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Aziz Ansari isn’t himself when he takes the stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for his latest standup special Right Now. At least, he isn’t the Aziz Ansari we saw a year ago, or in his previous comedy hours. Instead of finely tailored fashion, he’s dressed down in a Metallica T-shirt and black jeans. His light dusting of facial hair is gone too.

But more than that, he doesn’t act the same. The loose swagger of 2015’s Live At Madison Square Garden has turned into twitchy, furtive movements, like someone high desperately trying to appear sober.

Maybe it’s the camera that director Spike Jonze places uncomfortably close to Ansari’s face. More likely, Ansari's demeanor is due to this show being his first dip back into the fast-moving waters of the pop culture mainstream after the website Babe.net and an unnamed young woman accused him of sexual misconduct in early 2018.

The standing ovation Ansari receives from the BAM audience may have calmed fears of backlash from his hometown crowd. But—as was expected from reports of his Road to Nowhere tour—he still takes some time to address his feelings over the accusations.

Let’s emphasize that point: his feelings. “There’s times I felt scared,” he says. “There’s times I felt humiliated. There’s times I felt embarrassed. And ultimately I just felt terrible that this person felt this way.” As he goes on, his voice gets quieter. He nearly whispers: “It’s made not just me but other people more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing.”

That's a fine enough statement, but it's also entirely at odds with the rest of Ansari's clammy, unsteady performance. At any point during his opening mea culpa, Ansari could have used the platform of a Netflix special to publicly apologize to the young woman who recounted her skin-crawling date, but what he does instead is let himself off the hook without extending the same courtesy to the rest of his audience. He pivots to a jeremiad on virtue signaling and performative wokeness among white people—particularly in the world of social media, the closest any of us plebes have to Ansari’s spotlight.

The rest of the hour swings back and forth in much the same way. Ansari brings up some dumb thing he did in the past that now looks bad—R. Kelly material from his previous standup specials or an episode of Parks & Recreation where his character gives Rashida Jones’ character a teddy bear with a nanny cam in it—and chides himself gently for it. Anyone else who pats themselves on the back for watching Crazy Rich Asians or turned a blind eye to Michael Jackson’s supposed sexual abuse gets a thorough dressing down with the arms’ length remove of it all being just for laughs.

It’s not only Ansari making comparisons in Right Now. Jonze and editor Jeff Buchanan shot and edited the special with cutaways to the audience that read as commentary. When Ansari asks for a round of applause from people in the audience that are done with R. Kelly, the camera cuts to an African-American couple. The woman is clapping. The man isn’t. They exchange a glance and the man shrugs. When Ansari talks about white people expressing their pride at seeing Crazy Rich Asians, there's a cut to two white ladies, one pointing at the other as if to say, “That’s you! He’s talking about you!”

The worst offense, though, is the quick cutaway to a white woman, staring at the stage with a look of quiet absorption on her face as Ansari spells out the ways he was affected by the misconduct allegations meted out against him. Comedy specials have been blessedly moving away from the visual shorthand of reaction laughs, so this move by Jonze feels especially regressive and manipulative.

That’s a reflection, though, of the tone of Right Now and Ansari’s current comedy. By not subjecting himself to any on-camera or on-the-record interviews, the 36-year-old wants us to know that, even after a full year of supposed self-reflection and spotlight avoidance, he’s coming back on his terms and his terms only. And anyone that dares to criticize him is just doing it for the likes.