Summer Reading: A Night of Modern Romance With Aziz Ansari

Charlotte Red went Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari’s solo stand-up show in New York, and reports back on his rare brand of happy dorky-ness. //

For a long time, I struggled to find male comedians I liked. Too many turn to boring fallback jokes filled with lazy misogyny like ‘my ex-girlfriend is CRAZY!’ or worse ‘you know what’s funny? RAPE JOKES!’. It’s like they’re not aware that if they’re supposed to be this original and creative comedian, they should probably widen their search for punchlines.

You know who’s not like that? Aziz Ansari. The Parks and Recreation alumni filmed two versions of his new special Modern Romantics at Madison Square Garden in October. I was lucky enough to be in the audience for one of the shows and I’m going to tell you all the jokes so *spoilers* (not really, don’t worry).

Hannibal Burress opened and it was totally weird for everyone. He talked about a time when he was opening for Tracy Jordan, who advised him to think of his slot like a date rape, where he’s the drink and Jordan’s the drug or some bullshit like that. It still makes me grit my teeth but MAYBE I’M BEING TOO SENSITIVE I DUNNO. Other than that he was pretty good.

Ansari was offered a book deal about eight months ago to write about love and romance in the digital age. In a totally clever internet-core way he turned to Reddit and created the thread /r/modernromantics/ to research the topic with the help of the internet.

Topics he put to the forum included app dating, being single in the smartphone era, how giving up social media might affect your social life and more. His book and the Modern Romantics show are about what he’s found out.

Ansari does a bit at the beginning where he asks the audience not to take photos during the performance. Then he invites us to get it out of our systems beforehand. The background of the stage rolls through romantic sunsets and puppies. He poses like he’s telling hilarious jokes and the audience laps it up.

Ansari does do a Tom Haverford-esque whinge about dating. Actually, it’s more a complaint about attempts at dating where suddenly, through the magic of text messaging, people have the option of ~*NeVeR rEpLyInG*~ when they get asked out. He whines, then transitions into a bit about creepy dudes. He asks the women in the room to put up their hands if they’ve ever been followed by a dude, seen a dude publicly masturbating or been hassled on the street.

This is where it gets weird and interesting. All of the women in the stadium raise their hands. He talks about how one woman told him she waited forty minutes in a secure store for the man who had been following her to give up and go away. He asks us to clap if we’re feminists. He asks a gentleman in the front why he didn’t clap. He explains what feminism technically means. More people clap. I’m just like, ‘is this real life?’. That’s when the guys on the other side of me walk out. Seriously. Like Ansari is being controversial.

There’s a funny feeling in the air after that bit happens. Ansari talks about his current relationship and he just goes gooey over it. We’re at Madison Square Garden, remember – the second lot of 12,000 people watching a sold-out show.

He describes a trick he wants to play on his girlfriend that involves a creepy child in their kitchen. He sounds like the dorkiest, happiest comedian ever and when it gets to the end I’m not even sure how funny he was being. There’s a confetti cannon and his parents come out on stage. Ansari wants to make us laugh in new ways and still manages to swear a buttload. It’s schoolboy-ish and lovely and twisted and a huge (comedic) relief. You’ll see.

Alright, and *spoilers*, he didn’t – major bummage – talk about his chubby lil’ cousin Harris.

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