Fri. Jan. 20, 8 p.m.
Sat. Jan. 21, 9 p.m.
The American Theater
446 King St.
No doubt about it, Aziz Ansari has the best "member of Congress thinking about fucking a turtle" joke you'll ever hear. We won't ruin it for you, don't worry.
Ansari, a Bennettsville, S.C., native, performed the joke last spring at Theatre 99's Piccolo Fringe as the all-too-brief warm-up act for the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) sketch team. His work was so strong that his was one of the first names that came up when The Have Nots! began programming this year's Charleston Comedy Festival.
"He was awesome," says Have Not! Brandy Sullivan in her trademark manner, in which the word actually sounds like it's spelled: aaaaaawwwwwwesome.
Ansari, despite experiencing a near explosion in his career since last appearing in Charleston, managed to work this week's festival into his hectic schedule.
It's weird that Ansari's name carries so much more clout in New York City, where he's currently based, and in alt-comedy circles than it does in his home state. Patton Oswalt (
King of Queens, The Comedians of Comedy Tour) is so enamored with Ansari's laconic and insightful style that he's openly jealous.
"Nothing pisses off a professional comedian more than some little snot-nosed punk who's been doing it for, like, five years, but is already 10 years ahead of the game in terms of skill, material, and originality," Oswalt has been quoted as saying on various comedy websites. "Aziz Ansari makes me very angry."
Oswalt is far from alone in his praise for Ansari, who earned an Emerging Comic of New York award in 2005 for his work as a stand-up. Rolling Stone placed him on its "Hot List," and New York Magazine named him one of the top-10 funniest comics no one has ever heard of. Yet.
Some may recognize Ansari as the wide-eyed "comedy warehouse" manager from TV commercials advertising Comedy Central's Last Laugh 2005. Others will get a better chance to see him doing a 10-minute act on Premium Blend, which will air on Comedy Central Feb. 1.
Most recently, he's been doing a series of shorts you can catch on YouTube.com, with fellow Best Week Ever colleague and cowriter Rob Huebel, in which he runs a child modeling and talent agency, Shutterbugs, with a small, quaking, iron fist.
In one of the shorts, Ansari yells at a small brown girl, "Yeah, come back ... when you're not Asian!" — which has particular resonance since Ansari's of Indian descent (check it out at his website, www.azizisbored.com).
Next up, Ansari is appearing in a film, School for Scoundrels, alongside Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Scheer, and of-the-moment comic Sarah Silverman.
Despite the heady company, Ansari stays grounded by hosting and performing in a weekly show at the UCB Theatre called Crash Test, which brings out smart and emerging comics like Demetre Martin, Todd Barry, Eugene Mirman, and Oswalt to try out new material every Monday night.
Instead of warming up the Charleston crowd this time, Ansari is the featured event, doing an hour's worth of his favorite material culled from his stand-up routines, his one-man show Aziz Ansari Punched a Wall, and various video projects in which he's been involved.
In person, when he's not in the spotlight, Ansari is remarkably soft-spoken. Quiet and reflective, he tends to spend more time thinking about a question than spitting out an answer.
He's glad that his family, which was supportive of his career from the beginning, is getting to see his success.
And it looks like Ansari will get to see how much Charleston supports his comedy, too. Last time he was in town, he stayed dormitory-style in an inland beach house on Isle of Palms with the UCB.
Before that, he and a Bennettsville buddy lived for a summer in a roach-infested studio apartment on Calhoun St. while they were taking Governor's School classes.
This time, Ansari will have his own room at the posh Renaissance Charleston Hotel on Wentworth.
No doubt about it, things are looking up for Aziz Ansari and his visions of sodomized turtles.