Interview: Aziz Ansari, Author Of 'Modern Romance' The comic teamed up with a sociologist to write an overview of dating and relationships. His book explains online dating's paradox of choice and how we're all like a song by hip-hop artist Flo Rida.

From Dating Exhaustion To ... Flo Rida? Aziz Ansari Surveys 'Modern Romance'

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Aziz Ansari is in love. The stand-up, whose comedy albums include one titled "Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening," is now happily in a relationship. But he's still fascinated with how people find each other, so he wrote a book about it. It's called "Modern Romance."

AZIZ ANSARI: I didn't want this book to be, you know, just for single people or, you know, young people who are out there now, but I wanted to kind of do an overview of dating and relationships as a whole.

CORNISH: That meant teaming up with a sociology professor from NYU and pouring over studies and data and conducting focus groups in online forums and retirement homes. He says in talking to older women, he was struck by the shifts in dating beyond technology. For one, marriage was a path for young women to break away from their parents.

ANSARI: And so I asked them, I was like, do you think part of the reason you got married was just to have the basic adult freedoms and independence from your parents? And they nodded their heads, like yeah. And that was really - pretty mind blowing to me. And that to me is, like, one of the biggest changes I didn't anticipate.

CORNISH: And now with unprecedented freedom and choices, Ansari had other questions - why, despite the millions of profiles on OkCupid, Match, Tinder and the like, do people struggle to find the one? Or, as he demonstrates in this bit from his Madison Square Garden special this year, the one who will at least return your text messages.


ANSARI: You send the first text. You're all confidence. Forget about it. It's done. Wrap it up. Put it in a bag. Write my name on it 'cause it's done.


ANSARI: Twenty minutes later - no response. OK, well, I'm sure she's just busy with a couple of things and any minute now. Three hours later - f***. I put too many exclamation points in my text. What was I thinking? I should've said, hey with two Ys, not three Ys. I'm so stupid.

I texted someone I thought was really interested in me and then they didn't say anything back for hours and what eventually turned into days. And I was losing my mind. And it's all 'cause I just received silence on the other end. And it was interesting to me how just someone not sending a message to me on their device was causing this roller coaster of emotions. And as I started talking about it in my stand-up, I realized what a universal experience it was and everyone had their own version of this kind of dilemma. Also I want to give a shout out to the bleep guy at NPR 'cause I'm sure he's always very excited when I get booked to one of these things.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

ANSARI: I keep him on his toes (laughter).

CORNISH: You know, after this bit you actually convinced someone in the audience - this is at Madison Square Garden - to share her text messages with you, which sort of stunned me. I mean, it's such a private thing.

ANSARI: That was one of the things we did in researching the book, too, that was really unique and interesting is reading people's real conversations on their phones gives you a much better portrayal of what's going on than asking them, well, what happened with this person? Oh, we texted back and forth and, you know, it kind of fizzled out. It's totally different when you see the actual messages and look at the timing and the choice of words. It's just really fascinating to me.

CORNISH: The book to me revealed something about you and your personality that I've only seen in glimpses when you've talked about majoring in college in biology and business. And I feel like this is that part of you that we're seeing, you know, working with these sociologists and doing a research project.

ANSARI: Sure. Well, I'm a very curious person and sociology, in a strange way, is similar to comedy in a lot of ways. It's a lot about observation and making observations that resonate with people and trying to learn about why people do the things they do. And one idea that really applied to modern romance, in my opinion, was this whole notion of the paradox of choice, and that idea is from this guy Barry Schwartz. And the idea is that basically, you know, right now we have the most romantic options that any generation has ever had. And you would think, oh, more options, that's better. But whenever you look at any studies they've done, they always find the more options people have, the harder it is for them to make a choice, and that when they do make a choice they're less satisfied 'cause they're scared that they maybe chose the wrong thing. And whenever we talked to people about this in regards to dating, it totally resonated.

CORNISH: It sounds like at a certain point you talk about being exhausted yourself of the dating process.

ANSARI: Yes. The word exhausting came up in so many different contexts when we talked about modern romance. There were people that were doing online dating who were like, oh, when you come home and you open up that OkCupid inbox and you see all those messages, it's exhausting. It's like a second job. And there's other people who are like, oh, trying to schedule stuff over text to go on a date - it's exhausting. People are so flaky. They tell you, hey, let's meet on Wednesday. Then you text them on Wednesday and they're like, oh, something came up. Can we meet on Friday? Like, that kind of stuff is exhausting. And people do kind of reach a breaking point, I think, and they kind of change up what they're doing.

CORNISH: I have so many friends who are at the spot you were describing. They're exhausted. And I'm in a relationship, so they don't care about anything I have to say on the topic. But I don't know what to tell them, and I find it interesting that you don't sound cynical. You don't sound burned out. It sounded like at the end of this process you kind of had a respect for the dating process, for modern romance.

ANSARI: Here's my take - is you have all these amazing tools and it's really on you how you're going to use them. If you have a phone and you're like, well, I'm going to try to text as many girls as I can and try to have so many balls in the air and try to go on so many first dates and meet this perfect person - that sounds like a recipe for misery to me. There's another attitude of like, you know, we kind of just went for coffee. I'm not going to, like, judge them on just a coffee. Let's do some more stuff together and see if they grow on me. There's so many studies that show the more time we spend with people the more we grow to like them. That's just the way people are, you know? I think - what I say in the book is we're all like a Flo Rida song.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

ANSARI: When you hear a Flo Rida song at first you're like, what is this, Flo Rida? This is the same thing you've always done. I'm not listening to this song. And then you keep hearing it and you're like, oh, my God, Flo Rida, you've done it again. This is a hit, baby. And that's what people are like. People are like a Flo Rida song. You need to hear them a couple of times before you really get what they're about.

CORNISH: That's not where I expected that answer to go.


FLO RIDA: (Rapping) Love comes once in a lifetime.

CORNISH: Well, the book was really a lot of fun. Aziz Ansari, thank you so much for talking with us.

ANSARI: Of course, thanks so much.

CORNISH: Comedian Aziz Ansari - his new book is called "Modern Romance." It was co-written by New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg.


FLO RIDA: (Rapping) Listen, baby, you are what I've been missing. Only got one life to live and I want to spend it with you. Love the money and the cars, but listen, baby, you are what I've been missing. Love comes once in a lifetime. Love comes once in a lifetime...


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