Interview: Aziz Ansari is on the fly

Jet setter
By MIKE MILIARD  |  May 9, 2012

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It's been a good few months for Aziz Ansari. In March, he released his stand-up special, Dangerously Delicious, online for $5 – a strategy that seems so far to have been a smart one. This week, he brings his new tour, "Buried Alive," to the Wilbur for four shows. It was rumored on Reddit.com in March that Raaaaaaaandy ("with eight A's"), Ansari's huge-ego alter ego, may have met his demise beneath the waters of a sexy jacuzzi; but his similarly dapper character, Tom Haverford, looks poised to live on for another season next fall on NBC's Parks and Recreation. Also, he got flown on a whim to Tokyo on GQ's dime to gourmandize with the guys from LCD Soundsystem and Momofuku this past December, and in March President Obama poked fun at him for having fewer Twitter followers than the POTUS. Not too shabby! Ansari spoke to me by phone from a tour stop in Nashville.

I WASN'T SURE IF I'D BE ABLE TO BOOK THIS INTERVIEW. I'VE BEEN SEEING YOU EVERYWHERE LATELY: CONAN, FRESH AIR, AMEX COMMERCIALS, THE VIEW. Yeah, this special I'm putting out, it's on me. It's just me. It's not a DVD that Paramount is putting out. It's just me, and I'm really invested in it, so I have to get out and make sure people know about it — get the word out through traditional means, even though it's kind of a nontraditional release.

GETTING A SHOUT-OUT FROM THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF CAN'T HURT. Oh my God, how insane is that? I can't believe that happened; still I don't believe it. I was definitely blown away. I got to meet him and everything, and it was really cool. He's a really cool guy.

WITH DANGEROUSLY DELICIOUS, YOU FOLLOWED THE MODEL LOUIS C.K. PIONEERED: DOWNLOAD IT ONLINE FOR FIVE BUCKS, NO DRM, YOURS TO KEEP. JIM GAFFIGAN IS NOW DOING THE SAME THING. IS THIS A SMART WAY FORWARD FOR OTHER COMEDIANS? I wanted to release my special just online. I looked at how many DVDs I'd sold, versus how many views I had on YouTube, and it was clear that way more people were seeing it online. Why not just embrace that? I was with Louis when he was editing his special, and I was like, "It would be cool to see if that works." It clearly did. So that's why I did it for this special. Will I do it for the next one? I dunno. As far as whether it's a viable model, everybody says this and it's an obvious point: if you're someone like me or Louis or Jim, who's touring theaters and has a huge fan base, yeah, sure you can do it. If you're just starting out, it's a pretty risky gamble. It's just like when Radiohead did that album [2007's pay-what-you-want download, In Rainbows]. "Oh, great, well Radiohead can do it. They're the biggest band! Great for them."

TO PROMOTE THE SPECIAL, YOU HIRED A LOOK-ALIKE TO FLOG IT ON THE SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK. COULD THIS LEAD TO A "GALLAGHER TOO"—TYPE SITUATION, WHERE HE TOURS THE COUNTRY IN YOUR STEAD? I did go on Anderson Cooper and sent the look-alike out first. He came out and answered a few questions. Anderson was like, "Who the hell are you?" But that's all the look-alike activity, thus far.

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  Topics: Comedy , Television, Arts, Aziz Ansari,  More more >
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