What's Aziz Ansari angry about on this tour? The answer is “not much.”
On his latest tour, Aziz Ansari Live! — at the Wiltern last night, and at the Orpheum October 2 and 3 — the prolific comedian and actor seemed far more patient and tolerant than in his previous tours, Buried Alive (2013) and Dangerously Delicious (2010-12), though not at all less funny.
His 75-minute set still included much screaming (including a hilarious Ja Rule impression). And he did invite anyone using a mobile phone during the show to do so outside and then get hit by a bus and die. But otherwise the typically aggressive comic presented a slightly softer, gentler side last night. And the at-capacity crowd of young, attractive Angelenos howled in return.
Couched inside great jokes about how much easier life is for him than it was for his Indian-immigrant parents was a thoughtful and heartfelt appreciation for the sacrifices his parents made. A rant about meat being tastier than vegetables was complicated by details about the horrifying reality of industrial meat farms. And almost 20 minutes of the show was dedicated to feminism. This was the point when I popped outside the theater to google something and two things happened: 1) I was not hit by a bus, and 2) I discovered that Aziz Ansari is in love.
Later in the show, he discussed his relationship and, with romantic candor, the effects of feeling loved. Perhaps one of those effects is the slight softening apparent in his stage performance. Or perhaps both are simply part and parcel of growing into a delayed adulthood (Ansari is 31). Either way, his material last night carried an increased depth and complexity, and was even funnier for it.
The best part of the show was the discussion of feminism — perhaps I'm biased, but then again, the laughs I heard weren't all in the higher trebles. He discussed at length the female experience of being hit on by men, being followed by “creepy dudes,” and being on any kind of stage (“If you're a dude, never yell 'Take it off!', unless she has put a tarantula on your shoulder.”). He even took on the f-bomb itself, reciting the definition of feminist — as someone who believes the sexes should be equal — and then expressing utter confusion as to why anyone would deny being one. He imagines a doctor who say he treats skin issues but then adds, “Oh no, I'm not a dermatologist, that's too strong a word.”
Undeniably, this makes Ansari a front runner in recent feminist efforts to convince men that feminism also helps them and to woo them into the battle, a call most visibly made by Emma Watson at the U.N. earlier this month. Of course, it's possible that isn't his intention. First and foremost, the jokes are hilarious, thoughtful, and totally relatable — for both men and women.
There were also plenty of Ansari hallmarks, including ribald sexual material. But if anyone came just to watch him explode violent fake jizz bombs all over the stage — which, don't worry, he will — they won't walk away thinking he also supports doing that in real life to girls. Other hallmarks he revisited: the perils and frustrations of dating and relationships, especially in the Information Age. Even being in love can't make those vanish.
Jane Borden on Twitter:
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter: