87. Aziz Ansari

Comedian of Actor, How To Succeed In Show Business

Aziz Ansari has mastered a one-note joke--the cocky, dense doofus he plays on Parks and Recreation. But behind that is a 29-year-old who's been performing for a decade, busy filming TV and movie roles, and preparing for his third national comedy tour. "I've always heard that when you hit 10 years you start figuring some things out," he says, "and I'm definitely experiencing that."

FC: Where do you pull influences for your stand-up?
Ansari:
It's whatever's going on in my life. I turned 29 this year, and it has been a pivotal age. A lot of my friends are starting to get married and have children, and for me, that seems so insane. In my act, I talk about the oncoming train of life. I was talking to a married friend recently and asked if he was going to have kids. He said, "Yeah, probably in a couple years," and I was like, "You still have a wallet chain. You can't have a wallet chain and a baby."

Do you look at someone like Donald Glover--an established comic-actor who spun off a separate music career as Childish Gambino--and see yourself trying something different like that?
I'm very creatively fulfilled by stand-up and acting, but I'm trying to put more time into developing some movie ideas. It can be hard to find movie roles if you're a comedy actor. Look at how few good comedies come out in a year. Then it's, "Is there a part in that movie that's right for me at all?" And if there is, do the people making that movie want me to be in it? That's why I'm aggressively developing my own stuff--so I can write it in a way I think is funny, work with people I like, and make something that fits me.

How are you feeling about the chances of getting some of those film projects produced?
The thing I don't think people realize about movies is that they take a long time. Bridesmaids took five years to figure out--Judd Apatow thought Kristin Wiig did a good job with her small part in Knocked Up and asked her to come up with some ideas. Then they developed Bridesmaids. The same thing happened after I worked with Judd in Funny People; we've been working together trying to figure out some ideas. I just want to produce one movie that makes a mark--like Will Ferrell with Anchorman, or Judd and Steve Carell with The 40-Year-Old Virgin--so no matter what happens, I can say, "That really captured my voice. That's the kind of comedy I was trying to do."

Timeline

  • 2006

    Wins Jury Award for "Best Standup" at US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen; appears in his first feature film as a supporting character in School for Scoundrels

  • 2007

    His sketch group, Human Giant, gets its own show on MTV

  • 2008

    Goes on his first solo national comedy tour, the Glow in the Dark Tour.

  • 2009

    Parks and Recreation debuts

  • 2010

    Releases his first comedy album, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening; hosts the MTV Movie Awards; goes on his second national comedy tour, Dangerously Delicious

  • 2011

    Stars in his first movie, 30 Minutes or Less

  • 2012

    Sets out on third national tour, Buried Alive

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