Aziz Ansari: Right Now

Aziz Ansari: Right Now ★½

Writing about this is going to be a little tough, because I haven't been an active Aziz Ansari fan for as long as he's been a prominent figure in entertainment. I have attempted to watch some of his his specials in the past, and his personality just didn't do it for me. However, I, like many others, found enjoyment in his performances in television and film. Parks and Rec and Master of None, I definitely enjoyed when I watched them. But I couldn't find enjoyment in his stand-up specials. Not that I thought they were bad, but the delivery and his brand of comedy didn't work for me.

So why did I watch Right Now? Probably for the reason you'd expect. I wanted to see how he would address his turbulent 2018. Seeing as this was his comeback comedy special, I figured there would be a legitimate attempt at saying something about the accusations. I believe what "Grace", the victim of the events described last January, described in her blog post. If I had any doubts, Aziz's response put them at ease. He did not deny anything, rather he wrote it off as a case of "miscommunication". Which, to me, reads as him saying "These events transpired, but I misunderstood her point of view." And in that lies the problem. The backlash that "Grace" received highlighted a problem that has been and continues to be an issue in relationships and hook-up culture: male expectation. Some invalidated her experience, saying it wasn't "that bad", some supported her.

Aziz opens the show by "discussing" these accusations. He offers no apology. He offers no sincere repentance for his actions. The actions that emotionally and psychologically affected someone in a very negative way. Instead, he briefly examines the negative feelings he experienced following the accusations. "I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I was scared... that she felt this way." Not at any point does he condemn his own actions, which would mean a lot, and it would definitely send a message to his fans with whom he has a reach. He still clearly has thousands of fans. He can still tour, he can still make money off of doing stand-up comedy. As a voice who, in the past, has been very supportive of "wokeness" and the Me Too movement specifically, this situation could turn into one that has a very positive outcome. One that teaches many, not one that preserves self-image. Because in my opinion, Aziz isn't beyond redemption or forgiveness. The Aziz situation highlights an ongoing problem that needs to be rectified; something that has been ingrained into gender and relationship politics. People make mistakes; Aziz made a mistake. But if he owned up to it and apologized for his wrongdoings and engaged in authentic sincerity and empathy, it could help reach an audience of people who support him regardless of the situation. And I'm not saying that Aziz is completely innocent and should simply do this because he needs to for the greater good. I'm saying he needs to apologize for his actions and stop thinking about only himself, and the fact that he's not doing so in a way that's public and in a way that's molded into "entertainment" is kind of harmful, and will continue to perpetuate the problem. The fact that he ends this hour with a short lecture in which the main thesis is "these accusations almost ruined my career, I'm going to start living in the moment because now I appreciate it more!" is kind of disgusting. And he borders on being self-congratulatory when discussing the accusations by addressing the fact that he thinks "men are going to start thinking about their relationships more". It feels completely mishandled to me.

And that's why the comedy in between these two moments ultimately fails, because it's framed in an inescapable context. He goes on to perform these exasperated diatribes about "woke culture" and call-out culture, which feels like an obvious diversion. Now Aziz has some points, there are one or two sparse moments of genuine insight. But they're short-lived, and the rest of his talking points about the social culture of the past few years feel like "yeah, just change it up a bit so it doesn't look obvious that you copied my homework" Twitter fodder. Does Aziz have good points? Yes. Are these points original or insightful? No. Does Aziz find comedy in this things? A little bit. Aziz has never been my favorite comedian, so that might just be me. But there is some clever humor scattered throughout. But ultimately, Right Now didn't work for me. It worked for a lot of other people, though. So what do I know?

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