Aziz Ansari, a star on NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation,” is a Southern boy at heart, raised in Columbia, S.C.
During his most recent “Deliciously Dangerous” stand-up special, Ansari said when friends outside the South find out where he’s from, they take pity on him, thinking he suffered racism as an Indian American in a city without many Indian Americans.
“What these people forget is the food there is delicious,” Ansari said. “So growing up in South Carolina is kind of like, ‘Oh that guy said the n word. Oh, fried chicken and biscuits. Never mind!’ … I hate racism but, I love a good biscuit!”
Ansari brings his quirky, good-natured humor to the Tabernacle for two shows June 20.
The “Deliciously Dangerous” special, which does happen to feature a lot of food-related humor, was released in March on his website www.azizansari.com for $5. He was basically copying a new business model developed recently by fellow comic Louis C.K. Instead of a TV network commissioning a special, Ansari paid a production company upfront to tape the special, then recouped his costs via Web purchases.
Ansari said he made a profit and may do it again this way. But he doesn’t pooh-pooh the old-school reach of television. He sold the rights to an edited, shortened version of the special to Comedy Central, which aired it on May 20.
“I think some people get in this bubble and think everyone’s downloading stuff now and watching Netflix,” he said. “But way more people still watch TV. Louis C.K. sold 200,000 downloads in 12 days. On Comedy Central, he was able to reach 1 to 2 million people.”
And thanks to a recent American Express ad in which Ansari goofs around with a kayak paddle, his profile has increased significantly.
“I was touring somewhere eating by myself and there’s me on TV being silly. It’s crazy how much they air that commercial,” he said.
Ansari appreciated that American Express let him create the commercial with very loose parameters. He said he used the same writers from his 2010 MTV Movie Awards hosting gig. “The kayaking bit was actually only a small part of what we did for a full-minute commercial. We shot at all these different locations,” he said. “But most people end up seeing the 30 seconds of me waving a kayak paddle.”
And go figure: Ansari has never kayaked. “I’m a workaholic,” he said. “I don’t take a lot of vacations. I love touring. When I have time off, I just lay low. I’m not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.”
Ansari said his upcoming visit to Atlanta will be brief, but he was just here a few months ago to visit his brother Aniz, who recently graduated from SCAD. “Had a great burger at Holeman & Finch,” he said.
7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Wednesday, June 20.
$51.50 after fees. The Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.livenation.com
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk