Monday, January 11, 2010

On DVD: "Aziz Ansari- Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening"

There aren’t a lot of comics who can spin a funny bit out fraudulent thread counts in sheets, or use a Mighty Ducks 2 reference to land a killer punchline. But Aziz Ansari can pull it off. Familiar to TV viewers from his supporting work on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Azari’s first stand-up special, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, is a little dodgy at first—the comic seems nervous, speeding through a bit, his pace a touch off. But he ultimately finds his groove, aided to no small degree by the enthusiastic response of his warm audience.

Ansari first came to national prominence as a cast member of the MTV sketch series Human Giant, and that show’s offbeat sensibility permeates his act; he’s a goofy surrealist who likes to play with structure and undermine expectations. He wields non-sequiturs like weapons (at one point, he mouths the horrifying line “I’m just sayin’, I coulda fucked that kid,” and it’s one of the biggest laughs in the show) and tosses off pop culture references with varying degrees of obscurity--he talks about Facebook and Craigslist, but also about Cold Stone Creamery, Willow, and MTV’s Next. Of the latter, he notes “Some of the shows on the network [MTV] are not my cup of tea… mainly because I don’t like huge pieces of shit in my tea.”

Once Ansari gets rolling, his timing is sharp and his delivery is punchy; the material is occasionally weak, but his wide-eyed intonations and skillful inflections helps sell some of the weaker jokes. Towards the end of the 55-minute special, he talks gleefully about his burgeoning semi-celebrity, which has led to uproarious encounters with Kanye West, Jay-Z, and R. Kelly (“a brilliant R&B singer-slash-crazy person”), and the sheer joy of hanging out with his heroes is infectious.

For the encore, Ansari takes on the persona of Randy, the unfunny stand-up he portrayed (briefly) in Judd Apatow’s Funny People, explaining to the audience that he wanted to do the kind of special Randy would do. The result is a terrific parody of the excesses of 90s stand-up, as Randy is brought out on stage by a DJ and hip-hop dancers, prancing around the stage and “making it rain” before spouting ten or so minutes of bad sex material and faux toughness (“You ‘bout to get dealt with”). It’s a hilarious wrap-up to a solid stand-up spotlight.

His material is slightly hit-and-miss and his nerves sometimes show, but Aziz Ansari is a likable, intelligent comic. Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening (the title is almost as funny as the cover) is a consistently funny hour, and Ansari remains a comic presence worth keeping an eye on.

"Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening" hits DVD on Tuesday, January 19th.

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