Today marks the release of Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden, a Netflix Original Stand up special showcasing one of Comedy’s current big guns in front of a sold out crowd in the most famous sport arena in the world. Sounds like a big deal when you put it like that. An hour long stand up special is a big deal on its own. When you add in the fact that it’s an arena show in the Garden, the stakes are even higher. But Aziz makes it look easy. And he packs a lot into just one hour, touching on subjects both personal and universal and with such an intimate and casual style that you would think he was performing for just 12 people instead of 12,000 plus.
Aziz wastes no time and comes right out of the gate with his working shoes on. In the first 10 minutes, he delivers material on the hardships of immigrants coming to America and the lack of regulations on the meat industry then throws in a Ja Rule impression for good measure. What’s amazing is that he not only finds a way to relate these very different topics but he also steps outside the joke and speaks on the time and planning it took to craft it. His delivery is seamless and his timing is spot on. He has the crowd right from the beginning and takes them wherever he wants.
This commanding performance does not waiver as Aziz moves into the subject of relationships and introduces an audience interaction element. When talking about the effects of technology on the dating world, he asks for an audience member to bring up their phone so he can read the texts that person has had with someone they’re seeing. Bringing a variable like this to a comedy special of this size is risky but Aziz once again executes the bit flawlessly. His “off the cuff” improvisation is just as strong as his prepared material. He continues to control the crowd right to the very end.
What amazes me most is Aziz’s ability to talk about a subject like gender equality and present it in a relatable way that’s logical and funny without having to get on a soapbox. With a simple role reversal, he’s able to showcase the problems that women have to deal with which are completely foreign to men. By presenting the facts in an absurd way, Aziz is able to comment on the bullshit that women experience regularly and do it in a way that has everyone laughing the whole time.
Aziz is very good at commenting on tried and true topics, like the differences between men and women and the advancements of new technology and its effects on society, and not come off like a hack. His opinions are refreshing and original. He’s also not afraid to take a joke on a sharp left turn before delivering the punchline. And the audience will go with him on these tangents. They trust that he will take them on a journey that will pay off in the end, with a number of laugh lines that lead to a satisfying climax. This trust is given willfully due to his obvious sincerity. At the end of the day, it’s hard to hide the fact that Aziz is a nice guy who just wants to give the crowd their money’s worth. That makes it all the more easier to root for him as a performer.
I have seen a number of comedy specials over the years. Some have been good. Most have been awful. There are very few that I consider “Great”. I can honestly say that this is one of the best Stand up specials I have seen in years. If you’re looking for something to check out this weekend, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden is availble now on Netflix and Netflix Canada.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!