Actor, comedian, and social archaeologist Aziz Ansari is testing his crowd. "You wanna see something amazing? Clap if you're a woman." He pauses for the clapping and continues, "Okay, now clap if a dude has sent you a dick photo before." The clapping is just as loud, with added laughter. It's not so much a joke as it is a collective exercise, and Ansari sets these traps with skill. Spotlighting wrongness is where the Parks and Recreation star excels. "What text do you include with your dick pic?" He has a one-word answer.
His most recent standup tour, Modern Romance, deals with the same topics as the book he's currently working on with NYU professor Eric Klinenberg, as the pair delves into the idiosyncrasies of present-day love. He was in Tokyo when I caught up with him to talk about sushi, dick pics, and the pocket vagina.
How's Tokyo? What's some weird shit going down over there?
Tokyo is one of my favorite places in the world. I'm here for a week to do some research for a book I'm working on about love in the modern era. We're doing a bunch of focus groups and interviewing residents about what it's like dating and finding love in Tokyo. It's been unbelievable. As far as weird shit—they've been telling me about the popularity of this thing called Tenga. I still don't quite understand what it is, but it basically sounds like a really high-tech, high-end pocket vagina? Apparently, it's really popular here with men and available at every convenience store. If you go to the website, it says: "The future of masturbation is NOW." [Laughs]
How's the sushi?
The sushi is the freshest here. Besides looking for Tengas, I've mainly been running around trying to grab good food and wander around my favorite neighborhoods. Yesterday, I went to Tsukiji, the famous fish market, and ate at any hole-in-the-wall place that seemed crowded and lacking in white customers. No offense to any of your Caucasian readers.
I'm excited for your modern romance book. What topic has gotten the most response on your Reddit page so far?
We got a lot of posts about the whole concept of intentionally waiting to write back a text in order to not seem overeager or in an attempt to build attraction. The most interesting thing that we consistently keep learning in all the focus groups, interviews, and Reddit forums is that all of us are dealing with different versions of the same headaches. That's really what I want a big message to be for the book and this standup tour: No matter how specific and brutal our romantic drama may seem, we're all in the same boat, and that's kind of comforting to know.
When was the first time you ever realized you were funny?
When I was 5, I did a killer standup routine at my birthday party at Pizza Hut. Johnny Carson was somehow in the audience and gave me the legendary thumbs-up. He said, "Great job, kid." I knew then that I wanted to be a comedian, and I dreamed of one day performing in theaters across America. Actually, that's not true. None of that happened. I always remember enjoying making people laugh, but I don't remember any specific zingers I blasted out as a kid.
Please finish this scene: You're in the cereal aisle at the grocery store picking out a box of Fruity Pebbles, and an incredibly sexy woman comes up to you wearing a tight silk dress. In a foreign accent, she says, "Fruity Pebbles really, really turn me on." Then she touches your lips with two of her fingers and asks you to put a clothespin on her left nipple. Then what happens?
Wow, that's an incredibly specific fantasy that you've put a lot of thought into. I don't really eat Fruity Pebbles, so I don't feel qualified to answer.
When sending dick pics, I like your accompanying text, which is just the word "BOOM." What are some other messages people could attach to their outgoing dick pics? My friend sent a dick pic to someone and wrote, "Infantry division, first responder."
To be 100 percent clear, I've never sent a dick pic. That's from a bit in the Buried Alive standup special. I personally don't understand why any dude would think a girl would get all fired up to receive a photo of their dumb penis.
Do women send you vagina pics? What text do they send with the pics?
No, no vagina pics to report as of yet.