[8 March 2010]
Bold and debatable pronouncement time: Aziz Ansari is the best comedian of the millennial generation. Now, it’s highly possible you are unaware of Ansari, so here’s a refresher. He played RAAAAAANDY, a boisterous standup competitor of main character Seth Rogen in Funny People, and plays Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. Before that, he was one of the three main cast members on the criminally underrated Human Giant, MTV’s last (and in my opinion) best stab at sketch comedy.
Until Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, his special that premiered earlier this year, Ansari wasn’t primarily known as a standup, but he had done extensive tours behind (including opening for Kanye West for a few shows) and performances of the material that makes up this special. So in a way, Intimate Moments is already a greatest hits package, even though this is Ansari’s first released standup product.
Back to my first sentence: The reason Ansari is the best of a new generation of comics is because his comedy is distinctly of the now. He talks about fighting people on Internet comment boards, using Google to check the thread count of the sheets he just bought, harassing his cousin on his Facebook, Googling himself on his Blackberry in traffic and the overall lunacy of Kanye West. This might make Ansari’s material seem dated in the future—unless Facebook does actually stay around longer than normal fads—but Ansari gets these things more than other comedians.
He isn’t spending his time talking about how lame it is for people t live their lives on Facebook; He’s talking about how it can be used to screw with your too-serious 14-year-old cousin. He’s not cracking jokes about how Google always makes search suggestions based on porn (like every other comedian with Google on the mind). He’s concerned with dying while using Google the way we all use Google; To verify that Val Kilmer was in Willow. Technology isn’t an easy joke setup for Ansari. He’s just chronicling the strange way we live in these times.
Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening (best title ever!) has too many strong moments to start firing off here, but it really hits a stride of unavoidable belly laughs in the last 15 minutes when Ansari describes hanging out with Kanye West (who apparently listens to his own music in his own house while bopping his own head), and seeing R. Kelly in concert. Ansari’s version of Kelly isn’t the urinating loon of Dave Chappelle’s depiction (like everyone else’s since 2002), but instead, he’s a mad genius who pulls of feats of sheer insanity while performing onstage.
Ansari describes instances of madness (playing videos of himself playing basketball with no context), and humor (he has a phallic beam of light blow up a screen), without going low for the easy payoffs. Like Ansari says, you won’t see the same kind of sh** at an R. Kelly concert than you do at a Modest Mouse concert.
The final ten minutes of Intimate Moments are given over to Ansari’s RAAAAAAAANDY persona, his only concession to people who are watching him only because they saw him in Funny People. The RAAAAAAAANDY character—and he’s definitely a character, since it’d be hard to imagine a real person doing impressions of himself getting fellatio at an Ikea—allows Ansari to exaggerate his already enthusiastic delivery to extreme goofiness. RAAAAAANDY is like some mashup between Flava Flav and Dane Cook, and having a DJ deliver some of his best punchlines only adds to the silliness. It’s no wonder Ansari opted to conclude his set with RAAAAAANDY’s best material; he’s got two bankable standup stars in one person.
The DVD release comes with very few extras. In fact, apart from the lush hotel bar music that plays on the menus, the only extra is a ten-minute set Ansari did at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in advance of the DVD. He jokes that it doesn’t matter if that part is funny (but it is, especially his ramblings about child actor Bobbe’J Thompson), since he’s just trying to trick people into buying the DVD. Lucky for him, they don’t need any other reasons than the special proper.