Thursday, July 26, 2012

Comedy review: Aziz Ansari

Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari made an impressive return last night to Montreal's Just for Laughs festival with his new show Buried Alive. It's his fourth year in a row appearing at the festival.

The show began with him (or what sounded like him) announcing over the loudspeakers the usual no recording, etc. policies in his usual hilarious manner, before introducing the opening act Chelsea Peretti. She proved to be an apt choice to open. Not only has she written for Parks and Recreation, but she shared a similar comedic sensibility – raunchy, but not too much so. She ventured into tricky territory when she addressed the issue of rape jokes, but showed that rape jokes can indeed be funny.

When Ansari came out, he began by getting a some business out of the way, including noting that the venue didn't seem to be stopping anyone from taking photos as they should, so he asked people to take them then and there to get it out of the way. He helpfully struck some poses before riffing on people showing off the photos afterwards but not knowing what was being said since they were too busy taking pictures.

Launching into the body of his set, most of it revolved around family life and being single vs. married: having kids, arranged marriage, proposals, meeting a partner, and so forth. But within that, he covered all manner of topics from reality television to molestation and bullying. The child molestation bits though were some of the funniest, with him claiming at one point that he must have luckily avoided it because he was he cutest kid, so much so that it must have intimidated the molesters. "I was like the hot girl at the bar."

He had some good audience interaction and off-the-cuff moments. At one point, the spotlight operator failed to follow him properly and he explained his movements to the operator in a way that wrung a few extra laughs before seamlessly slipping back into the routine.

His entire act was a quite finely tuned, a steady stream of wit delivered with contagious enthusiasm. I like that he was able to evoke so much laughter without falling back on the expected jokes about race, whereas some such as Russell Peters, while funny, rely too heavily on race issues for their whole set. Ansari hardly dealt with race and when he did, it was fleeting and tangential.

Aziz Ansari appears for two more nights at the Metropolis, 59 rue Sainte-Catherine Est.

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