In 30 seconds, Aziz Ansari has recreated Twitter in front of a theater audience. He reminded the crowd of the social media scandal: Domino's pepperoni pizza looked like a swastika and looked like a pizza, turning his boss into an instant pariah. He asked audience members to raise their hands if they had seen a swastika and, if they had not done so, some kind of outrageous Rorschach test. He asked a man where he had met the picture for the first time. The guy said that he had seen it in * The Washington Post. Spoiler: He did not do it. No one had it. Because the swastika pizza never existed. Ansari invented it.
Ansari, he said, did not want to humiliate his audience of posers, although he probably did. It was to prove that, for now – this is not yet the name of this new Netflix special show – people need to form an opinion about everything, even about things that they do not know, to feel valid. He even came looking for the cautious people who refrained from raising their hand, claiming that he knew that each of them was more worried about missing a viral moment than the fate of the cross-pizza chef. swastika. He had a big laugh, so he may have been right. heckI thought about it. This is relevant.
Now would be a lot easier to deal with if it was not, just like Aziz Ansari, a human swastika pizza. Last year, Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman who had an appointment with her, causing a violent but somewhat confusing reaction against the comedian. This was one of the most ambiguous moments of # MeToo. The accusations of this woman, published anonymously on a now-defunct website, sounded like some kind of dubious gardening for some and predation for others. It's impossible to talk about Now not to mention the scandal, and indeed, Ansari makes his brush with the culture of indignation the backbone of the decor, providing scaffolding for all its most important moments, the good and the bad.
It starts badly. Ansari opens the show with an anecdote about being confused with comedian Hasan Minhaj, who culminates in the fact that he jokes that the scandal of sexual misconduct had in fact been too that of Minhaj. Then the camera takes all his face and his voice goes from Spongebob squealing to a serious register with more fries than a dinner hosted by Paula Dean. He whispers how badly he feels and tells the story of a fan saying that Ansari's situation had made them rethink every date they had before. He hopes that means he helps people. Applause. It's a better attempt at #MeToo's redemption arc than Louis CK, who, like his genitals, tends to appear without public consent and without excuses. It's better than Charlie Rose's speech for a TV show where he interviews other men accused of sexual misconduct. Boy is this low bar.
Emma Gray Ellis covers the same, trolls and other elements of the Internet culture for WIRED.
The best elements concern performative awakening, which Ansari was both a beneficiary and a victim. He discusses the anxieties, the seriousness and the arrogance of the big, progressive white contest for Instagram that other white progressives love so much, that even I, alone in my office and still handing over this joke to Hasan Minaj I laughed loudly. His sending of people who browse old tweets, movies and TV series looking for inevitable signs of moral impurity is just as keen. Ansari understands public opinion that his career will live and die inside – his luck, his spirit, his selfish cruelty.
He does not understand the social movements that give meaning to this maelstrom, not with regard to their own scandal. He remains long on the legacy of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. Above all, he speaks of the public's luck that the proof of their allegiance to these fallen characters has no public value. (Ansari talked about Kelly on all of his specials.) He talks about the public interest in documentaries about the alleged victims of Kelly and Jackson as if this interest was frightening. He talks about the annoyance of wanting to play Michael Jackson at weddings but fearing to be judged. It does not mention #MeToo.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that he speaks for himself, how unfair it is that his past and his private life are subject to public scrutiny, and that it is terrible for people to intervene. without knowing the facts. But the impression that he gives is less a clever implication and more an unthinking escape. When Ansari reminds us of her old jokes by R. Kelly, it is not a question of thinking about Kelly's scandal or the question of art versus artist. It is to wonder if these jokes have aged badly. That his comedy and him seem worse. For Ansari, the stakes of the scandal are always and only personal – an argument that raises so effectively when embarrassing the audience in a bit of the swastika. Having the opportunity to apply these lessons to himself, he slips through his fingers like a piece of pepperoni.
At the end of the set, after a few distractions about his girlfriend, the gender disparities in birth control, and the terrible ways we treat our parents, Ansari returns to his scandal and his soft, low voice. He says that he is now grateful to the public and that when his career was at its lowest, he felt like he was dying. He invites the viewer to see him reborn. We do not know who benefits most from this rebirth: Ansari or his audience.
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