The South Carolina native spent the first half of his set at the Gaillard on Tuesday, "Working Out New Material," discussing a stream of controversies that has confronted residents of the internet over the past year. Except one.
From the internet furor touched off by a prom dress to Starbucks to Roseanne, it seems like Ansari is straight up done with online hot takes. But for all the material covered in his wide-ranging, free form exploration of internet outrage, race, relationships, sex, and Migos, Ansari did not mention #MeToo or the anonymous accusations of sexual misconduct leveled at him.
In an January interview, Babe.net reporter Katie Way recounted a date with Ansari during which an unnamed 23-year-old Brooklyn photographer said, "I believe that I was taken advantage of by Aziz. I was not listened to and ignored. It was by far the worst experience with a man I've ever had." The interview detailed the sexual encounter between the two after returning to Ansari's Manhattan apartment that evening.
A statement from the comedian after the story acknowledged their relationship, but said "sexual activity" the evening of their date was "by all indications completely consensual."
The interview circulated on the web to mixed reaction, with some dismissing the accuser and others using it to shine light on issues around standards of consent and sexual power.
Ansari, whose comedy regularly examines the nuances of intimacy, went on to say, "I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue."
Tuesday night though, Ansari struck a different tone when it came to general outrage stemming from our push notification-driven world. Three times over the course of his routine, Ansari riffed on plausible, but untrue things one might find online.
"Newly-woke white people are exhausting," Ansari said, discussing alternative outcomes of a viral news item from April in which a white teenager's prom clothing sparked debate over cultural appropriation. A beat later, Ansari solicited (and got) applause from the mostly white audience about a particular provocative episode, only to tell the crowd that it never happened. Surprise!
After discussing viral controversy and a pretty funny bit describing how people can be duped into believing anything, Ansari said he has deleted all the news apps from his phone, doesn't pay attention to the news, and advised his girlfriend to do the same.
Ansari's comedy regularly draws from his personal experiences growing up in an Indian-American home in Bennettsville, S.C. and working as an Indian actor, a topic that also made up a good chunk of Tuesday's performance. Using news and politics as a springboard, Ansari also pivoted a look at institutional racism back on his yuppie downtown audience, discussing topics around white guilt and unequal treatment by police.
In recent years, Ansari has focused his comedy on life as a single young adult, even co-authoring a book on the subject, Modern Romance. The Netflix series Ansari co-created, Master of None, documents the working life and romance of a lightly-fictionalized version of himself.
But Tuesday's performance definitely did not avoid those topics, potential pitfalls if someone were trying to avoid reminding people of recent allegations.
If anything, Ansari put the topics front and center, discussing condoms and other birth control, discrimination, fame, and relationship power dynamics without acknowledging the controversy that swirled around him or others in entertainment.
Ansari's return to the stage for the first time since the accusations against him come around the same time of comedian Louis C.K.'s re-emergence since sexually explicit allegations were made against him.
This week's shows at the Gaillard are part of a string of "new material" shows the comedian is holding, with another set for tonight at the downtown theater.