In his first two stand-up specials, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening and Dangerously Delicious, Aziz Ansari includes his views on what it’s like to attend R. Kelly concerts and do private shows for Kanye West. But the Parks and Recreation star recently turned 30, and on his new special Buried Alive (arriving on Netflix tomorrow), he turns his comedic lens on deeper subjects, like love, relationships, marriage and parenting. Gone are the ho-hum observations on life; while continuing to deliver hour-plus sets full of punchlines, it feels more like social commentary rather than commentary on what it’s like to be social. But old Aziz fans shouldn’t fret – he still manges to slip in jokes about his younger self being molested and the notion of Xzibit raising a busload of babies. Rolling Stone spoke with Ansari about his new found maturation, dating in a social media world, what Kim and Kanye’s wedding will be like and much more.
Buried Alive shows a more mature side of you. Do you feel more mature these days?
[Pauses.] I feel like the new special, it’s just me talking about different things than I’ve talked about in the past. Whereas the last specials were about random funny things – “I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and I’m gonna buy sheets and this silly thing happened,” or, “I went to Coldstone Creamery, that’s a crazy place” – this is like, “Holy shit, what if you never meet the person you’re supposed to meet and have to die alone?” [Laughs.] It’s deeper, and I think that was brought upon by the fact that I’m getting older and seeing friends get married and have children and realizing that, “Oh, fuck, I’m an adult. I’m not gonna be dead soon, and I’m not old, but I’m getting older and this is my life.”
Why do you think it’s harder for people to grow up now?
It’s a way different era. It used to be you’d finish school and you would get married right away. Now people find their careers and there’s this kind of single period that never existed before. It didn’t exist until 50 years ago – the variety of different things, women entering the – all this stuff has changed the way we go about finding a mate. This is based on random shit I’ve read; I’m not speaking out of my butt.
Buried Alive tackles a lot of ground in regards to relationships, but you rarely talk about your own. Why?
I’m not a big relationship guy at the moment. I was single most of the time I was writing that stuff. It was more about being a guy observing all these other people going down the path of settling down, where I’m still a guy who’s not pursuing serious relationships. I’ve written my next special, and that’s more about my struggles being a single person and dealing with people in this era.
One of the things you bring up is the phenomenon of men sending women “dick pics.”
That’s so interesting to me. When I first started asking that question to audiences, “How many women have ever received a dick photo?” What would you think? maybe 30 percent? 20 percent? It was 80 percent! It’s stunning! hat’s happening to that many women! What a horrible comment on our society.
So has social media ruined dating?
Well, there’s good and bad. The good is like, okay, you casually meet someone at a party, you didn’t get their phone number, and then you go on Facebook and they’re a friend of your friend, and then that person could be the person you end up spending the rest of your life with. So there’s that. But the other side is all the other shit. I guess the question is – is it more good or more bad? The good is very obvious; the bad is a deeper problem that’s harder to get a hold on. In the past, when someone asks someone out, they would have to call them, and the guy would have to work up his bravery and the woman would feel very special. That’s what I gathered from talking to older women. And now what happens is, guys can send you a text message, they can send you a message on Facebook, and there’s all these different outlets for someone to make romantic advances towards you. And bravery isn’t required. So you take it for granted and it’s not much of a special thing. The reason we’re becoming shittier to each other – what my new special is about – is because we’re not treating people like people, we’re treating them like bubbles on our phone. It’s hard to be empathetic and think about your actions when you’re dealing with a bubble.
And does it bug you when people are texting during your set? Does that ever happen?
It doesn’t happen a lot. There’s always announcements and stuff about no photos and all that shit. But I wish when people went to shows, they would treat them like they’re going to a play. Like whenever people go see comedians, or someone famous drops in at a comedy show, all these phones go out and people start taking photos and video. But my audience is people who don’t really yell shit or anything anymore. I’ve found a way to curb all that stuff. But I see other comedians and they have to deal with it, or you read these stories about Chappelle doing his show and people just yelling shit. It just bums me out. Standup is such an amazing art form, a very unique, beautiful art form. It should be respected.
How long does it take you to craft a set that’s like we see on Buried Alive?
It’s anywhere from six to eight months, maybe longer, to write all the material. I’ll start dropping in clubs in New York and L.A. to work on new ideas. You start getting some material and you have five or 10 minutes, and then that eventually gets filled up to 15 or 20. Once you have 45, I start doing shows at smaller theaters, where I try to do the whole set and make sure it’s not boring and that it works thematically.
What’s in store for Tom on Parks and Recreation?
There’s another episode with Tatiana Maslany which is really fun. Tom’s just kind of figuring out his next thing after Rent-A-Swag. That’s what it’s about. I think that we haven’t quite decided what it’s going to be, but I think it’s going to be interesting.
Please tell me what Kim and Kanye’s wedding is gonna be like.
I have no idea. I’m sure it’ll be amazing. I mean, his stage shows, I haven’t been to that Yeezus show, but man, it looks fucking incredible, so I can only imagine how beautiful his wedding would be.