Aziz Ansari has been getting a lot of play lately. With his regular stint on Parks & Recreation and scene-stealing cameos in movies like Funny People and Observe & Report, the actor/comedian has been rapidly gaining in notoriety. So, perfect time for him to release his first comedy special, which aired this month on Comedy Central and has been released in an uncensored version on DVD as Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening.
Ansari's personality is not too far off from many of the characters he has played. On stage, he speaks and moves at a manic pace that is equal parts confidence, wide-eyed wonder, and genuine enthusiasm. His material is generally built on things in the world that he finds crazy, behavior he witnesses or things that have happened to him, and for all Ansari's bravado, like the best comedians, he also laces in some healthy self-deprecation. Shot this past year, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening is an hour of the comedian on a high. He starts off the show hurling out jokes at a Gatling-gun pace, covering topics as random as gay rights, the thread count of sheets, and the obnoxious habits of past roommates. He eventually settles into a groove once he starts telling longer stories; in particular, his stories of annoying his younger cousin Harris on Facebook are hilarious. I nearly choked from laughing so hard. Other jokes covering the MTV dating show "Next" and his run-ins with Kanye West and R. Kelly dissect our current fame-based culture with both disgust and wonderment. With the R. Kelly material in particular, Ansari shows off his skills at physical comedy, and also his versatility, mimicking Kelly's lewd sing-song style of speaking.
Much of Ansari's act is a little lewd, actually, but nothing as outrageous as RAAAAAAAANDY, the parody of frat-party comedians like Dane Cook that Ansari played in Funny People. The encore of Intimate Moments is devoted to the character. It's kind of performance art, complete with a hip-hop DJ and hoochie mama dancers. RAAAAAAAANDY is so unfunny, he comes all the way back around to being funny, boasting of his ridiculous sexual conquests and doing impressions of himself receiving fellatio in a variety of places. It's a risky way to end the show, because if you don't get what Ansari is making fun of, you're going to think it's pretty stupid. But then, that's the point--a lot of people don't get that Dane Cook is pretty stupid.
In some ways, the way Aziz Ansari structures his jokes reminds me of Sarah Silverman. Like Silverman, he builds up his premise, often to pull the rug out from under that premise with a surprising or crude punchline. Unlike her, though, Ansari doesn't twist the basic concept so much as blow it up. It's a technique that hits a vast majority of the time, and Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening delivers a lot of big laughs. At one point, I was howling so loud, someone walking by my apartment gave me queer look through my window, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. If that's not a gold standard for rating comedy, I don't know what is.