Review: Aziz Ansari

From Steve Bennett at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival

Aziz Ansari is a smart comic, in both senses of the world, possessing a sharp suit and a sharp mind, which brings a freshness to the age-old topics he discusses.

He’s 29, but you won’t find him in the clubs or bars – a culture he has an obvious disdain for, which he describes in well-observed detail. But despite that apparently old head on his shoulders, he’s certainly not ready to sacrifice his freedom and settle down and having children.

These concerns lay heavy on his mind, like they do for so many of his generation, and he’s certainly not the first comedian to publicly mull these life choices. But he largely ponders the options with a novelty and inventiveness sometimes lacking in such topics – although he sometimes slips into the hackneyed.

In one brilliant routine, he makes marriage sound very creepy, just by explaining, entirely truthfully, what it entails. But he also over-uses another analogy, saying that committing to one woman for life is variously like committing to one sweater, one taco stall, or one bedroom poster for life – the same, pretty obvious, idea just rephrased three different ways.

He goes on talks about arranged marriages, virtually the only time he acknowledges his Indian heritage, as the ethnic card is one he doe not like to play. This is all part of a wider routine about how people get together – from the random sequence of events that can culminate in a chance romantic encounter to the no-nonsense directness of Grindr, the mobile app for finding gay partners nearby.

A star of the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, Ansari has an assured delivery, bordering on the cocky but never alienating. His performance skills are such that he can even have the audience sympathising with a lonesome paedophile – which is quite some feat.

Buried Alive is a strictly structured show, with very little that doesn’t stick to the key theme of marriage and children, although he occasionally takes diversions – and in one memorable example, even coins a previously unobserved racial stereotype, which has more than a kernel of truth to it. But it’s celebratory rather than mocking in tone.

There’s also an encore about a meeting with Seal, in which Ansari again slips into the bad habit of over-egging a simple joke by over-repetition, mainly because he seems to like singing the soul man’s songs and feels he’s earned the right to indulge himself.

Before that Ansari concludes the main part of the show by arguing that modern men are so slobbish and crude that one only needs be vaguely polite and well-turned out to be a real catch. He is certainly more than that – especially when you can add charm and eloquent, entertaining conversation to the mix, too.

Published: 28 Jul 2012

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