Aziz Ansari’s New Special Addresses Sexual Misconduct Allegations
“Old Aziz is Dead”
July 10th, 2019 – Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix special unpacks a lot of material “with 2019 eyes,” including the sexual misconduct allegations brought against him in early 2018. Right Now, the Spike Jonze-directed standup act, doesn’t waste any time in getting to the comic’s take on the “Me Too” elephant in the room.
In the lead-up to this special, Ansari addressed the scandal at pop-up shows across the country. He dove into the topic light-heartedly toward the top of his previous shows — quipping about being mistaken for fellow comic Hasan Minhaj.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Master of None!‘ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Parks and Rec!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Treat yourself!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘And you had the whole thing come out last year — sexual misconduct?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, that was Hasan!”
This time around, Ansari placed the acknowledgement at the top and delivered it with a much more serious tone.
“I’m sure that some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation,” he began. “And, uh, it’s a tricky thing for me to answer, ‘cause I’ve felt so many things in the last year, so. There’s times I’ve felt scared. There’s times I’ve felt humiliated. There’s times I’ve felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way. And after a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward. It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot. I hope I become a better person. And I always think about a conversation I had with one of my friends where he was like, ‘You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I’ve ever been on.’ And I thought, Wow. Well, that’s pretty incredible. It’s made not just me but other people be more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing. And that’s how I feel about it. And I know this isn’t the most hilarious way to begin a comedy show. But it’s important to me that you know how I feel about that whole thing before we share this night together. Well, that was pretty intense. What else should we talk about?”
The person he’s referring to is a then-23-year-old woman identified as “Grace” in an article published by Babe.net. The story accused Ansari of sexual misconduct after a date with a woman who says she gave both verbal and non-verbal clues of her discomfort.
The article also published text messages between the two where Ansari expresses remorse by telling Grace “I’m so sad to hear this. All I can say is, it would never be my intention to make you or anyone feel the way you described. Clearly I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
In the year and a half since the allegation, Ansari has kept relatively quiet on the matter but conversations surrounding comebacks of comedians accused in the Me Too era have only increased. With promotion of his comeback, people have been divided on Ansari’s return to the stage.
Wait, WHEN did we decide Aziz Ansari was forgiven and allowed to carry on? Did I miss that??— Jonathan Ho (@_jbho_) July 9, 2019
Where is the Netflix special for the women whose careers were cut short because of harassment they received from powerful men in the comedy world? Oh— molly (@isteintraum) July 9, 2019
I’m still actually confused on why people are mad at aziz ansari???? He did nothing without consent and shouldn’t be included in the me too movement AT ALL— mommiana🌸 (@bishoptri) July 9, 2019
i do think it’s a necessary and nuanced conversation, and he could be handling it worse, but i’d really like some reflection on the conflict between his pre-babe dot net performative feminism and “the whole thing”.— Rachel McCarthy James (@rmccarthyjames) July 9, 2019
The special was released Wednesday and will likely spur on additional conversations about who gets redemption in the comedy world and how they must go about earning it. It has also gotten people talking about the debate of cultural warriors with Ansari joking about the new woeness of white people when it comes to condemning Apu on The Simpsons and rushing in droves to see Crazy Rich Asians.
“Yeah, Candice. I am aware of it,” he joked referencing white people bringing up the Simpsons controversy as if it were a new problem. “I saw it 30 years ago. It’s a white guy doing an Indian voice. I appreciate the support, but things don’t just become racist when white people figure it out.“
My new standup special Aziz Ansari: Right Now starts streaming on @netflix tomorrow. Here’s a clip: https://t.co/xDVJqgQWQS (cc: @netflixisajoke)— Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) July 8, 2019
Ansari clearly hasn’t come to the end of his comedy career, but when he wraps up a show he now says “thank you” to the crowd with more sincerity after realizing how close he came to an end.
“…it means the world to me, ’cause I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do this again, and it almost felt like I’d died. In a way, I did. That old Aziz who said, ‘Oh, treat yo’ self,’ whatever, he’s dead. But I’m glad, ’cause that guy was always looking forward to whatever was next…I’ve realized it’s all ephemeral. All that stuff, it can just go away like this. [Snaps fingers.] And all we really have is the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.”