from associations. So I remember long ago, my father (who’s a doctor) got a call from one of his friends saying that so and so’s son has a tv movie coming out on channel ___ and we watched parts of it…it wasn’t a very good movie, about an Indian exchange student if I remember correctly —- and it was Shyalaman’s movie.

    if you wanted to make a list of other people with specific Indian heritages, I’m betting you could come up with an equally long list. Yeah, I’m sure too.

  12. but his movies haven’t been very good, so you guys can have him

    Yeah right. His last couple of movies may not have been up to much, but Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs were excellent.

    ++++++

    I like Mindy Kaling too.

  13. Hey, don’t forget his short stint as a lazy intern on Scrubs.

    I don’t care what anyone says, that show is still awesome.

  14. I think Aziz seems like nice guy, but I dont think he is that great as a comedian. He really has never done anything that made me laugh my ass off. He seems to hipsterish for my taste.

  15. 7 · Bobby said

    Two things. American Indians are really becoming superb. Number two. Why are Tamils overtaking all other ethnicities in the ‘cool as f***’ department recently? M.I.A, Rahman, and now Ansari. Something is going on there for sure.

    big ding dongs fo real except for m.i.a

  16. his bit on being madly in love with M.I.A. and the shutter bugs supermini series were pretty fun. the one or two episodes of human giant i watched were moronic and i’m not particularly looking forward to either of those movies or parks and recreations.

  17. 14 · PS said

    M.Night Shyamalan hey, he’s Malayalee thx very much

    I’ve always heard he was Tamil, but this might explain the confusion:

    Shyamalan was born in Mahe, Pondicherry, India. His father, Nelliyattu C. Shyamalan, a physician, is a Malayali Indian, and his mother, Jayalakshmi, is a Tamil Indian and an obstetrician and gynecologist by profession. [wiki]
  18. Human Giant is the best sketch show on TV since Mr. Show or Upright Citizens Brigade. Aziz is part of a really great “alt comedy” scene, which is becoming more and more mainstream.

    What I like about him is that he doesn’t do Indian/ethnic material like so many Indian comedians. That kind of humor had its place when Indian comics were new and nobody had done that kind of humor, but now its just beating a dead horse. Blah blah, outsourcing, blah blah Gujjus own a lot of hotels, its been done. I’m more interested in whether you can come up with something interesting based simply on being a person.

    Nirali Magazine had a really good article on him:

    http://niralimagazine.com/2007/04/comedic-giant/

    Add Senthil Ramamurthy from Heroes to the famous Tamils list :)

  19. I’ve been following Aziz’s career for a few years and I’ve been less and less impressed as of late. His stand-up routines were pretty funny when he was still more of an underground act but his tv roles have been less than noteworthy. Maybe he’s just not meant to be a cross-genre type of comedian, or maybe he just needs acting lessons.

  20. Human Giant is the best sketch show on TV since Mr. Show or Upright Citizens Brigade.

    I am going to go ahead and assume you forgot about “Chappelle’s show”. If not then #@#) you.

    M.I.A, Rahman, and now Ansari. Something is going on there for sure. big ding dongs fo real except for m.i.a

    There is no way in hell Rahman has a bigger wang than MIA.

  21. 26 · ShallowThinker said

    Human Giant is the best sketch show on TV since Mr. Show or Upright Citizens Brigade.
    I am going to go ahead and assume you forgot about “Chappelle’s show”. If not then #@*#*) you.

    I did forget about Chappelle’s Show. It had some brilliant sketches, but I found it to be somewhat uneven. Still a great show overall though.

  22. Aziz was on Flight of the Conchords in an episode where he sold fruits on the road or something. He is “racist” towards jermaine and bret because he thought they were from Australia. When he finds out they are from NZ, he gets friendly with them.

  23. Man, obvious typos. (Fruit not fruits).

    Anyway, I wanted to add that he was pretty funny in that episode. Arj Barker(half Indian origin) is pretty good on the show too. They even have him rap on Sugarlumps.

  24. I’ve always heard he was Tamil, but this might explain the confusion:

    I didn’t know he had Tamil heritage at all…yes, I guess he is a Tamyali

  25. Tamils and Malayalees are very good people, but I think that they are misunderstood for not understanding Hindi. We can learn a lot from them. They are hardly ever cocky, culturally domineering, not so much into money, very idealistic, quite intelligent, and overall, polite.

    Also, neither communities are monolithic. There are over 100M Tamils/Malayalees in the world, and they all have quite different traits at a close-up view. Also, the Tamils of Sri Lanka are a little more martial and proud than the Tamils of India.

  26. 32 · boston_mahesh said

    Tamils and Malayalees are very good people, but I think that they are misunderstood for not understanding Hindi. We can learn a lot from them. They are hardly ever cocky, culturally domineering, not so much into money, very idealistic, quite intelligent, and overall, polite.

    All very true. As a Tamil my feet rarely, if ever, touch the ground. I’m often blown away at how awesome I am.

    But really – Tamils are every bit as petty and stupid as other browns. Maybe the problem is that you don’t understand Tamil and don’t have the same exposure? There are fewer village massacres and train burnings, but that’s probably because there are fewer religious/geographic fault lines in the south, or something.

    Also – three cheers for atheism.

  27. But really – Tamils are every bit as petty and stupid as other browns.

    LOL..Yes, well that’s Tamils. Malayalees really do float and are ethereal. It is God’s country that we come from ;)

  28. Aziz Ansari must be smooth as silk, with a name that sounds so much like “As is a sari.”

  29. I’m also down with Ravi K – Aziz is fresh because a) he’s funny, smart and b) he doesn’t do Indian/ethnic humor. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing Indian/ethnic humor; you just dramatically reduce the size of your audience, making it harder to achieve wider success. it’s a bit presumptuous of me to speak for aziz; nevertheless, i’d put money down that he doesn’t define himself along indian/ethnic lines either, which is why his humor includes so little of it.

  30. i’d put money down that he doesn’t define himself along indian/ethnic lines either, which is why his humor includes so little of it.

    Why is it so hard for some people to understand that people can be proud of their heritage without having that be all that they ever talk about?

    You can, in fact, define yourself as an Indian while still being an interesting person. TRUFAX!

  31. never said that defining yourself along other lines means that you are not proud of where you come from.

  32. If you like Aziz Azari and are in the Denver area, come check out his stand up November 13th and 14th at Comedy Works downtown.

  33. M.Night Syamalan is a Tamil – Malayalee mix. His mother is a Tamil Doctor from Pondicherry while father is a Malayalee from Mahe.

  34. Am I the only one that doesn’t think that he’s funny at all and just a tad bit annoying? I guess so. Oh well I just turn the channel when I see him.