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Comedian Aziz Ansari to perform new material for a sold-out crowd on Friday

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | MAY 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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Comedian Aziz Ansari has recalled awkward encounters with Jay-Z and Kanye West, parodied Justin Bieber’s song “Baby” as his brash alter ego Raaaaaaaandy, and rebuked Coldstone Creamery as the epitome of American excess.

“He’s really in touch with himself, and you can tell he’s having fun up there,” said Iowa-born comedian Keegan Buckingham. “He doesn’t have any inhibitions — he’s really just speaking from his own point of view and going to a lot of different places.”

The 30-year-old Ansari has acted alongside Amy Poehler on “Parks and Recreation” as well as starred in numerous films and two recorded standup specials. On Friday, he will continue his newest comedy tour by performing for a sold-out show at the IMU Main Lounge at 10 p.m.

“He’s a really active and innovative comedian,” Englert Theater Executive Director Andre Perry said. “He’s popular across a lot of age groups. So many people like him ranging from college kids to much older people.”

The product of months of planning and organizing by University of Iowa Campus Activities Board members as well as Englert staff and the UI Indian Student Alliance, Ansari’s Friday performance will be a part of his “Buried Alive” standup tour, which began on April 14.

“It’s hard to say what he’s going to bring to the table, [but] I guarantee it’ll be something new and changed up,” said local comedian Tom Garland.

“He’s animated onstage and has a lot of exposure in movies and television. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.”

While Ansari’s previous specials, “Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening” and “Dangerously Delicious,” focus largely on funny observations and experiences from his life, his “Buried Alive” routine — which will likely be recorded as a special in coming weeks — is reportedly focused on Ansari’s self-described identity as an “indecisive commitment phobe.”

“It’s about being scared of hitting that point in life where you’re settling down and the feeling is almost like being buried alive,” Ansari told Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times in September 2012. “My stuff is, like, the guy who’s not married and has no kids and is kind of scared and bewildered by it all."

Buckingham said Ansari’s brand of humor represents a growing trend in contemporary comedy.

“He’s part of that school that’s really big right now, in which comedians are more focused on self-expression rather than trying to create a character [or] just pressing the audience’s buttons trying to provoke a reaction,” he said.

Campus Activities Board comedy executive director Logan Hood said he is excited to see Ansari and ask him about his new work.

“I wonder why he’s changing his style,” Hood said. “At first, it was a lot of funny-type jokes, but now he’s starting to address serious issues such as relationships and age. I’m curious where his new style is going in the next few years.”

He became a “huge Aziz fan” after watching Ansari play the sarcastic and entrepreneurial Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” Hood said.

For more than six months, he said, he called agents, trying to bring the comedian to town.

Hood has also been instrumental in bringing nationally recognized comedians Bo Burham, Rob Delaney, and others to the UI campus in the last year.

“This kid really knows what he’s doing,” Garland said. “He knows how to book, manage a budget, and get big names out here.”

Even before she became aware of Hood’s efforts, Jostna Dash, the president of the UI Indian Student Alliance, said she was also interested in bringing Ansari to Iowa City.

“I’ve been working since I became president on finding a way to bring Aziz to campus,” she said. “There are not many prominent Indian-Americans on TV in the U.S., and because Aziz is one of them, that appeals to Indian students and creates community with the broader UI community, too.”

As a sponsor of the program, the Indian Student Alliance will have a booth outside the IMU Main Lounge before the show, giving out free cups, pens, and T-shirts.

Along with the Campus Activities Board and the Englert, the Indian Student Alliance also helped to promote Ansari’s visit, contributing to all 1,200 tickets being sold in the first two hours of sales, half of which to UI students. Additionally, Hood said, more than 30,000 people read the online post about the event.

“I think it’s the fastest I’ve seen a show sell out,” Perry said. “The response is really strong and positive. Campus Activities Board was able to motivate students, while the Englert motivated the older crowd.”

UI senior Bri Zwiener said she “immediately sprung to action” when she learned of Ansari’s visit, making sure she got a ticket.

“I think he is such a unique person and has a voice that you will never forget,” she said. “I’m expecting to laugh so hard that I cry.”

Buckingham, who is the producer of the Duck Duck Comedy showcase in Chicago, said Ansari’s dynamic style has contributed to his popularity among young adults.

“Your success as a comedian is measured by how much an audience’s attention you can sustain, and college audiences are always good for that,” he said. “They tend to be really enthusiastic [and] hang on every word.”

Garland said big standup acts such as Ansari encourage local comedians as well, a community that was hardly visible in the area five years ago but has gained several venues since.

“Iowa City has an incredible writing, theater, and play community; we have people dancing in the streets — where was the standup?” he said. “It was definitely a well-needed thing in our arts community. I think it’s awesome we have names such as [Ansari] coming in and reaching out.”

In Friday’s performance, audiences will be surprised by Aziz Ansari’s latest gags.

“I don’t really know what he’s going to do, which is actually awesome,” Perry said. “It’s going to be new stuff, and I think everyone’s interested to see how it’s going to go down.”


What: Aziz Ansari, Buried Alive Tour
When: 10 p.m. Friday (Doors open at 9 p.m.)
Where: IMU Main Lounge
Admission: SOLD OUT


>>>Check out samples of Aziz Ansari's stand-up below and download his Dangerously Delicious special for $5 at azizansari.com.

"Dumb People at Bars"

"Texting with Girls"

Aziz as "Randy"


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