Aziz Ansari is perhaps best known for playing Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, the NBC sitcom starring Amy Poehler. The show was never a huge hit, but it was beloved — In part because it was smart but also because (IMHO) the show was, at its core, sweet. Although Ansari’s Haverford was perhaps the most selfish and hustle-y characteron the show – and yet he too was pretty sweet, deep down.
After listening to this podcast, I’ll be surprised if you don’t think the same thing about Ansari himself. He grew up in Bennettsville, South Carolina, to parents who immigrated from India. His dad worked as a gastroenterologist; and his mom worked in his dad’s office. Aziz came to New York after high school, studied marketing at NYU, but then got into stand-up comedy and stayed in it.
He’s been a comedian and actor for fifteen years now. Which made it time to write a book. But not just your standard book by a stand-up comic. “I’d been offered book deals in the past,” he tells us, “and usually for a comedian a book deal is kind of a cash grab. You basically just write down a version of your act as a book and I didn’t want to do that.”
Instead, he teamed up with the NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg to write Modern Romance
, an interesting book full of interesting research about how people meet, and mate, in the modern world. (Here’s
review; and here’s
a 2010 New Yorker
profile of Ansari.)
In the podcast, we talk about the book, and about the shift from “companionate” marriage to “soul-mate” marriage:
ANSARI: To me the craziest statistic in the book, the craziest one that blows my mind the most, is in 1967 there was this study … where they found seventy-six percent of women said they would marry someone that they are not romantically in love with. And you know now, just the idea that like now we have all these options of what to do with our lives and our goal of who we want to find is not like oh a decent person to settle down with and start a family with. It’s no, we’re trying to find the love of our lives. We’re trying to find this amazing, elusive thing. That just wasn’t a thing people had the luxury to look for.
Ansari also answers our FREAK-quently Asked Questions (the same ones we’ve put to Boris Johnson, Nate Silver and Kevin Kelly), which is how we learn about his toothbrush problems. He also tells us about the new TV show he’s making for Netflix — and the fact that he doesn’t yet have a title for the show. So he needs your help with this. In the podcast, you’ll hear what the show is about; if you come up with a good title, please leave it in the comments section below. If Ansari picks yours, maybe he will buy a toothbrush for you too.