Aziz Ansari Reflects on His Sexual Misconduct Allegation in Netflix Comeback ‘Right Now’

With the #MeToo movement now nearly two years old, it is inevitable that some of the high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct will seek redemption. Aziz Ansari, the comic and actor who in January 2018 was accused by an anonymous woman of forcefully pressuring her into sex while on a date, attempts to explain himself and get his career back on track with a new Netflix stand-up special, “Aziz Ansari: Right Now.” Under the direction of Spike Jonze, Ansari, delivers some of his most personal material yet, while also tackling some larger issues concerning society. Gone is the guy who brought us the catchphrase “treat yo self,” and in his place did a man who is more reflective, even somber at times.

Ansari, who came to fame as a regular on the sitcom “Parks and Recreation” and most recently starred in his own Netflix series “Master of None,” opens up with an anecdote about being mistaken for fellow Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj. From there, he addresses the elephant in the room, the allegations. Without going into detail about what happened that night, he focuses on his feelings on the situation, explaining he felt terrible about how he made his accuser feel. He seems sincere when he expresses gratitude for the lesson learned at the end of the day, not just by him but by a male friend who confided that Ansari’s situation made him stop and think about his own dating behavior.

While in previous specials Ansari donned suits and made full use of the stage, this new Aziz stays put on a stool throughout out most of “Right Now,” wearing a simple pair of jeans and a Metallica t-shirt. While his showmanship may have changed to reflect his more humbled state, much of his material still deals with race relations, and he starts by going off on “Crazy Rich Asians” and the condescending way white people use the film to score “points.” A highlight of this part of the set deals with Ansari describing American racism through the eyes of his white, Danish girlfriend. Apparently she’s confused by internet commentators who think her name is “Becky.”

Mercifully, Ansari doesn’t go deep into politics; instead, he focuses more on society and culture, offering insightful humor on how we living in an age in which we’re expected to have an opinion on everything, with social media playing a major role in our reactions. White people in particular, he points out, use the internet to try and “out-woke” each other. He also does a bit about how today’s generation of young people wouldn’t fair as well as their grandparents did if there ever was a draft, a bit that would probably be funnier if John Mulaney didn’t already do something similar in his special “Kid Gorgeous.” Ansari does his own thing, but he’s nowhere near as masterful as Mulaney when it comes to delivery.

He goes on to joke about darker topics, such as the recent documentaries about R. Kelly and Michael Jackson and how the gruesome accounts of alleged sexual abuse victims now constitutes entertainment. He lingers a little bit too long here, but fortunately makes some vital distinctions between the cases against the two men, reminding us of the importance of doing our own research, even if the vast world that is the internet makes this difficult at times, as he points out. While some would argue that Ansari should probably not even touch anything related to #MeToo, it’s evident that his own experiences have led to his having a more nuanced take on this weighty subject. 

Ansari even manages to find humor when it comes to his own aging relatives. Some viewers may tune out when he talks of his grandmother’s dementia and his parents’ mortality, but others, particularly elder millennials and up, will relate to his experiences here. He also goes into detail about his girlfriend’s birth control, a topic that at first will make the viewer cringe, but at the end applaud the point he makes about the lengths women go through to have sex for pleasure.

“Right Now” ends on a grateful note, as Ansari expresses gratitude for his fans. “I saw a world in which I don’t ever get to do this again. It almost felt like I died.” In a way, he explains, he did, but he has walked away from all this as a man who now lives in the moment instead of waiting around for a bigger and better life. Ansari seems earnest when it comes to his commitment to this new Aziz, and hopefully he’s here to stay. 

Aziz Ansari: Right Now” begins streaming  July 9 on Netflix.