Aziz Ansari’s historic Golden Globe win for his performance in “Master of None” cemented his position as a comedic leader in the industry in January of this year. That was, until a few days later when babe published an account of a woman who was allegedly sexually harassed by him. Suddenly, comedy’s golden boy was cast in different light, one that it appears Ansari himself is trying to come out of now, several months after the onset of allegations.
Ansari transformed into a household name with his starring role in “Parks and Recreation,” followed by his Netflix original and award-winning show “Master of None.” Through “Master of None,” he brought Asian-American immigrant stories to the forefront. He championed unique storytelling, working with the creative minds of Alan Yang and Lena Waithe. He paved the way for South Asian storytellers, actors, and writers and put the diaspora in the spotlight.
That’s why it was disappointing to read about his conduct. As a self-proclaimed feminist and staunch supporter of women’s rights, Ansari failed to follow his own beliefs. In lieu of a public apology, he released a statement that partly read “It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
Ansari has since been MIA. After laying low for about three months, Ansari was spotted at a Knicks game mid-April at Madison Square Garden. He sat courtside with 2 Chainz, Chris Rock, Patrick Reed, and Justine Karaine.
Netflix hasn’t given an official word on “Master of None” and whether or not it will return for season 3. Even before his actions came to light, Ansari had said he didn’t have immediate plans for a third season. Now, while the fate of the show is left up in the air, Ansari has decided to make waves in the comedy circuit he calls home: New York City’s celebrated comedy club, Comedy Cellar.
Comedy Cellar is a prime spot for top comedians like Ansari, Rock, Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, and even Louis C.K. It’s where they got their start and it’s where they often go back to perform even now. In May 2018, The Guardian reported that Ansari performed standup five days in a row, surprising the audience in attendance. His act caused comedian Sam Morril’s planned performance to get bumped.
Just got bumped by Aziz at the Cellar. It’s legal but he ruins nights!
— Sam Morril (@sammorril) May 11, 2018
Ansari’s act was apparently met with a loud applause. Audience member Colton Jordan told The Guardian that he made no outright references to the accusations against him. “He started talking about his outrage fatigue, people protesting businesses because of a few racist employees, and all of the fake outrage on Twitter. It seemed as if he was subtly speaking about his experience with the sexual misconduct allegations,” she continued.
Comedy Cellar is a prestigious if not a fancy comedy club. Most comedians, whether they’re big names or those who are just starting out, are always greeted by big crowds. The place is valued because it’s where they test their material and where they can check what works and what doesn’t. However, why the club would call on Ansari to perform multiple times is the question of the hour.
In the #MeToo era, when sexual assault, harassment, and violence against women is finally coming to light and the men are finally paying the price, Ansari now has the platform to resume his comedy career. Comedy Cellar is a sure shot path for him to build his way back up. The owner of the club Noam Dworman believes the treatment towards Ansari is unfair and that he would always be welcome there.
He also added that he’s spotted Louis C.K. in the restaurant above Comedy Cellar numerous times since the sexual harassment allegations against him in November, which he accepted and apologized for. He’s open to conversing with him about possibly returning to Comedy Cellar when he wants. Dworman apparently believes in the spirit of forgiveness. He wonders, much like those who still support Ansari, whether he should never be allowed to do stand-up comedy again.
This raises questions of the environment Comedy Cellar fosters. The careers of men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey has rightfully been reduced to ashes because of the horrific nature of the allegations against them. While those against Ansari are, in comparison, on the lighter scale, it doesn’t excuse his behavior at all.
Clearly, even the actor and comedian knows the talks about him are still alive and relevant. It’s why he’s chosen a slower, quieter comeback via a welcoming, familiar setting. Maybe he hopes the noise will die down and he can eventually make a bigger appearance. Maybe he is testing the waters to see the reaction he will get. Maybe he thinks its time we put this outrage behind us. Whatever the reason, Ansari believes that Comedy Cellar is his way back in.