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TERRY GROSS, host:

This week we're featuring some of our most entertaining interviews of the year. I spoke with comic and actor Aziz Ansari last February. He co-stars with Amy Poehler in the NBC series "Parks and Recreation." Last year, he was in the Judd Apatow film "Funny People."

Ansari's parents are from India but he grew up in South Carolina and was the only person in his school who wasn't white.

We started our interview with an excerpt of his Comedy Central standup special called "Intimate Moments for A Sensual Evening," which had just come out on DVD and CD.

(Soundbite of video, "Intimate Moments for A Sensual Evening")

Mr. AZIZ ANSARI (Comedian): I like living in L.A. One thing I don't like about living here is driving. I always get bored when I'm driving, and when I get bored, I go on the Internet on my BlackBerry. So I'm going to die.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: And whenever they go through the wreckage, they'll find my phone and be like, whoa, that's what he looked up right before he died? It's going to be so sad. It'll be like: Comedian Aziz Ansari was killed in a car accident today. He was struck by another vehicle while using IMDB to see if Val Kilmer was, indeed, in the film "Willow." A representative for Mr. Kilmer confirmed he was, indeed, in the film and hopes this will prevent future tragedies of this nature.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: This is the third "Willow"-related death this year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Comedian Aziz Ansari was killed in a car accident today. He was struck by another vehicle while checking show times for "Up" on Fandango. He just purchased a single ticket for a 4 o'clock show at a $2 theater in order to live out the saddest afternoon of all time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Comedy bad boy Aziz Ansari, aka comedy heartthrob Aziz Ansari, was killed in an awful automobile accident today. He was struck by another vehicle while Googling his own name.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Aziz Ansari from his comedy special, which is now on DVD, called "Intimate Moments for A Sensual Evening." Aziz Ansari, welcome back to FRESH AIR. That is really funny. What made you think about how embarrassing it would be to die while Googling yourself?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Well, I remember when I - I used to come out to L.A. for months at a time when we were doing this sketch comedy show I was on called "Human Giant," and I didn't have GPS or anything, and I would be in rental cars, and I would be on my BlackBerry, looking at maps, at, like, the dumbest stuff, like using the Wendy's restaurant locator and things like that. And I was like this is so dumb. I'm going to die because I'm on my phone looking for a Wendy's.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And so from that notion, I kind of came up with the other bits for that joke.

GROSS: GROSS: So I want to play another example from your show that's now out on DVD and CD. And in this part, you're talking about watching a reality show on MTV called "Next." It's a reality show about dating that I've actually never seen or heard of, but you had previously done a sketch comedy show as part of the group Human Giant on MTV.

Mr. ANSARI: Yes.

GROSS: So here's your take on this dating reality show.

(Soundbite of video, "Intimate Moments for A Sensual Evening."

Mr. ANSARI: First guy comes out, right, he's the guy going out on the dates, and he comes up there, and he says this. He goes: Yo, this girl better be pretty because if she's a pain in the ass, I'm going to need something cute to look at.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: And I was stunned that he could say that. That's so offensive, and at the same time, on my show, they didn't want us to say that a character was raped by a dinosaur, raped by a dinosaur because that's too offensive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Oh, I guess they didn't want any of these letters from paleontologists who are, like, hey, man, there's nothing in the fossil records to suggest that kind of behavior. Why don't you chill with your accusations?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. ANSARI: And then after you meet this dude, then you meet the girls he's going out on the dates with, and they come up there, and they say things like: If he has a neck tattoo, I'm going to lick it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: It's like whoa, how slutty can you be in five seconds?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: And after they say that, they breathe, and, like, three facts about them pop up on the left side. And the first two facts are always really normal, but the third fact always come way out of left field. It's always like: Monica's 22, she's a hairdresser in Hollywood, and she hates purple gift wrap.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: How does that define her as a person? And the whole show just bummed me out, man, because the things they try to keep off TV are just, like, really explicit sex or violence, and no one cares about their kids seeing attitudes like that on TV, and that's way worse to me.

Like, I'd much rather have a daughter that grew up and shot me in the leg and burned my house down than some really slutty girl that hates the sound of people eating bananas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Aren't you amazed at how proud people are to behave stupidly on reality TV shows?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Man, every time I've seen that show "Next," yeah, you really can't believe how terrible the people are that go on that show. What if each time you came back from a clip, I was just sitting here just laughing so hard at my own stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Oh, god, Terry, we've got to take a break. I forgot about that bit. It's so funny. You're like, oh my god, that's that guy's really full of himself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So do you feel like you had to create a personality, like a persona for yourself on stage, like a stage version of Aziz Ansari?

Mr. ANSARI: No, not really. I never made a conscious effort to do that. I just kind of tried to be kind of natural and conversational, and I think my stuff is kind of a little bit longer and more story-based. It's not as jokey sometimes, you know, so yeah, I just try to create like a vibe of, you know, someone kind of casually telling you stories and things like that.

GROSS: Now, you did create an alter-ego comedian named Randy, which you portrayed in "Funny People," and there's some really funny you can find these on YouTube really funny videos.

Mr. ANSARI: Wait, you're not going to play any excerpts from the Randy...?

GROSS: Oh, they are so filthy. There's, like, absolutely no word I could probably play on the radio.

Mr. ANSARI: Wait. Can you guys can you say tatties? That's not even a real word. That's a word that Randy made up, tatties.

GROSS: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: You can say tat - let's just both say tatties. Terry, can you say tatties real quick just to do it?

GROSS: Oh, no, I would never say that word.

Mr. ANSARI: But that's not a real word.

GROSS: I know.

Mr. ANSARI: Randy made up that word.

GROSS: I know.

Mr. ANSARI: You can say it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You're going to make me say it.

Mr. ANSARI: It would be a landmark moment for NPR if you just said tatties one time. It's not a real word. They don't have to bleep it. It's an imaginary word.

GROSS: Put it in a sentence for me.

Mr. ANSARI: Look at those tatties.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: They've got to let this on, please? They're definitely going to put any of it on NPR.

GROSS: Imaginary scenario: Four-year-old says to his mother, Mommy, what's a tatty?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: And she'll be, like, I don't know. Is that something you heard on NPR?

GROSS: Then it must mean an intellectual endeavor involving...

Mr. ANSARI: Tatties refers to a rare form of violin playing that was practiced in ancient Denmark.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Thank you, tatties, that's among my favorite type of music.

Mr. ANSARI: You said tatties. You did it. You did.

GROSS: There you go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So tell us how you created your alter-ego Randy, for like, who is Randy?

Mr. ANSARI: So Randy was a character in the film "Funny People" that was the last film Judd Apatow did, and he had this character, and he there is very little bit of stuff written for his personal character.

GROSS: It's a film about stand-up comics, and you play one of them, yeah, who's...

Mr. ANSARI: Yes, and Randy was a small character, and the idea Judd kind of pitched to me was that he wanted the guy to be, like, really cocky and, like, very concerned about things like merchandising and things like that. So that was kind of the basic idea, and the other notion in my head all the time was, like, okay, you know, every time I've done comedy in, like, traditional comedy clubs, there's always these comedians that do really well with audiences but that the other comedians hate because they're just, you know, doing kind of cheap stuff like dancing around or doing, like, very kind of base sex humor a lot, and stuff like that. So I kind of took that idea and ran with that, as well.

GROSS: And it's great. You know, his DJ is called Ol' Youngin'.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Yeah, that's this guy Brandon Johnson, who is very funny. I was at the UCB theater in L.A., it's a theater I perform in, and I was kind of workshopping the Randy material. And one night I had this idea of, like, well, Randy should have a DJ. And so I loaded up my laptop with, like, these sounds like a lot of DJs and hip-hop artists, when you see them perform live, they will have this reggaeton horn sample that just goes:

(Soundbite of horn impersonation)

Mr. ANSARI: And rap artists use it, like, to death. And it's just, like, anytime you go see a rap show, they, like, hit that thing way too much. Like, they'll just be like, you guys psyched to be here? It's like:

(Soundbite of horn impersonation)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: So I was, like, well, what if a comedian used that sound, too, the same way rappers do. So I wrote that, and I had, like, I recorded myself just going Randy, just like that. And so, like, my idea was, like, whenever I would do a joke, at the end, it would just be like: And I was, like, I got to get out of here.

(Soundbite of horn impersonation)

Mr. ANSARI: Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-Randy. And, you know, so that was the idea, and I was just going to keep the laptop on the side of the stage, and then after I finished the joke, like, jump over and just start hitting those buttons like crazy. So, like, I would finish a joke, and it would be like: Ran-ran-ran-ran-ran-dy-dy-dy, you know, like that.

And my friend Brandon was there, and I was like, oh, Brandon's really funny. What if he's just the DJ? And so he did it, and, like, right away I could tell he was just going to be awesome at this, and so every time I did Randy after that, he was there.

GROSS: So we're going to squeeze in one more clip here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: Sure.

GROSS: Here's another clip from Aziz Ansari's Comedy Central special that's now out on DVD and CD, and this is something that is, in part, talking about movies. I don't think I really need to set it up, though.

(Soundbite of video, "Intimate Moments for A Sensual Evening")

Mr. ANSARI: I was doing an interview once, and this guy goes, so, you must be pretty psyched about all this "Slumdog Millionaire" stuff..

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANSARI: And I was like yeah, I am. I have no idea why, though. I had nothing to do with that movie. It's just some people who kind of look like me are in this movie that everyone loves and is winning Oscars and stuff. And I was like whoa, whoa, whoa, are white people just psyched all the time? It's like "Back to the Future," that's us. "Godfather," that's us. "Godfather: Part II," that's us. "Departed," that's us. "Sunset Boulevard," that's us. "Citizen Kane," that's us. "Jaws," that's us. Every (BEEP) movie but "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Boyz n the Hood" is us.

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So is that a good summation of what you think of, like, identity politics?

Mr. ANSARI: When I crafted that joke, I wasn't doing it in the idea of, like, what is my, you know, statement on identity politics, but I think that is really how I felt. Like, I don't think that guy, when he asked that question, was being racist or anything, when he said are you psyched about "Slumdog Millionaire" because the answer is yes.

And it's actually very interesting to me, like, why are people psyched about that? Why do I get psyched that that movie's doing well? I had nothing to do with it. Why is there that kind of sense of, like, camaraderie with people that just happen to be the same ethnicity as me? And then, you know, then from that I took the idea of, like, well I mean, what I'm really saying is oh, so I guess white people don't have that because they're so everywhere and so successful. I guess the reason you do get excited is because oh, you don't really see a lot of Indian people doing Oscar-winning movies. So when you see that, you feel kind of proud, I guess. But, you know, so if that was true for white people, they'd be psyched all the time because every movie has white people in it, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Aziz Ansari co-stars on the NBC series "Parks and Recreation."

Coming up, we continue our series featuring some of our most entertaining interviews of the year with vocal artists Billy West. He does the voices of many animated characters and used to do celebrity impressions on "The Howard Stern Show."

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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