Aziz Ansari Wants to Know What Everyone Thinks of His New Netflix Stand-Up Special
The comedian reveals his strategy behind the taped, unscripted moments in 'Live at Madison Square Garden' in which he reads aloud an audience's text messages.
It was a Friday night in New York City, and Aziz Ansari was feeling good. His second Netflix stand-up special, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, had just dropped earlier that day, and the reviews were in.
"You know, I've been reading about it today, and it seems like people have been really into it," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the stand-up special's New York premiere, held at the Crosby Hotel, which drew celebrity guests Brooke Shields, Victor Cruz and Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi along with fellow Netflix stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) and Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black).
Perhaps unsurprisingly — the routine addresses the topic of needing to Google everything before leaving the house — Aziz was unabashed to admit he'd checked out what critics had to say about it online. "I read what people write about my stuff, yeah! Anybody who says they don't — they're totally lying."
On the surface, Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden — dedicated to the late Parks and Recreation co-executive producer Harris Wittels — deals with dark material. Topics up for discussion include misogyny, Internet cruelty, factory farming and how modern technology has destroyed our ability to truly connect with one another. But the routine's tone remains lighthearted. In one segment of the special, Ansari tackles the strange reality of modern dating, where relationships are forged via text. He invites a young woman, who has just started texting with a potential romantic interest a few weeks ago, onstage, whereupon he promptly reads their exchanges out loud.
It's a surreal, cringe-worthy, hilarious moment. Having done a similar segment at every show on his tour, Ansari is well-versed in the strange ways communication breaks down over text. "If you ask your friend what happened with him, and this person, they'll say, 'Oh, I said this, and she said that.' But when you look at the actual messages — the actual words — it's so different!" he told THR. "It's such a relatable thing that every single person has been through. We're all in the same boat; we've all been through that silliness."
Some of the most memorable moments from Aziz's routines come from these unscripted exchanges with the audience. (The Olive Garden proposal from his previous special, Buried Alive, is perhaps the routine's most buzzed about bit.)
"When you do those things, it's like … well, this is the one for the special; I hope it's good … because if it doesn't go well, or if it's not a great one, I'll have to do an encore, or do something after the show. But both times I've been really lucky with a person that I've chosen to talk to," he said. "It worked out really well. I'm happy with it."
Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden is now streaming on Netflix.