Aziz Ansari's Netflix Show 'Master of None' Will Build on His Stand-Up

Mike Schur Aziz Ansari - H 2014
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Mike Schur Aziz Ansari - H 2014

Aziz Ansari will be playing a version of himself on his upcoming Netflix scripted comedy series Master of None — but it will take his stand-up comedy an (emotional) step further.

The Parks and Recreation alum will return to the small screen Nov. 6 with Master of None, a show based on the professional life of Dev (Ansari), a 30-year-old actor in New York who has trouble deciding what he wants to eat, much less the path for the rest of his life. Dev's story takes him through subjects as diverse as the plight of the elderly, the immigrant experience and how to find the most delicious pasta for dinner.

The Universal Television series was created by Ansari and Parks alum Alan Yang. Both exec produce alongside Parks showrunner Mike Schur, with Dave Becky and David Miner also on board. Yang serves as showrunner on Master of None.

The comedy is partially inspired by Ansari's stand-up comedy and book, but goes deeper into some subjects and touches on others for the first time. "The show is definitely not a relationship show," Ansari told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

Anzari noted that he first comes up with the topics he's interested in exploring and then builds on them for the show — a different approach from his stand-up material. "You can explore them in a different way with a TV show," Ansari said. Yang added that while stand-up is a monologue, the show will explore empathy and other emotions in a more nuanced fashion.

The prolific comedian/author/actor cited an upcoming episode about parents, which was part of a bit he did during his stand-up act. In the show, he was able to engage with the material "in a way that I couldn’t have done with stand-up."

"We saw this as a huge opportunity … we pushed ourselves to make stuff we were proud of and interesting stories we couldn't tell elsewhere," Ansari said, noting Dev isn't exactly like him. "This is the first thing I've done where acting-wise it's felt as personal as stand-up. Parks, I played Tom … and it's not really related to me and my life — though I love the show. This is dumping my head and my heart out into the show. It's the first opportunity I've had to do something like that, and I'm glad I've had these guys on board to make sure I didn't f— it up."

Ansari also told reporters that it was important to not play himself on the series — hence his character's name of Dev. "I didn't want to be a comedian. It's different if the guy isn't recognizable. … He has a lot of the same thoughts and worries — it's like in Woody Allen movies, it's the same f—ing guy."

The series boasts an impressive ensemble cast — including Jon Benjamin (Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer reboot, Bob's Burgers), Lena Waithe (The Comeback), Eric Wareheim (Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), Noel Wells (SNL) and Kelvin Yu (writer for Bob's Burgers) — though they may not appear in every episode. (Footage screened at TCA — which is not being released just yet — also revealed Claire Danes (Homeland) would guest star as a potential love interest for Dev, with Noah Emmerich (The Americans) also set to appear.

Ansari said the stories the writers are telling — driven by Dev's point of view — determine which characters appear when, with none of the characters required to be in every episodes. Yang also said the show is a light sterilization that will explore Dev's career. The decision to make Dev an actor, Ansari and Yang said, will draw from their experience being on sets. Dev will film a movie during the course of the season but it's "not about him being an actor," Ansari said, noting that producers drew from the world they were all familiar with rather than putting the character in an office building.

The character, Yang said, is "not completely stunted" but is having a challenging time making decisions. "He's doing OK but he's still about to be ready to make some big decisions. … He's more established than other shows where characters are truly lost, but he's still rather unsettled."

As for the title, Ansari said the process took "months" to come up with and he and Yang didn't ultimately agree on Master of None until production on all the episodes had been completed.