Comeback?

Aziz Ansari performs ‘funny’ stand-up routine, but audience’s phones are kept on lockdown during show

Aziz Ansari. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For Netflix)

A little more than a week after news broke that disgraced comedian Louis C.K. attempted an unexpected comeback at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, details are emerging on a stand-up show performed by Aziz Ansari in front of an audience of nearly 2,000.

Ansari, of course, is a more complicated figure than C.K. — he has fashioned himself as a feminist and has been photographed wearing a “Times Up” pin, but last year was accused by an anonymous woman of sexual misconduct after the two returned to his New York City apartment following a date. The woman said Ansari tried to pressure her into sex in a degrading way until she finally left his home. For his part, Ansari responded to the anonymous accusations by insisting that the physical contact between them was consensual and he didn’t know anything was wrong until she text messaged him the next day to say so. In a statement at the time, he said he “took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”

The accusations against Ansari, and the manner in which they were made, sparked a heated debate among feminists on both sides of the issue. Even Ansari’s longtime friend and fellow comedian Amy Schumer grappled with how to think about the situation, but expressed a merciful outlook. “I don’t think anyone wants to see Aziz’s career ruined or his life ruined,” she said at the time.

Like many men in entertainment and media who have been accused amid the #MeToo movement, Ansari quietly retreated from public life. Recently, though, he’s reportedly been trying his hand a returning to the stage on a few occasions. New York Times reporter Sopan Deb (who also moonlights as a standup comic) paid a visit to Ansari’s show in Charleston, South Carolina, this week. Deb reports that “all cellphones and smart watches” would be “placed in a lockable pouch” to prevent photos or footage of the performance from emerging. The gig was billed as a chance for Ansari to workshop some new material, though the audience was rather large for such an endeavor — about 1,800. The comic received a partial standing ovation when he came to the stage.

Deb talked to several men and women in the audience. Some didn’t express any concern at all that Ansari is embarking on a comeback. One man said he wasn’t even aware of the accusations against the comedian until they were explained to him by his Uber driver on the way to the show. Interestingly, like Louis C.K., Ansari made no mention on stage about the accusations against him. Sydney Rebarick, 26, thought it was incumbent upon Ansari to address article detailing the events after the date.

“I was hoping something would be addressed, you know?” she said. “It wasn’t, but it was funny.”

Last week, Women in World polled our Twitter followers on what they thought about C.K.’s return. Some 56 percent of those who responded indicated they think C.K. should retire permanently. This week, we’re asking about Ansari and whether his return to performing is too soon or ill-advised. Vote below.

Read the full story at The New York Times

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