Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian | New Netflix special reviewed © Netflix
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Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian

New Netflix special reviewed

Aziz Ansari’s Nightclub Comedian is Netflix’s first stand-up special of 2022. But at under half an hour, and casually filmed in New York’s intimate Comedy Cellar, rather than a glitzy theatre, it doesn’t feel very, well, special.

That is largely the point. Ansari seems keen to underline his authenticity as a comic who just wants to write his jokes and perform them at an intimate club. He wants us to know he’s no Kevin Hart monetising every waking moment. Nor does he want any special treatment from the door staff checking Covid passes. He even has an old-school flip phone to keep his life simple.

All these statements feed into the narrative across this set, which essentially describes how we have become slaves to social media: insatiably demanding content, more concerned  with celebrity trivia than human suffering, and forced into warring tribes by malevolent algorithms.

Instead, he argues, we should figure out a way to have some empathy across the liberal-conservative divide, which we’ll find from communicating in real life, not merely within our echo-chamber bubbles.

None of this should come as a huge surprise to anyone making Ansari’s commentary a but less insightful and significant than he frames it. Again, not so very special – but he succinctly ties the strands, which he illustrates with witty stories told with an artisan’s skill.

Covid is his launchpad, and he acknowledges that mocking anti-vax sportsmen not known for their intellectual prowess is like shooting fish in a barrel. ‘I don’t think he’s an idiot,’ he says of NFL player Aaron Rodgers, just that he’s ‘trapped in a different algorithm than you are.’

Despite that, the comic still freely mocks the unscientific mindset - for it may be cheap but it is funny –  not least in a fine routine about Ice Cube. It pays off with a nice subversion of Ansari’s own use of preconceptions, taking the bit into an unexpected direction.

Ultimately Ansari – who now lives in London, he reveals – tries to be idealistic. He culminates in a plea for America to rediscover the energy and enthusiasm that rose up against  Trump, that ultimate creator of harmful online content, rather than following the latest tribal social mores obsessing about what Timothée Chalamet might be up to. There may be good reason for him to suggest this, after he was put through the social media mill after a date anonymously accused accused him of misconduct back in 2018.

So while Nightclub Comedians hopes to convey optimistic message that we can change, the takeaway tone is one of cynicism that we never will.

Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian was released on Netflix today.

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Review date: 26 Jan 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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