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October 1, 2014

Aziz Ansari: The ODB of 'Parks and Recreation'

by Joel Keller, posted Feb 24th 2010 7:02PM
Aziz AnsariAziz Ansari has had the kind of career you'd expect to see from a guy who's 35 or so, not from someone who's only four years out of business school.

The 26-year-old comedian's profile has risen quickly over the last couple of years. From being an up-and-coming stand-up star playing the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York, the last three years have seen him do two seasons of MTV's 'Human Giant,' a half-season as lazy intern Ed on the eighth season of 'Scrubs,' a big role as awful stand-up comic Randy in Judd Apatow's 'Funny People,' a one-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central, and a season and a half as Tom Haverford on 'Parks and Recreation.'

I caught up with Ansari at NBC's all-star press party last month and asked him about how his character, who plays the scheming right-hand man of the earnest Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), has developed since the show started, and what's next for a guy who's done a lot in such a short period of time.

When you went into this show about a year ago, what were your expectations?

I thought we would get to the place we're at right now, because I really believed in Greg (Daniels) and Mike (Schur), and could tell they were very smart guys who knew what they were doing. And I was right! (chuckles)

I remember talking to you in a previous interview that you didn't like playing characters that weren't necessarily ethnic.
Yeah, you know, I never want to play a character that's like oh, the funny thing about him is that he's a weird Indian guy. You know, Tom could be played by some white dude. It wouldn't have really affected the character at all, you know?

But at some point earlier in the season, in the van with Leslie, Tom mentions he changed his last name from a more ethnic name.

Oh, I guess that joke wouldn't make sense with a white guy. But for the most part, it's not really the defining characteristic about the character that makes it comedically interesting, you know?

When you saw that, did you you just go with it or did it make you uncomfortable?
You know, that joke I thought was funny. To me, like the big thing (I don't like) is, oh you know like doing some silly accent or something like that, you know? Or if constantly every joke is just about him being Indian or something. And it's not that.

The one thing about Tom's character that has developed, is that he's not as much of a jerk as he was at the beginning of the series.
I think an example of the difference is like, in season one, you may see a couple of scenes where Tom was just insulting Leslie. But now you see some scenes where Leslie is making fun of Tom. And I think, you know, there's a camaraderie you see between Leslie and Tom that's developed over the season. And yeah, I think that was kind of a better way to go than him just being mean all the time, you know?

So what are we going to see in that with RZA of the Wu Tang Clan?
I'm not going to say anything. Because it'll be cool when you see it. It's coming out next week. It'll be a cool video.

Which member of the Wu Tang Clan does Questlove think you are?
I was ODB.



That's a little loaded there, because he was...first of all, he's dead...

He's pretty crazy.

Now that you've been doing Twitter for quite a while, do you find it's a freeing type of thing to just go on there and screw around?
I don't know. I don't really think about it too much. I just kind of do it when I'm bored. When you're waiting around for something and you think about it... I think if you do comedy stuff, or do standup like I do, you kind of like the process of just telling jokes, and sharing dumb ideas and thoughts with people. And that's just a form to do that, I guess.

Comedy Central put you and Donald Glover on their Hot List, and both of you guys come from the UCB. How do you find it that when you go to Hollywood, you go on these shows, and you're surrounded by UCB'ers?
You know, it's crazy. Aubrey (Plaza) and I both do stuff at UCB, and that's a theater that Amy (Poehler) founded, you know? I'm not really as much from an improv background. I took those classes. I'm mainly from a standup background. But you know, even that, just doing standup at that theater helped me so much. It kind of gave me a scene of like OK, these are people like me. It's not like a comedy club crowd where it's like bachelorette parties paying two-drink minimums. These are young people like myself going to comedy and enjoying it. You know, it's fun.

Where do you go from here? You've gone pretty far in a pretty short period of time. Where do you think you'll land? What would you think you could see yourself doing in five to ten years?
Um, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. You know, I hope I keep doing good on 'Parks and Recreation.' I want to film more standup specials. Right now, myself and this guy I collaborate with, a director named Jason Wollner, we're working on three movie ideas for Judd Apatow, and hopefully we'll get to film those over the years. I'd like to do more movie stuff, and continue doing 'Parks' stuff.

Human Giant still on the back burner?
You know, I think we're all kind of doing different things now. It's kind of hard to pull us all together. Paul (Scheer)'s on 'The League,' Rob (Huebel)'s doing other stuff. So you know, I don't know if we'll come back to do a third season. (MTV) wanted us to do a third season, but we were kind of at a place where we were ready to kind of do some different stuff for a while.

You know, I might finally catch up on The Wire, because I know you're a big Wire fan.
Dude...you gotta drop everything and watch that. It's the best show ever. That and 'Breaking Bad.' It's the best show on TV right now. It's so good.

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ColinInLA

Other than saying 'you know' like, you know, a few times too many, you know, I agree with him on one thing- - - Breaking Bad is one of the best shows on television. You know?

February 25 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peanut

He sucks the funny out of every scene he's in.

February 25 2010 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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