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Aziz Ansari On 'Master Of None' And How His Parents Feel About Acting

In the second season of the Netflix series <em>Master of None,</em> Aziz Ansari's character falls in love with his Italian friend Francesca, who is already engaged.
In the second season of the Netflix series Master of None, Aziz Ansari's character falls in love with his Italian friend Francesca, who is already engaged.

Aziz Ansari is in the midst of a whirlwind year. In January, the comic hosted Saturday Night Livethe day after President Trump's inauguration — an experience he describes as "one of the most watched stand-up sets I'll ever do in my life, if not the most."

More recently, Ansari has been focused on his Emmy and Peabody Award-winning comedy series, Master of None, which he co-created and co-writes with Alan Yang. Ansari also stars in the show as Dev, a first-generation Indian-American actor who struggles to bridge the cultural gap between himself and his parents (who happen to be played by Ansari's actual parents).

The second season of Master of None recently became available on Netflix, which means the comic is experiencing some long-awaited downtime. "I don't know what I'm going to do now," he says when asked about upcoming projects. "Let me relax for a second. Let me just live my life. Forget season three of Master of None, I'm also doing season 34 of Aziz Ansari!"

Interview Highlights

On growing up a non-religious Muslim

I grew up in South Carolina, so it was kind of hard to participate in the religion because there was no mosque or anything like that. I was never really religious. I never really took to religion in general. I just remember being a kid and even having the thought of, Well, it seems like everyone's just doing whatever their parents' religion was. ... So that immediately made me skeptical of the whole thing.

On how his parents feel about acting in the show

My dad is a practicing gastroenterologist; my mom works at the office. When they come to do the series, they're using their vacation time to help me. My mom doesn't even like acting on the show. She's really just doing it because she loves me very much. She hates acting. Before the second season, when we announced the second season, she's like, "OK, this season the mom character's on vacation or she's just gone." And I was like, "She can't be on vacation the whole time." She's like, "No, maybe she's at a wedding sometimes." She just didn't want to be a part of it. She did it because she loves me and my brother is also heavily involved with the show. It's a really special thing that we get to do this together. ...

And after the [first] season aired, my dad came to New York and we went on Stephen Colbert's show together. ... And we went out to dinner afterwards, and he was telling me, ... "The reason I'm acting in the show and doing all of this is just to spend more time with you and to see you."

On working with Lena Waithe to write the "Thanksgiving" episode, which was based on Waithe's own experience growing up black and gay, and coming out to her family

I told [Lena] from the get-go, "You need to write this with me and I'll help you and we'll get this in shape and make it feel like the show. But you've got to make sure we get this right." ...

I guess I don't have the gall of all those white writers who write for minorities.

That episode, it's just me and four black women, the whole episode. I joked with Melina [Matsoukas], who directed the episode, and Lena, "This is the most amount of screen time I've seen on any film or television show, with one Indian character and four black women." How am I going to write that episode by myself? It would be offensive! You know? I guess I don't have the gall of all those white writers who write for minorities.

On what it's like to date when you're famous

It doesn't really affect things as much as people assume. It affects things in ways that people don't understand or predict. ...

The thing that's tricky is it's a very weird lifestyle. If you're filming something in another place, you're living in another city for three months. It's weird if ... other people are taking pictures of you all of the time and you go out on one date with someone and there's pictures of you guys together. That stuff is kind of intense. Just having the public scrutiny of your personal relationships, that stuff is weird.

But I don't have that at the level of other more famous people. But in my life I haven't found it to be something that causes me too much [problems]. I'm dealing with the same thing the guy in the show is; you're trying to find a meaningful connection with someone, no matter who you are.

On hosting SNL and delivering the opening monologue the day after Trump's inauguration

What's interesting about doing SNL is no matter how many times you practice in a comedy club, it's happening that day. So with the whole election and inauguration, everyone's mood was changing every day and crazy things were happening every day. So you never knew what you were going to be in for that Saturday.

The day before, on the inauguration, everyone was so down and depressed. The whole mood on the set was so bad. And then the next day, Saturday, there was the Women's March and everyone's spirits were boosted and it was a totally different environment. No matter how many times you practice in a comedy club, being there at SNL, at that stage, it's not like any comedy club.

Radio producers Lauren Krenzel and Mooj Zadie and Web producers Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Nicole Cohen contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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