After Aziz Ansari got to college and had people comment on his sense of humor, he gave stand-up a shot and never looked back. Since getting up on stage at age 18, Ansari has enjoyed national recognition of his stand-up before joining the sketch comedy group, Human Giant. After two seasons of Human Giant's critically acclaimed show on MTV, a handful of various movie roles, and an appearance in an episode of Flight of the Conchords, Aziz became the first hire for the future spin-off of some NBC show called "The Office."
He now has a spot in an upcoming Judd Apatow movie and starting this week, setting out on his own stand-up comedy tour. I asked him about the Office spin-off, food, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Well, not so much the last one.
Some comedians have spent decades to get to your level. How did you go from random bits on Premium Blend to being in Seth Rogen movies so quickly?
I've been pretty fortunate. I started doing standup around 2001 when I was 18, so I was really lucky to be able to start out young. And then around 2006, after getting some awards in standup and making some short films with the Human Giant guys, MTV offered us the chance to make our show Human Giant. Doing two seasons of that show is what helped me get some of these recent acting opportunities. And yeah, I'm 25 and am kind of young to be where I'm at, but at the same time, re-read your question and then think about this Seth is only 26! I hate him.
That's true; you're both unusually young. I guess I maybe should have said, "being in Adam Sandler movies" instead. He's in his mid-70s now, isn't he?
Well, it's a little known fact, but Adam is only 17 years old.
What is it like being able to show someone a Human Giant video of a monkey shooting you with a pistol and then telling them that's how you've made a living?
Human Giant was a dream job for all of us. When we were making the Illusionators shorts (before MTV), I distinctly remember Jason (our director) and I having a conversation about how making shorts like this as a TV show would be the most amazing thing ever. And then a few months later, MTV let us do it in the most awesome way by being really hands off creatively and letting us make the show we wanted. We all felt insanely lucky and still do.
Jason and I recently had a similar conversation where we just want to somehow get paid for eating delicious food all the time, hopefully this will become a reality in a few years too and I quit comedy and focus more on my true passion, eating delicious food.
Now that you've hung out with both the "Comedians of Comedy" and the Apatow crew, what differentiates them besides their obvious levels of exposure?
Both those groups of people are tremendously talented and also some of the nicest, most humble people you'll meet. Same thing for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Bad Boyz Da Band, and Danity Kane.
What can you say about the upcoming Office spin-off? It's not going to suffer from the same lameness that other spin-offs have in the past, is it?
The spin-off is about Raven's dad becoming a chef in the White House and Corey, her brother, moving to DC. Hence the title, "Corey in the House." Oh sorry, that's information on the cancelled "That's So Raven" spin-off, "Corey in the House."
The Office spin-off is first off not really a spin-off anymore. It's going to be more like a separate documentary style comedy from Greg Daniels and Mike Schur (two executive producers from "The Office") starring Amy Poehler and myself. They are still writing and casting right now. We are going to be shooting in February and it will premiere probably around April. I promise it's not gonna be lame and I couldn't be more excited for it.
What's your favorite part of touring? Do you get burned out doing stand-up night after night?
I really enjoy traveling to different cities and eating whatever local delicious cuisine there is to be found. The standup is really secondary and is a means to the end (eating delicious food.) I don't get burned out on the standup, because once I power through that shit, I can get to eating.
I can't help but notice a food theme in your answers so far. What part of the country has the most exciting food?
Most towns have at least one really special place. I really like the food in Seattle and Austin. Those are two towns I've had the most time to explore too. I had really good food when I was in Denver a few weeks ago too.
If you have a mediocre stand-up set but eat an awesome dinner, do they end up balancing each other out?
It's definitely a nice consolation.
It seems like most comedians have certain bits that they grow to hate after they've been doing them for a while, even if those bits were the ones that originally drew the audience in. Is it hard to balance what you know is funny, while experimenting on stage too?
That's pretty perceptive. Yeah, there is some material I get tired of, but I just force myself to write new stuff so that keeps it fresh. A lot of the stuff on this tour is stuff I've written over the last few months so it's still pretty fresh to me.
Also, when touring it's a little different because most of these people haven't seen me perform in a really long time, if not ever, so it feels a little more fresh than in LA where I perform more frequently and I sometimes feel like "Ugh, these people have seen me say this shit before."
You majored in marketing. Do you think that's given you any advantages in comedy?
Not really, my marketing major was just an easy major to do while I did standup. I don't bring any marketing expertise to the table per se.
Why did you decide to go back out on your new stand-up tour instead of sticking with acting like you've been doing more of lately?
Well I was originally going to be doing the "The Office" project now, but it got pushed a few months when they casted Amy Poehler (because of her pregnancy). The only major work I was doing until then was shooting this small part in this Judd Apatow movie "Funny People," so it felt like a good time to do a tour and hopefully record a CD at the end.
Will the Office spin-off affect the future of Human Giant?
Right now we are on hiatus, but MTV has offered us the option of a third season and we may do those in the future or a special or something. We're currently working on some different projects and will possibly pick up Human Giant when it makes sense with all our schedules.
All right, one last quick question. Besides bringing everyone they know to go see you perform when you're in their town this fall, do you have any advice to the billions of college students skipping class to read this?
No, not really.