Ever since India’s comedy scene picked up the pace, I have grown fond of comedy stand-ups. I also watch American stand-up comedians and one of them was Aziz Ansari. ‘Was’, because of his #MeToo allegations in 2018.
For the uninformed, Aziz Ansari was allegedly accused of sexual aggression while dating a woman who goes by the pseudonym, Grace. Some dismissed it as only a ‘guys being guys’ thing and blamed shoddy journalism for victimising him. Others brought up the issue of consent, the grey areas surrounding it and how sexual scripts play out without dialogues.
Post the incident, Ansari did not perform but went on a tour called Road to Nowhere. Now, after an 18-month hiatus, he has released a Netflix stand-up special called Right Now.
Stand-ups have evoked a range of emotions in me but never have I had I the urge to hug a comedian after the show ended. That being said, this one-hour long special felt more like a cry for help than anything else. His jokes were premised on how things can get ruined for you, forever, in just a snap.
He opened the show by vocalising his feelings about the sexual harassment allegations, saying that he is ready to move on. Throughout the show, he addressed some of the most significant issues that have contaminated the West and the East alike.
Ansari narrates an incident about a Pizza Hut employee using toppings to make a Swastik on a pizza and asks the audience whether they thought the toppings did, in fact, resemble a Swastik. Many raise their hands in both agreement and disagreement. He then reveals that he made-up the incident.
He then says, and I quote, “You think your opinion is so valuable you need to chime in on shit that doesn’t even exist?”
Have we not been on both sides of this scenario at some point in time?
On certain occasions, we have wondered why everyone needs to have opinions and completely forget that we are those very people on other occasions.
Another essential yet overlooked issue that Ansari tackles is how “the internet can confirm anything you want to believe.” He claims that the internet is filled with opinions from both sides of the tracks, and that it eventually depends on what you choose to believe.
And he’s right.
I went on the internet, searched for some current controversial issues and found arguments both for and against them. And so, it dawned on me that it is my prejudice and not my informed rationale which determines what I believe.
He also profoundly addressed racism. The biggest takeaway for me was that “things don’t just become racist when white people figure it out.” He also spoke at length about the issue of cultural context, which means how things should be seen from the perspective of the time and place that they are occurring in. Everything cannot be judged by 2019’s standards.
He grieved about the time when he thought his career was over, his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s and being “shitty kids” to his parents. Yet, as he navigated through this array of subjects, he managed to remain funny.
Underdressed (I can only remember him in crisp suits and ties), looking tired (in contrast to his previous cheeky and enthused performances) and talking mature: that was the Aziz Ansari in Right Now. I have seen better content, I have seen better and more important jokes. But I have not seen a better performer. He was constantly engaging with the audience, making fun of them and himself.
Some viewers are seeing the special as a performative apology so that his career doesn’t get torpedoed over a woman’s allegations. Towards the end of Right Now, he confesses that the old Aziz who was all about that “Treat yo’ self” is dead and this Aziz wants to live in the moment and the people he is with.
The content of the special was clever but Ansari’s delivery was better, wiser and more mature. He presented himself as a work in progress. It was perhaps one of the most gracefully planned comebacks from a MeToo allegation so far.
With this returning special, Ansari was trying to ask, “Are we good?” And for me, the answer is in the affirmative.
Laiba Siddiqui is a physician turned writer who is currently working as an Editor (Remote) at Notion Press. She has been reading books ever since she can remember, and is currently trying to write one herself. You can find her on Instagram @the_debatable_twocents.
Featured image credit: Youtube screengrab