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Aziz Ansari: From Business School to Hollywood

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 13, 2011

When the creators of NBC’s hit sitcom The Office approached Aziz Ansari about a new mockumentary style sitcom, Ansari said yes. Thing is, the then 25-year old stand up comedian had no clue what the show was going to be about.

Now three years later, the show that was a mystery to Ansari is a hit. It’s called Parks and Recreation and Ansari plays the scene-stealing character Tom Haverford.

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Aziz Ansari is one of the few Indian comedians on the Hollywood scene. Yet the actor’s humor is not solely based on his identity. In fact, characters like Tom Haverford and Chet of the new film 30 Minutes or Less could be played by almost anyone. Almost. But with his comedic talent, Ansari was a shoe in for the roles.

“I’m very happy when I’m able to take roles from white actors,” Ansari says jokingly to weekends on All Things Considered guest host David Greene. “If a part if written for a white guy and then I get cast, I’m very proud of myself. It’s like a victory for all minorities,” says Ansari.

In all seriousness, 28-year-old Aziz Ansari says his comedy is about life and personal anecdotes like friends getting married of having babies, events that Ansari says he couldn’t begin to deal with in his life right now. “That kind of stuff seems so far away for me and seems like such a crazy amount of responsibility,” says Ansari. “So I talk about the fear of those kind of things.”

Comedy Via Business School

In strange twist, Aziz Ansari started his comedic career while attending New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“I just started doing stand up while I was in college,” Ansari tells Greene. “I didn’t have any aspirations to be in movies or TV or anything like that. I just liked doing stand up and wanted to get better at it the some way someone would like to get better at playing guitar,” he says.

And get better he did. From the comedy clubs in New York, Ansari began to make short films which eventually led the MTV sketch comedy show called Human Giant.

“You have a lot better odds if you develop stuff yourself,” he says.

Soon even bigger offers came rolling in. Aziz Ansari’s resume includes acting roles in Funny People, I Love You, Man, and Observe and Report. Now the stand up comedian, who still tours from time to time, stars alongside Jesse Eisenberg in the new release 30 Minutes Or Less.

“Yep, my brown bearded face is on that screen the whole time,” Ansari says.

What’s next for the stand up comedian, television star and film actor? Some sources say he’s working on an R & B album… [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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