.Aziz Ansari – #RupertsFault

As his stature rises, comedian Aziz Ansari useshis network to challenge conventional wisdom

Aziz Ansari

If Aziz Ansari ever had any misgivings about his abilities, they’re long gone. If anyone’s self-assurance has been shaken, it’s Rupert Murdoch, who’s likely a little more careful before he hits the “Tweet” button these days, thanks to Ansari’s January hashtag assault.

The comedian’s confidence may stem from the work he’s done on TV—starring in two hit shows: MTV’s Human Giant and NBC’s blockbuster Parks and Recreation. Perhaps it’s the three stand-up specials he’s put out in just four years, or his 5.3 million Twitter followers. And then there was that Oct. 9 performance in New York City, where Ansari became one of only a handful of stand-up comedians to ever sell out Madison Square Garden.

Since May of 2014 he’s been alternating between 1,000+-seat theaters, like the historic Wilbur in Boston, and arenas, such as The Garden and the Toyota Center in Houston on his “Modern Romance” tour. He is nearing the end of a two-month break from the road and is gearing up for his final three dates in California. His tour wraps up this Sunday at San Jose’s SAP Center.

His fourth stand-up special—Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden—will be released on Netflix at midnight March 6, and not long after that, he will publish a book, co-authored by NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg.

By any measure it’s been a huge year for the 31-year-old comedian, but at the moment he seems a bit preoccupied with navigating a safe route through New York’s snow-covered streets. Calling from a vehicle in the middle of the recent winter storm that pounded the Northeast, he apologizes after momentarily becoming distracted by a question from a member of his entourage.

“There’s nothing I can say that isn’t really obvious,” Ansari says, addressing the difference between performing for 20,000 people as opposed to 2,000. “You’re just playing in front of a shit ton of people.”

It’s easy to forget that Ansari has been at this for more than a decade. Perhaps it’s his face, which appears young—even for a bearded man in his early 30s. Maybe it’s his on-stage demeanor: no matter how dark or disturbing the material, Ansari always manages to deliver it with a disarming, boyish grin. Or maybe he’s just a reflection of his generation, a group which he has repeatedly criticized for being caught in the grips of perpetual adolescence.

Ansari isn’t interested in talking about how it feels to step out on stage at the Garden. Nor does he want to discuss the years he spent climbing the ranks as a stand-up comedian. (“It’s the same story everybody tells,” he says. “My friends were like ‘Oh, you’re funny! You should try stand-up.'”)

Despite once doing a five-minute bit about messing with his early-teen cousin, Harris, it’s clear that Ansari is less interested in making bros laugh at a kegger and has begun focusing on his cocktail mixer material.

“You look at that first special, it’s like, I’m pretty young,” Ansari says, referring to his first hour-long stand-up special, “Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening,” which he released in 2010. “A lot of that material was written in my early 20s. So, a lot of it is just funny observations—like, my cousin Harris, or a funny joke about buying sheets.”

Ansari says he has grown a lot since the spastic slapstick of Human Giant and the Hot Pocket punch lines of “Sensual Evening.”

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