Tuesday, August 04, 2009


AZIZ ANSARI @ the middle east downstairs, 1.29.09 Live Review

AZIZ ANSARI at the Middle East Downstairs, 1.29.09 live review

Aziz Ansari has been the darling of the new wave of comedy since he jumped in headfirst in 2005. Such buzz often amounts to a pile of hype, but with the pure talent to back it up, Ansari's rise to greatness reminds us that stand-up comedy can lead to more than just horrible sitcoms. He's got enough under his belt to make any man confident, the least of which is his critically acclaimed Human Giant TV program. Thus far, 2009 has seen many progressive firsts in America, and Ansari's "Glow in the Dark" tour, which came to The Middle East on Thursday, is among the best.

The style of Ansari's set was not unlike that of his longtime muse, R. Kelly: ridiculously smooth and sometimes focused on children. He mixes conversational flow with quick punches and turnarounds. He's so comfortable, it's like listening to a friend tell a funny story, and that friend is a professional comedian and is telling it to hundreds of other people in the same room.

A fan of Ansari from the beginning, I was worried that the old 15-minute sets he told while hosting the Upright Citizens Brigade would add up to a full-length show of recycled material. But among classics—like his response to civil rights petitioners on the street ("I kill for gay people, what do you do?")—there was a lot of great new material. He exposes the falsehoods of bedsheet thread counts, a crime equivalent to a drug dealer pinching a bag and deserving an equally violent reaction ("I woulda shot Hotel Linens in the face!"). He also accepts the apparent universal credit that can be taken by all Indians for Slumdog Millionaire and the hypocrisy of MTV censoring a Human Giant sketch about the impossible (and therefore innocent) scenario of being raped by a dinosaur, but not the disturbing offensiveness of shows like Next.

There were two major highlights: his account of making his chubby younger cousin, Harris (who watches shows like Burn Notice to the point where his yearbook quote is "TNT Knows Drama"), as mad as possible on Facebook, and the material Ansari did as his alter-ego, Randy, a comedian character he plays in the upcoming Judd Apatow movie Funny People.

Without exposing too much [Errrrr—Ed.], Randy is literally R. Kelly if he ever—and God willing, he will—did stand-up. Ansari has spent entire shows exploring Kelly, who is either so hilariously unaware of himself or so completely in his own world that he knows exactly what's he's doing. This ongoing character study clearly informed Randy. It's all there: the inexplicable singing of random words, dancing (and spinning) for emphasis and flagrantly funny misogyny. He acts as his own comedy DJ (a technique rarely treaded on unironically) by playing samples that announce his own name. Starting off Randy's set with a Kelly-esque "Fuck Story, AKA a Fuck Tale," he recounts pleasing a lady while underwater in a hot tub, and lamenting that had he died in the course of it, it would've been "the most baller death ever." In perhaps the best audience-interactive segment ever, he continued, asking the enthusiastic and nerdy crowd for suggestions for where Randy could get his dick sucked. Three of them were Star Wars related; Ansari was impressed.

Ansari controlled the crowd despite the saturating music of the multilevel rock club that would have thrown off a lesser comedian's presence. After finishing his normal set, he did a few older bits as a kind of encore. The tour is almost over, but it will produce a live album, one I would surely recommend picking up.

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