Aziz Ansari's Latest Is 'Dangerously Delicious' The comedian, who plays Tom Haverford on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, just released a new comedy special directly on his website. He's also embarking on a multicity tour, where he'll be riffing on the things that terrify him — marriage, for instance, and babies.
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Aziz Ansari's Latest Is 'Dangerously Delicious'

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Aziz Ansari's Latest Is 'Dangerously Delicious'

Aziz Ansari's Latest Is 'Dangerously Delicious'

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest is comic and actor Aziz Ansari. He co-stars in the NBC series "Parks and Recreation" as Tom Haverford and has been in the films "Get Him to the Greek," "Funny People" and "Observe and Report."

Aziz Ansari has a new comedy special. His previous special was on Comedy Central, but this time he's taking his cue from his friend Louis C.K. and making the special available exclusively on his website for download and streaming for a nominal fee.

It looks like this is becoming a trend for comics who want to bypass the networks and go directly to their fans. Let's start with an excerpt of Ansari's new comedy special, called "Dangerously Delicious." It's a live performance from the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.

This part is about ethnic slurs. Ansari is of Indian descent and grew up in South Carolina. He often talks about race and ethnicity in his act.


AZIZ ANSARI: One day I decided to do some research on racial slurs and see if I could learn anything. And I found a very interesting article. It was titled "List of Every Ethnic Slur," and it was 21 pages long, and I read all of them. And if it's cool with you guys, I'd now like to share a few of my favorites.



GROSS: That's Aziz Ansari from his new comedy special, "Dangerously Delicious." Aziz, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's great to talk with you again.

ANSARI: Thank you so much for having me.

GROSS: One of the things you talk about on your comedy special that's on your website, "Dangerously Delicious," is about how you're still single and you're still having problems dating even though you're on TV, and friends say to you: You're on TV, you shouldn't have any trouble.

And you do this whole: What am I supposed to do, go into a bar and say excuse me, I'm a guy on TV, and expect people, you know, are just going to come up to you and like volunteer. But has it changed your date-ability, to be a recognizable TV person?

ANSARI: Obviously, you know, people come up to me because they recognize stuff I've done, you know, no denying that. But my point in that bit was that it's not this, like, dream situation people kind of imagine in their heads. There's a lot of just, like, random dudes that are like: Oh, man, it's that brown guy I saw on that thing.


ANSARI: You know, like there's that too, you know. But of course, you know, there's women that come up to me and say, oh, you know, I enjoy your work. And I've met a lot of interesting people that way. And you know, I - you know, I'm fine with it.


ANSARI: It's so interesting because people ask about that stuff, and they're like: Don't you think those girls are just coming up to you because you're on TV and you're a comedian? It's like: Yeah, I know that, but no one ever asks, like, like some, like, like good-looking stud dude like - don't you think those girls are just coming up to you because of your face?


ANSARI: Like, it's - that's not looked at as a negative. And it's like, well, to me that's worse because that guy did nothing to earn his face. He didn't, like, sculpt his nose. Like, I worked really hard and developed this career and put out a body of work. So if someone's a fan of that, and they came up to me because of that, that's less shallow than going up to someone because you like their face or their sweater or whatever.

You know what I mean? Like the guy didn't make the sweater. He just bought it, you know? And so I think there's kind of this thing of, like, saying, like, oh, going up to someone because you like their work and meeting someone that way is like a shallow thing. But sometimes you meet people that are, like, super-interesting that are just like, oh, I saw your thing and I enjoyed it.

And then you start talking, and you're like, oh, you're an interesting person, I enjoy your company. And I've made friends that way, you know?

GROSS: It's funny because, like, your character on "Parks and Recreation" is so confident that he's, like, you know, cooler than anybody else. But in your stand-up comedy specials, a lot of your comedy is based on self-deprecating humor and on being single, about the difficulty of, like, you know, finding a woman, not only finding the right woman but, like, finding somebody, you know, like asking somebody for a date.

And it's like two different sides of you, like the overconfident thing that you play and the underconfident self that you play.


GROSS: So which is closer to the real you, the underconfident one?

ANSARI: I don't know. I kind of play up that underconfidence in the stand-up a little bit. I'm probably somewhere in the middle. Like, I'm pretty confident in myself in a lot of ways, but, you know, what guy doesn't see, like, a beautiful woman and might be a little bit nervous to go up to her, you know? I think most guys would say they've been in that situation.

You know, I think, you know, you want to be relatable. And, you know, with stand-up it's more interesting to hear about people's failures than their successes, I think, sometimes. Like, you don't want to hear a story about, like: Oh, and then I went up to this hot girl and everything worked out fantastic. We're dating, everything is great. Good night.


GROSS: She thinks I'm real handsome.


GROSS: She thinks I'm hot, thank you for coming.

ANSARI: People would be like: I hate that guy, you know? It's much more endearing to hear about someone going through the same struggles we've all gone through.

GROSS: So your humor onstage is self-deprecating, and I'm thinking like you're good friends with like - good friends, I don't know, but you're friends with Jay-Z. You love hip-hop. And, you know, the - hip-hop is so much about confidence and swagger and feeling like you can go up to that beautiful woman, and she's just going to just - she's going to be really happy that you went up to her because you're the best when it comes to making love or standing up to the cops or looking good or, you know, whatever needs to be done.


GROSS: And I'm wondering, like, how your self-deprecating humor goes over with your hip-hop friends, because the sensibility in some ways seems pretty different.

ANSARI: Well, being a rapper is, like, about being cool and things like that. And being a comedian, you're not really supposed to be the coolest guy. So I think, you know, they understand it's a different type of thing, you know?

And, you know, those guys are super-funny. They have a really great sense of humor, and when I do hang out with them, like, we will laugh hard at things we all say, and they have a great sense of humor. So they understand it's a different thing. I don't think they're, like, oh man, Aziz isn't cool. You know what I mean?


ANSARI: It's just a different thing to be a comedian. There's not a self-deprecating rapper. That wouldn't work. If you were a rapper that was like: I saw this girl, but I was too scared, like...


ANSARI: Like that doesn't work for a rapper. You can't be like: And then I took her back to my place, and she said she had a boyfriend. Like that doesn't - that rapper wouldn't go very far because in a rap song you want to live vicariously through them. You want to be on the jet or whatever, you know what I mean?


ANSARI: (Rapping) And then I drove my mom's car 'cuz I can't afford my own.


ANSARI: Terry, I think we've got to do a self-deprecating rapper album. Do you make beats on the side?

GROSS: Absolutely. That is what I do in the evenings.

ANSARI: Or maybe you can sing the hooks.

GROSS: I do that too. It's really funny you should bring it up, absolutely.

ANSARI: (Singing) He can't afford a car.


GROSS: My guest is comic and actor Aziz Ansari. He co-stars in "Parks and Recreation" and has a new comedy special available exclusively on his website. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Aziz Ansari. He has a new stand-up comedy special that he's making available as a download or streaming on his website only, and he's also one of the stars of "Parks and Recreation."

Now, on "Parks and Recreation," you play Tom Haverford who, you know, works for the Parks and Recreation Office. I want you to describe your character.

ANSARI: I play a low-level government administrator that works at this Parks and Recreation department, and kind of the character's story is that he grew up in this small town and he lives in this small town in Indiana, and he really wishes he was kind of this impresario, like, you know Russell Simmons or Sean "P. Diddy" Combs or, you know, one of these guys that just has his fingers in a lot of pies and is this big mogul.

But he's in this really small town. He's too scared to go to, like, New York or L.A. to kind of really make that happen. So he kind of tries to live those dreams in the confines of this very small town.

And I love working on the show, and everyone in the cast and everybody is just fantastic.

GROSS: Well, actually, you know, he leaves Parks and Recreation for a while to start a media marketing business called Entertainment 720, make those mogul dreams come true.


ANSARI: Yes, yeah, he - in the beginning of this season, he did try to do - his probably biggest swing at kind of achieving those dreams was this company called Entertainment 720, and it's called 720 because they'll travel around the world twice, 720 degrees, to make your dreams come true.

GROSS: Let's play an ad that you and your partner in this company did to promote Entertainment 720, and in the commercial that you did, we won't see this, but, like, you're dancing, you're toasting with, like, these beautiful, like, brandy sniffers, snifters, whatever they're called. And you're trying to look as hip as you possibly can.





GROSS: That's Aziz Ansari from "Parks and Recreation." It's so much fun to watch him trying to be as cool as his heroes are and always just being lame and embarrassing instead. Did you ever feel that way yourself when you were growing up?

ANSARI: I definitely relate to the frustration of being in a small town and wishing you were in somewhere bigger. I mean, I grew up in South Carolina, in a very small town that had like 8,000 people. There was just nothing to do. Nothing cool was going on.

But now I feel like with the Internet and everything, you're so exposed to everything cool, and you can really get into a lot of cool stuff, even if you're just in, you know, South Carolina or in a small town. You can hear about, like, the coolest band in Brooklyn or whatever.

Back when I was growing up, it wasn't like that, I don't think, as much, and I was definitely like frustrated. Like, it always just seemed like there was cooler stuff going on in bigger cities.

GROSS: You're of Indian - the country of India - ancestry. And when you were growing up, there were probably not a lot of comics of South Asian ancestry to look to as role models. Did that matter to you?

ANSARI: I never saw an Indian person on TV unless it was like Gandhi or there was like a James Bond movie where he goes to India or like there was some show where they happened to go to India, or they're showing a Quik-E-Mart guy.

There was no one Indian on TV, like no one. When I did this sketch on MTV called "Human Giant" around 2007, I joked around with the people at MTV. I was like: Wow, it's pretty cool, I think I might be the first Indian person you've ever had on MTV. And I was half-joking, but I think it may be true. Like, I can't think of ever seeing an Indian person on MTV.

And I think it's really cool now, you can't avoid Indian people on TV. There's like one Indian person minimum on every, like, sitcom or drama. There's like some Indian guy in the office. It's really funny to me that that's the case. And even when I was coming up, even seeing like Mindy Kaling on "The Office," it was great because you could point to her and be like: See, like she's a really funny character on that show, and there's no jokes about her having an Indian accent or anything.

It's just about her character and her personality. Even having that was, like, a great thing to point to, and I think now with me and Danny Pudi on "Community" and, you know, a myriad of other people, I think it must be a little different to be a kid growing up that's Indian and seeing all these Indian people in the culture.

GROSS: So somebody who knows your name now is President Obama, and he mentioned you at a fundraising event in New York in early March. He mentioned that you were there. He mentioned that you were backstage and that this was a particularly big deal because his daughter Malia is a huge fan of "Parks and Recreation."

So how did you end up being at that event with him, and how did he end up mentioning you?

ANSARI: As with a lot of things with me, it all goes back to food. I eat at that restaurant, ABC Kitchen, a lot. It's a restaurant in New York. And that's where this event was. And they came up to me, and they're like: Hey, we're doing this event with President Obama. He's going to speak here, and we were wondering if you would want to host it or something.

And I was like yeah, sure, because you guys are going to be catering and your food is delicious. And the Obama people contacted me, and they're like: Would you want to do this? We think it's a great idea. You could speak. And I did it, and it was really fun. And I wrote this little speech for the event and made the speech.

And then eventually the president spoke, and he mentioned me in the speech, and it just blew me away. Like I still haven't quite comprehended how crazy it is that the president mentioned me in a speech. I still don't believe it. It's still crazy to me. And he came backstage afterwards, and he talked to me for a while, and he mentioned that his daughter really loved "Parks and Recreation," and he was just super-nice and very cool.

GROSS: That must have been really thrilling. I mean, how many comics get mentioned by a president?

ANSARI: Yeah, and he was just so nice - he was just so nice and, like, very charming. And, you know, obviously I'm not a supporter, but if Santorum had that same interaction with me, I'd be like, man, I might have to vote for Santorum. No.


GROSS: There's a good deed that you did that I think few people know about. There was an article in Rolling Stone about violence against gay teenagers, and after you read it, you got in touch with the person who wrote the article and offered to do a fundraiser to raise money for an organization that works with gay teens. And you hosted a comedy benefit in L.A. on behalf of a Minnesota LGBT group. Why did you decide to do that?

ANSARI: I heard a YouTube clip from Howard Stern, where he was talking about this article, and if you haven't read the article, you should really read it. It's about bullying and particularly about this school in Minnesota where it was just - it was just really such a sad article.

And I just read it, and I was like, man, is there - you know, it really affected me, and it really, really made me sad, like just thinking about these kids who were - these kids were just, like, getting put down by all these other kids in their school, and they seem like such brilliant kids. And it just really bummed me out that those kids, the other kids, the bully kids were winning, that they were letting them ruin what was special about them.

And it just didn't seem fair. It seemed like these kids were...

GROSS: Were you bullied as a kid?

ANSARI: I wasn't. You know, I think - you would think I would be. It seems like I would be a really easy bully target. But, you know, obviously I was made fun of here and there, but I've said this, I think I even said it to you last time I talked to you, like, you know, it was probably on par with what a fat kid dealt with. It was not, like, serious racism where like kids were throwing rocks at me and harsh stuff like that, or you know, or - you know, you see, like you read these stories and stuff, and you read about, like, real torment, you know, like real - kids getting really tormented.

I did not have that at all. But I guess I can relate to the idea of being different from everyone else, and I can relate to people telling you you can't do something or people making fun of you because you're different. Or I've seen other kids make fun of other kids for having different interests or whatever.

And when I read that story, it just, it really ticked me off that the school allowed that to happen. Basically the school district wasn't taking a stand. It really got bad, and several kids ended up taking their own lives. It was that bad.

And one kid's mom started an organization called Justin's Gift, and the writer of the Rolling Stone article - I just emailed her, and I was like: Hey, I read this article and it's really affected me. I just feel like I want to do something. I'll gladly do a benefit, like it's really easy for me to, like, put on a show and raise some money. Like, who could I raise money for? What would be the best organization?

And she referred me to Justin's Gift, and so I was doing a show that weekend, and it sold out, and we gave that money, and then I put together another show with some other comedians that I'm friends with, and we charged more for that, and it sold out, and we raised like $15,000 like just doing those two shows, and we gave it to them.

And, you know, I was glad we were able to do those shows and do that, and I hope it helps those kids even a little bit because, you know, it just really bummed me out hearing about what happened to those kids.

GROSS: I think it's great that you did that. So you do a lot of tweeting, have a lot of followers. And after the Trayvon Martin story, when Geraldo made his comment about how, you know, he shouldn't have been wearing a hoodie, you replied with a barbed tweet, and I'll ask you to tell us the radio-friendly version of what you said.

ANSARI: I think what I said was: It's really appropriate to say this any day, but today in particular: F-you, Geraldo. And I tweeted that, and what I failed to realize is that now whenever there's a big news story, news outlets will take things that people tweet and quote them as if that's, like, their statement on something.

Obviously if I was talking to, like, the Washington Post, that would not be my analysis of the event, no. I would have said something a little bit more nuanced. However, there was an article somewhere, I have it on my phone, I'll read to you what they wrote. They wrote - the headline said something like - sorry, give me a second, I'll put it up - it said: Geraldo Rivera says Trayvon Martin's hoodie made him a target receives major backlash.

Fox News commentator says Martin's killer should be prosecuted, but the victim's attire put him at fault too. Aziz Ansari responds: F-you, Geraldo.


ANSARI: I love that that was in the sub-headline for that article. In that case, you know, I don't like people quoting me, you know, from my Twitter in like a serious news article. But in that case, it was so funny to me that I approve.

GROSS: Aziz Ansari, it's been great to talk with you again. Thank you so much.

ANSARI: It's always a pleasure, thank you so much.

GROSS: Aziz Ansari co-stars on "Parks and Recreation." His new comedy special, "Dangerously Delicious," is available exclusively on his website. You'll find a link to it on our website, I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

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