Aziz Ansari: Funny Style (2011 Cover Story & Gallery)

Aziz Ansari: Funny Style (2011 Cover Story & Gallery)Interview by Brendan Frederick; Photography by Kareem Black; Styling by Matthew Henson; Additional Credits.

Your favorite rapper’s favorite comedian is a scene-stealing Southern boy who somehow became the funniest man on TV. With one foot in Hollywood and one on the stand-up stage, Aziz Ansari is ready to craft a masterpiece.

This feature appears in Complex's August/September 2011 issue.

We’re pretty sure it’s not totally racist to confuse Aziz Ansari with Tom Haverford, his hilariously cocky character from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. In our defense, they are both Indian guys from South Carolina. They both love Waka Flocka and Soulja Boy. They both wear sharp suits (although Aziz’s don’t appear to be from Brooks Brothers Boys). And come on, this guy just plays the hyperactive dickhead so well in movies and on TV (Funny People, Human Giant, Get Him to the Greek), you wanna believe he’s that guy for realsies.

Alas, Aziz is actually a pretty humble, self-effacing 28-year-old, even if he has a lot to feel cocky about right now. His new movie, 30 Minutes or Less, has the summer comedy game on lock, his Dangerously Delicious stand-up tour (filmed for DVD release, of course) just wrapped up, and he’s even voicing a rabbit in the next Ice Age movie. Oh, and in his spare time he’s been kicking it with Kanye in the studio and soaking up game from Judd Apatow. Basically, Aziz is the man Tom Haverford wishes he were. Can you blame him?

Thank you for helping us get Beyoncé on the cover. Word is that since she’s no longer being managed by her father she likes to clear all her major career decisions with you.
Yeah, I replaced Mathew Knowles. It’s kind of supposed to be under wraps.

Sorry, I had to put it out there. That’s a serious power move.
There’s a lot of heat between me and Mathew Knowles. [Laughs.]

You recently moved back to New York after being in L.A. for a few years. Do you still take the subway or are you “cabs only” famous now?
I still take the subway. I haven’t been stabbed or anything yet.

If you had never come to New York—
—I was lying about the subway thing. I travel by helicopter when I’m in Manhattan. It’s really tough, because there aren’t a lot of helipads in New York City. So, a lot of times I just have to ladder down to where I’m going.

[Laughs.] If you had stayed in South Carolina and not gone to school at NYU, would you still be living large?
I owe a lot to being in New York. That’s where I started doing stand-up. Those kinds of opportunities aren’t even there in most places. I remember when I started in comedy, I told a friend of mine who’s pretty funny too that he should start doing stand-up—“It’s pretty fun, just go to a comedy club.” He was like, “What comedy club? I’m in North Carolina, there is no comedy club here.”

 
Sometimes they’ll show me suits on Parks & Rec and I’ll be like, 'That looks like an Aziz suit, not a Tom Haverford suit. Give it a purple tie and that’ll make it a Tom suit.'
 

When you were growing up, what posters did you have hanging on your bedroom wall?
In high school I had a big Metallica Master of Puppets poster. I was really into playing guitar.

Were you a metal head?
Yeah, I liked Nirvana and alternative rock stuff too. But for guitar playing, if you really wanna go at it with the solos, you eventually end up listening to Megadeth. [Laughs.]

Did you play in a band?
Again, South Carolina let me down there. There was no one else who really played instruments, or was into the same music. It was kind of tough, I would just play along with the records.

Did you have a childhood crush? Janet Jackson? Topanga?
I’m trying to think of what female celebrity I would have liked at that age... Oh, Martina Navratilova. [Laughs.] I was disappointed to find out she’s not into dudes.

Damn, sorry, man. Were you surprised to see your home state elect a Punjabi woman, Nikki Haley, as the governor?
They probably just thought she was white—the tone on the TV wasn’t quite right. “Nikki Haley! Yeah, sure! She sounds great!” [Laughs.] But no, that’s good to hear. I don’t think everyone there is racist. I encounter many nice, open-minded people from South Carolina.

It’s interesting that Tom Haverford is also from South Carolina. How similar are you to the character?
The only similarities are we’re both from South Carolina, we both like really silly hip-hop like Soulja Boy and Waka Flocka, and we both like suits. But he has slightly different taste. I try to make sure Tom dresses a little bit different from Aziz. Sometimes they’ll show me suits on Parks and I’ll be like, “That looks like an Aziz suit, not a Tom suit.” I’m usually like, “Give it a purple tie and that’ll make it a Tom suit.”

Tags: aziz-ansari, complex-cover-stories
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