Aziz Ansari went on Reddit yesterday afternoon for an Ask Me Anything session to promote his new Netflix standup special Buried Alive. (Side note, I watched the special last night and laughed the whole way through. I highly recommend it.) This isn’t Aziz’s first AMA, and as expected he gave plenty of lighthearted and funny answers. But the answer that stood out to me the most was a more serious one.
A user told Aziz how refreshing it is to see an Indian American television character (Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation) whose humor isn’t derived from stereotypes and who is just a funny character who happens to be Indian. He asks Aziz if he’s purposely avoided roles which paint him as a stereotype. Aziz explains that’s exactly what he’s done.
“I made the decision early on not to take roles who’s [sic] sole source of humor is ethnic stereotype humor. And I think over the years, that trend of staying away from that is obviously taken off between myself, Mindy Kaling, Danny Pudi, and many others. As an Indian American, I’m proud because I don’t ever remember seeing Indians represented on television or film growing up and now we are. Just think 25 years ago, Fischer Stevens PLAYED an Indian guy in Short Circuit 2!”
Simple as that. It might seem like such an obvious solution — just don’t agree to do roles that make fun of your heritage — but I imagine as an actor looking for work in Hollywood, it would probably be easy to just accept roles like that out of necessity. So I think it’s great that Aziz says he made that choice early in his career. I also appreciate that he gives other Indian American actors credit for their similar career choices. I think this is an approach that actors of all races and genders can take in order to be taken seriously as an actor first. And in reference to Short Circuit 2, if you thought Julianne Hough’s Halloween costume was bad, you might want to sit down before you Google that movie.
Of course Aziz’s AMA was also full of more lighthearted comments. My favorite was when someone asked, “Why is Jerry universally hated?” and Aziz responded, “Get off reddit Larry.” This is partly because Jerry is my favorite Parks and Rec character and partly because that answer is hilarious.
(Photo: PNP/ WENN.com)