Yr Blues: The age of Aziz

March 18, 2010

It’s still pretty early in 2010 to start making bold assertions about any purported albums of the year, so brace yourself for this one: Aziz Ansari has already released the best comedy album of 2010 with Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening. It’s not only the best of 2010, it’s the best comedy record I’ve heard since Mitch Hedberg’s 2003 classic Mitch All Together. And in case Ansari wasn’t making enough waves with his stand-up act, his RAAAAAAAANDY rap mixtape, co-produced by TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, is poised to become a ubiquitous dorm-room staple.

If you’re confused about the eight “A’s” you see above, don’t fret. Randy (abbr.) is a character Ansari created for the movie Funny People and has since adapted for use in his standup routine. As Ansari’s vulgar alter-ego, Randy allows him to make smutty jokes that would otherwise seem more off-color than funny—contemplating oral sex in an igloo, how epic it would be to die from an “underwater cunnilingus accident,” you get the idea.

Success has come quickly for Ansari, despite the fact that he’s still a relative newcomer to comedy. He started doing stand-up in 2004, got his first break with the MTV sketch-comedy show Human Giant in 2005, and has since gone on to star as Tom Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreation. A six-year rise from stand-up to stardom would have nearly impossible 20 years ago, but Internet success, coupled with his now-classic “Shittiest Mixtape Boombox Blast” from 2005, accelerated his ascent.

What sets Ansari apart from slew of other talented comedians, however, is the integral role that he gives celebrities—particularly musicians—in his routines. In Sensual Evening, he tells extensive stories about R. Kelly and Kanye West (with whom he has developed quite the rapport), and references other artists from M.I.A. to Modest Mouse. He’s clearly making fun of them in certain respects, but there is also a detectable sense of gushing admiration, even within the absurd world of fame and show business. In a way, he’s a glorified fanboy, and through his fandom he acquires a unique ability to hone in on specific, hilarious aspects of celebrity.

This hilarity shines through in “AAAAAAAANGRY,” the first single off the Randy Mixtape. The track is an impeccable tirade against a laundry list of popular rappers, berating them for not turning in “their verses” on time. He calls out Mos Def for failing to release a timely Black Star follow-up, Clipse for how much they rap about slinging cocaine, and Dr. Dre for selling headphones rather than making music (“Beats by Dr. Dre headphones? What about some Verses by Dr. Dre verses?”). Such procrastination, delayed release dates, and merchandising are obvious, chronic conditions of the rap world, but it’s Ansari’s the right-on-the-money digs that give the whole routine legs.

In a way, Ansari is the new, harder-working Fred Armisen. His jokes aren’t cheap like “Weird Al” Yankovich’s and don’t rely on impressions like Jimmy Fallon’s. He isn’t (constantly) flirting with the offensive, like Bo Burnham, or with stupidity, like Stephen Lynch. Unlike his peers, he doesn’t need music to punctuate his jokes, but instead uses his routines to pinpoint the music culture’s absurdity. Maybe it’s just the man-crush talking, but I think we’ve found ourselves a game-changer here, folks.

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