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Interview: Aziz Ansari

Lauren LaBorde talks to the comic, who's coming to New Orleans this week

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Comedian Aziz Ansari stars on NBC's Parks and Recreation. - PHOTO BY COLIN PATRICK SMITH
  • Photo by Colin Patrick Smith
  • Comedian Aziz Ansari stars on NBC's Parks and Recreation.

Actor and comedian Aziz Ansari is a foodie: Among the bonus materials included in the download for his recent stand-up special Dangerously Delicious was a list of restaurant recommendations for cities included on that tour. It seems he also books tours based partially on memorable meals. On March 10 he tweeted "New Orleans. You are amazing. Cochon?? Rabbit and dumplings?? RIDIC. Adding tour date ASAP!!!" A few weeks later, Ansari announced a stop in June at New Orleans' Mahalia Jackson Theater for his Buried Alive stand-up tour.

  "I don't schedule my tour dates exclusively based on dumplings, but ... I've been wanting to come to New Orleans," Ansari says. "I came down for that Make it Right charity event that Brad Pitt did in town, and I had such a good time that I was going to add a date at some point, and it just worked out that I had some time in June to add that date, so I did."

  He also had meals at culinary destinations Cochon Butcher, Le Petit Grocery and Sylvain while filming the Seth Rogen-directed apocalypse comedy The End of the World, which features — besides A-listers James Franco, Emma Watson and singer Rihanna — a veritable dream team of comics including Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride and Ansari.

  "Every single one of us is in the movie. It's ridiculous," Ansari says. "It's like The Expendables but with comedy people."

  The Buried Alive tour comes on the heels of Ansari releasing Dangerously Delicious in March using the Louis C.K.-pioneered method of self-producing and releasing the special online via download for $5, a move that was wildly successful for C.K. Ansari isn't announcing download numbers for the special, but based on Internet buzz it seems it was a success.

  Dangerously Delicious is marked by self-deprecating observations about dating, his bumbling cousin Harris (a reoccurring character in Ansari's stand-up) and anecdotes about his many hip-hop friends/fans, who include Kanye West and Jay-Z (in one joke, Ansari recounts a dinner with 50 Cent in which he discovered the rapper didn't know what a grapefruit was). On the Buried Alive tour, which features all-new material, 29-year-old Ansari focuses more on his uneasy transition to adulthood.

  "I just kind of hit that age where a lot of my friends are getting married and having babies, and it just seems like something that's so far away," he says. "I still feel like a kid and that just seems so crazy to me."

  Ansari has always played the dual roles of stand-up comic and actor. After coming into stand-up by performing in New York's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the South Carolina native appeared on the MTV sketch comedy series Human Giant alongside Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer. That series ran from 2007 to 2008. His breakthrough movie spot came in Judd Apatow's pensive 2009 comedy Funny People, in which he had a brief-but-memorable role as Randy (spelled with eight A's), an over-the-top comic whose sets are replete with DJ air horn noises, signature dance moves and catchphrases and ribald sex stories. Ansari has incorporated Randy into his stand-up act, and the character makes an appearance on his 2010 CD/DVD Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening.

  He currently appears on NBC's Parks and Recreation as Tom Haverford, a low-level government worker who dreams of living the life of an entrepreneur or media mogul but is limited by his small town (and cluelessness). The show, which follows the mockumentary format popularized by fellow NBC series The Office, was criticized in its first season for being a paint-by-numbers version of that show. But now, heading into its fifth season, the show has garnered its own fan base, with many moments and characters developing into Internet memes (for example: Tom Haverford's "treat yo self" and anything involving the character Ron Swanson).

  "I felt pretty confident it would catch on. I think any show in the first episodes is kind of figuring out the show," Ansari says. "The first season was only six episodes, so there wasn't time to build a following. And when we did a full season, and then seasons two and three, there [were] enough episodes for characters to get fleshed out and people to kind of discover the show."

  Comedian, actress and Parks and Recreation writer Chelsea Peretti, who had a memorable cameo on the pilot of Louie as fictionalized Louis C.K.'s uncomfortable blind date, opens for Ansari. And of course, Ansari probably will make the rounds at local restaurants.

  "There's so many delicious foods options (in New Orleans)," Ansari says. "I'm excited to go back."

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