Aziz Ansari is one of my favorite comedians. He’s had some standup specials (i.e. Dangerously Delicious) that are so spot-on. As an American of Indian descent, he’s hitting a comedy niche of second-generation non-white Americans so hard it’s incredible. But he’s not just hitting that niche: he’s expanded his comedy to be relatable to everyone, to further conversations about double standards for women, and to reflect a new progressive attitude that wouldn’t have been rewarded in comedy 15 years ago. By mixing political with personal and good old fashioned hilarity, he showcases versatility in his comedy that he defies boxes and genres and niche audiences.
So I’m really excited about this: he’s coming out with a Netflix show!!! And his real-life parents play his parents on the show! And it’s smart. He’s incredibly savvy, fresh, and authentic in his take on where we’re at today as a country, in relation to xenophobia, ethnic stereotyping, even agism and sexism.
If comedians like him can make it, that disproves every bitter straight white male comedian who gets away with saying racist, sexist, classist, ageist, homophobic stuff because he “hates everyone equally”. No, white straight male privilege is still white straight male privilege. Attacking a bunch of minorities doesn’t make you an equal-opportunity hater. South Park somehow gets away with this by parodying that humor through the lens of little kids: it becomes farce. I’m not a fan of the show though because it’s still humor focusing on how to keep hating and tokenizing people rather than talking about how ridiculous this hatred and tokenization is. But nonetheless, it was a thing in the 90s and at the time, THAT was progressive.
And it made it REALLY hard for non-white-straight-male comedians to succeed because in ordre to do so they had to define themselves in opposition to that culture. They had to beat everyone to the punch: “Yes, I know I’m [ethnicity/race/sexuality/other distinguishing characteristic] and here are all the stereotypes I embody.” That eventually evolved into: “Yes, I know I’m [ethnicity/race/sexuality/other distinguishing characteristic] and here are the stereotypes I don’t embody.” They were combatting the stereotypes but still, by necessity, focusing on it.
So now I feel like we’ve evolved as a culture, enough to allow outspoken comedians of all types find success on stage. Ansari found success not only in pointing out, in very smart ways, the ridiculousness of his experiences in a white society, but also the ridiculousness of how women are treated, of modern dating, of hip hop culture, of everything else. His part on Parks and Rec (one of THE BEST comedy shows, up there with 30 rock and Happy Endings, in my correct opinion) was so wonderfully done, playing off the actor’s real life. I love Tom Haverford.
What really gets me excited about all these shows is that I no longer feel like I have to be a buzzkill because I “can’t take a joke”. At the beginning of my coming out process my oldest brother said, about something we were watchign on TV: “no offense, but that’s really gay.” I had been conditioned my whole life to laugh at jokes about women and gayness and nerds and jews, plus racist classist xenophobic etc… and in that moment I laughed along. But it’s not funny anymore, nobody would miss those jokes if they were never made again, and now that there’s a whole new repertoire of comedy to choose from that’s funny smart AND doesn’t leave anyone at the butt of the jokes (and BRINGS diverse people in on the jokes that would normally be made at their expense to show just how unoriginal those jokes actually are), the world is so much FUNNIER.
You know what it really feels like though? It feels like finally, the bullies aren’t the popular kids. It feels like we don’t need to get in on that bullying in order to be in step with the zeitgeist. Because of diversity. Diversity did that. Diversity makes the world better, and that’s that.
Here is the trailer for Ansari’s new show: