Aziz Ansari’s “Road to Nowhere” is Tragedy plus Time

A lot has been said about Aziz Ansari as of late, especially since a year ago when allegations were made against him. So, as a result, it was natural to initially feel a little disconnected. And y’know what? He’s okay with that. He understands. But also, he just wants to set things right, put things on an equal playing field. Because what happened on the opening night of his L.A. run was not just comedy, but a sprite lesson on how to think critically, to get people to finally start questioning things at face value.

He delved into everything that’s been happening in contemporary culture – R. Kelly, the upcoming Michael Jackson documentary Finding Neverland, and what separates us regarding our opinions about what’s going on in this sensitive politically correct culture of ours. But they weren’t “life lessons,” it wasn’t an ethics lecture, but a warm-hearted incentive to try and be a better person.

Wearing an “Undertaker” t-shirt, he poked holes in today’s modern society, and how quick we are to judge individuals based on what we’ve heard out of context or other people’s opinions. At one point in the monologue, he prompted the audience to clap if they were “done listening to R. Kelly,” in which most of the audience, naturally, did so. Then, in reference to the upcoming Michael Jackson doc’s revelations of the pop singer, he followed up with “Now clap your hands if you’re done with Michael Jackson,” when the room went dead silent, you could hear a pin drop.

That was his theme for the night, the through-line he was basing his comedy off of. And y’know what? It worked. For a moment in that show, people began to judge their own judgement, not hopping on board with what every audience member around them agreed with. It was at times scary, awkward, but that’s comedy. That’s where comedy stems from. He went on to say that we’re all “born shitty people,” and that when shit hits the fan, it doesn’t matter, because it’s always been a “shitty fan. Some shit goes up and some shit falls down. But it’s always been a shitty fan.”

I’ve never been an avid stand-up comedy appreciator as much as I should have, nor would I know the first thing about it, but what happened last Wednesday night wasn’t just comedy: it was a master class in storytelling, expertly crafted and peppered with the right beats to generate a reaction. At one point in the night, as he spoke from his stool, it didn’t even feel like comedy, but felt as if I was watching a magician, one who was not just an expert storyteller, but one who knows how to evoke change within an individual.

And that’s what the most powerful storytelling can stem from – a single thought.  Because thought evokes change, and change is individual. Last night wasn’t funny just because Ansari was cracking jokes, but because he was telling the truth about a human condition. I laughed, I teared up, but most of all I walked away feeling good about myself, with just a little more faith.

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