Comedian Aziz Ansari kicked off his new Netflix stand-up special by acknowledging the elephant in the room: His 2018 sexual misconduct scandal that largely pushed him out of the spotlight.
The special is based on Ansari’s sold-out “Road to Nowhere” tour, during which he addressed the fallout from the Babe.net article about a date gone wrong. After the story was published, Ansari publicly apologized for the incident.
The Indian American comic kicked off the routine with quips about people mistaking him for comedian Hasan Minhaj, the Indian American host of Netflix’s “Patriot Act,” whom he readily pinned the misconduct scandal on before speaking in more hushed tones. It was the same mea culpa he’s been delivering during the 75-city tour he embarked on last year.
Here’s a transcript of what he said:
“I haven’t said much about that whole thing, but I’ve talked about it on this tour, because you’re here and it means a lot to me. And I’m sure some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation. And it’s a tricky thing for me to answer ’cause I felt so many things in the last year or so.
There’s times I felt scared. There’s times I felt humiliated. There’s times I felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way. And after a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward.
It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot. I hope I’ve become a better person. And I always think about a conversation I had with one of my friends where he was like, ‘You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I’ve ever been on.’ And I thought, ‘Wow. Well, that’s pretty incredible. It’s made not just me, but other people be more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing.’ And that’s how I feel about it.
Then, perking up and rising a few octaves, he continues:
“And I know this isn’t the most hilarious way to begin a comedy show. But it’s important to me that you know how I feel about that whole thing before we share this night together.”
The 36-year-old was met with cheers and applause before he transitioned from the “intense” portion of the show.
The special, directed by Oscar winner Spike Jonze, was filmed during a tour stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year. It also touches on racism, being “fake woke,” marginalized groups, his new girlfriend, parents, Alzheimer’s disease and, most notably, digging up questionable tweets and content that, if viewed by “2019 standards,” could torpedo a movie, TV show or career.
On that note, he brought up other icons who have fallen from grace, devoting long sections to the incendiary post-#MeToo documentaries about Michael Jackson and R&B star R. Kelly.
The Emmy Award winner joked about the aftermath of the docuseries “Leaving Neverland” and “Surviving R. Kelly” and acknowledged a lengthy bit he previously did on Kelly. That ultimately steered his Netflix routine into a section on fans’ strained relationships with disgraced entertainers.
Maybe he didn’t realize, to some, he might still be one of them?
Closing the set, Ansari launched into another hushed monologue — a seemingly genuine speech thanking the audience for coming out to support him.
“I’m glad you all came out tonight. I really mean that. I really am very grateful you came, you know? ’Cause, you know, I’ve done a lot of shows in my career. At the end of the shows, I’d always go, ‘Good night. Thank you very much!’ But the truth is, I never really meant it.…
“I wasn’t grateful enough. I didn’t really think about what it means that all you guys came out. But now when I see you guys here, it hits me in a different way. I think about what it means that all you guys, you drove down here, you waited in line, and you did all of this stuff just to hear me talk into a microphone for like an hour or so.
“It means the world to me because I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do this again. And it almost felt like I died. And in a way, I did. That old Aziz … is dead. But I’m glad … I don’t think that way anymore because I realized it’s all ephemeral. All that stuff can just go away like this [snaps fingers]. And all we really have is the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.”