aziz ansari is growing, and wants us to grow too

Aziz Ansari concluded his The Road to Nowhere tour last night – aptly named, given the fact that the final performance took place in the quaint and remote Sullivan Catskills, located almost an hour and a half from New York City. Ansari notices this, poking fun at the less-than lighting, and rec-room feel of the amphitheater, taking this time to reminisce on “some of the most beautiful venues” the almost year-long tour brought him to.

Ansari’s tour marked his official return to the public eye following sexual misconduct allegations made against him at the start of 2018.  As a long-time fan and someone who was always impressed with Ansari’s dedication to open dialogue and communication (remembering that he published a book in 2015 titled Modern Romance: An Investigation which explored a seemingly never-ending buffet of options the digital world allows us when pursuing romantic options), and conversely, disappointed that it was this expert communication was sorely lacking (and serving as the catalyst) in that incident, I was deeply curious to see how – if at all – he would address the situation.

Over the course of an hour plus, Aziz Ansari takes the audience for an introspective journey down the highway of his life. Pit stops include the moral dilemma he feels about lying to his grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s (though her caretaker says it’s not only what is easiest, but best) and an update to the Ode(s) to R. Kelly that served as some of his most memorable and boisterous bits in his first two specials, Dangerously Delicious and Buried Alive. He candidly looks at the audience and laughs at himself in disbelief as he reflects on the current state of affairs.  “Those jokes did not age well,” Ansari says.   It is this sense of self-awareness that establishes Aziz as someone who is mature enough to recognize not only his faults, but the areas of growth that can come from them.  He remains hopeful.
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Via Aziz Ansari on Instagram: ROAD TO NOWHERE TOUR IS DONE! Thanks to everyone who came out to see the tour. I dedicated the special to all of you. It’s on @netflix July 9. Hope you like it.

Ansari encourages his audience to have conversations that go far beyond surface level in the hopes of facilitating change during this harsh political climate. He not-so-gently (yet appropriately and most warranted) encourages those who identify as activists to do so only because no one deserves to be marginalized or oppressed, and not because it could be used as a currency with which to raise social stature.  He quizzes the audience on a made-up controversy to see who will choose a side in this “battle” and implores people to think about their opinions before speaking out – especially falsely.  When he breaks the news that this so-called “pizza scandal” is a farce, Ansari points out the danger in quickly aligning ourselves to causes with only a goal to share and campaign for OUR opinions.

Aziz is able to point out privilege and the importance of social responsibility while keeping the audience in stitches.  However, when he brings up the incident, a hush falls over the room.  He recalls the last year of his life and the way in which his actions have been put on display and dissected, ultimately (and thankfully) forcing him to not only be more cognoscente of the way he makes people feel, but hopeful that this encourages others to be more thoughtful.  He says the Aziz people knew prior to the last year (think: treat yo’self, hyper-focused on the next project, next big thing) is no longer.  Who exists now is someone striving to be mindful in every moment, saying all his successes could be stripped away at any point in time (and that it was “scary” when that was seemingly his reality).
The result is assigning meaning to the present moment. Aziz uses a number of callbacks from throughout the night to illustrate the ideal: harking back to the conversation with Jasmine in the middle row; with the lady who fell for his fictitious Pizza Scandal; with the two gentlemen in cowboy hats who arrived 50 minutes late; with Matthew Brown – (who probably used an alias); with the girl who wore sunglasses inside for the first half of the show and met her boyfriend when he said what’s up to her in a club – all to demonstrate the idea that this moment and the people you share in this moment with mean all something.

This overarching idea of human growth and melding the chasm between not knowing and knowing serves as the foundation for Ansari’s act.  The material is all in preparation for his Netflix special slated to be released on July 9 titled Aziz Ansari: Right Now.  Because as he so thoughtfully pointed out, that’s all we truly have.


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