Aziz Ansari opens his new Netflix comedy special, “Right Now,” with a joke about being mistaken for “Patriot Act” host Hasan Minhaj. Then, he addresses the elephant in the room: the sexual misconduct allegations lodged against him in an article published January of last year by the now-defunct Babe.net.
“You know, I haven’t said much about that whole thing, but I’ve talked about it on this tour, ’cause you’re here and it means a lot to me,” he says, dropping his voice to almost a whisper. “And I’m sure a lot of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation. And, uh, it’s a tricky thing for me to answer, ’cause I’ve felt so many things in the last year, so. There’s times I’ve felt scared. There’s times I’ve felt humiliated. There’s times I’ve felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way.”
He adds that he’s reflected a lot on the situation in the past year: “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. 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.
“Well, that was pretty intense. What else shall we talk about?”
Published in January 2018, soon after the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, the Babe.net article launched a national conversation about what constitutes consent in the modern dating era. The woman interviewed in the article, referred to as Grace, described feeling “uncomfortable and distressed” by Ansari’s behavior during their first date.
“I know I was physically giving off cues that I wasn’t interested,” she told the reporter. “I don’t think that was noticed at all, or if it was, it was ignored.” Some viewed Grace’s experience as a bad date, while others felt she had been assaulted. In a statement released to Babe.net, Ansari wrote that he felt the encounter “by all indications was completely consensual.”
It was the first time Ansari spoke out publicly, but not the last. At a pop-up show held in New York this past February, he reportedly delivered a monologue almost identical to the one in the Netflix special – Minhaj joke and all. Ansari has opted to address the allegations in a manner more serious than, say, fellow comedian Louis C.K., who vowed to “step back and take a long time to listen” after being accused of sexual misconduct in late 2017 and then, in a show this past December, sandwiched references to the allegations between laments for his lost paychecks and mockeries of school-shooting survivors and non-binary people.
Ansari resumes his subdued tone toward the end of “Right Now,” noting that he “never really meant it” when he thanked the audiences at his past shows. Sure, he was grateful, but he “wasn’t grateful enough.”
“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 an hour or so,” he says. “And it means the world to me, ’cause I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do that again, and it almost felt like I’d died. In a way, I did. That old Aziz who said, ‘Oh, treat yo’self,’ whatever, he’s dead.
“But I’m glad, ’cause that guy was always looking forward to whatever was next: ‘Oh, am I gonna do another tour? Am I gonna do another season of the show?’ Blah, blah, blah. I don’t think that way anymore. ‘Cause I’ve realized it’s all ephemeral. All that stuff, it can just go away like this. And all we really have is the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.”