Published Sep 28, 2013Aziz Ansari came to Toronto with love on his mind. During the first of his headlining sets at the end of the JFL42 comedy festival, almost his entire set was focused on concerns of the heart — being single, being in love, observing that heartbreak feels the same at age seven as it does at age 27, and particularly exploring the ways in which people communicate in the modern age.
Doing more crowd work than in previous appearances, Ansari polled the crowd how to respond to unwanted amorous attention, offering three options: pretending to be busy, complete honesty and silence. He then roll-played various "honesty" scenarios to find out exactly what that looks like when letting someone down, pointing out the huge gap between how we want to be treated versus how we treat others.
He took the examination of romantic communication to an even greater extreme when he asked audience members if anyone had recently met a romantic interest, then took one guy's phone and read the entire exchange of texts between himself and his new acquaintance, which had taken place over the last few days. The fact that the audience member's amour happened to be a dominatrix was found gold for Ansari.
The process was notably fascinating for people lucky enough to have caught Ansari's late night drop-in set at local club the Comedy Bar the evening before. There, Ansari tried out some of the same material but in a looser and less formal fashion, with less energy and more meandering. Watching a comedian "work out" and then seeing the slick, polished, tightened up and performance-oriented version was fascinating.
Topically, there was less variety than Ansari has had in previous sets, but the engagement with the audience helped make the performance seem special, even if he was going to play the exact same games in the late night set that followed.