Aziz Ansari Discusses FUNNY PEOPLE And Raaaaaaaandy With Mr. Beaks!
Published at: July 29, 2009, 3:39 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
While Aziz Ansari may not get quite enough screen time in Judd Apatow's FUNNY PEOPLE to steal the film (he only turns up in a few scenes), his Randy character has certainly dominated the picture's ambitious viral marketing push. And for good reason. A hyperactive, sex-obsessed comic whose set is so meticulously choreographed he needs his own DJ, Randy (or "Raaaaaaaandy!") is an uproarious parody of everything that's wrong with stand-up today: he's loud in lieu of clever, rehearsed rather than real, conceited instead of engaging. Most of his material revolves around getting his dick sucked. The rest of it is centered on eating pussy. Go ahead and scoff, but Wodehouse built a career around this shit.
Though Randy seems to be an amalgam of hack comedians past and present, Ansari is convincing when he says the character is largely a hypothetical. Regardless of his origins, there's no disputing the fact that Randy kills every time Ansari trots him out in front of a real-life audience. Perhaps the joke is on us for howling at material that'd be loathsome in the hands of a less skilled comic, but there's a precision (and an overkill) to Randy's set that could never be matched by some frat-boy douchebag with a microphone. If Dave Chappelle would've spent a month or two honing his Reggie Warrington act from THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, it might've been as hilarious and detailed as what Ansari's done with Randy.
Not that any of this is surprising. If you've ever watched his work on HUMAN GIANT (the sketch comedy troupe he co-founded with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel), or caught an episode of PARKS & RECREATION, you know that Ansari is a very bad man. He's also got a stand-up special for Comedy Central on the way, which will feature a ten-minute appearance from Randy (replete with dancers and "money cannons"). If this is Ansari's breakout moment (and with Apatow talking up a Randy movie, it very well could be), he's more than earned it.
Mr. Beaks: Is Randy just a composite of a lot of comedians you've seen over the years?
Aziz Ansari: People who've seen the documentary think it's got to be this person or that person. I think the biggest influence was that I was thinking "What if Soulja Boy did stand-up comedy?" And I think he'd be like Randy. He'd have a DJ, he'd have a dance, and it'd be really over the top sex material like that. That was the inspiration for the vibe of Randy. And I guess there are hints of other people. It's like if some kid just saw like a Def Jam Comedy show, and said, "Oh, I can do stand-up comedy! All I have to do is talk about pussy and jump up and down!" But I don't think it's a dig at any one person in particular.
Beaks: The thing I like about Randy is that he doesn't really tell jokes per se.
Ansari: I think they're jokes. Those audiences are really laughing. You can't just say anything and get a roomful of people to laugh like that. There are structured jokes. It's just done to death with jumping up and down, and yelling and stuff. As far as the idea behind the jokes, it does have to resonate in some way to get people to laugh.
Beaks: And that's the thing: Randy kills! Even though we're in on the joke that this guy is loud and obnoxious and seems to be the epitome of everything that's wrong with stand-up comedy, we're still laughing our asses off.
Ansari: Yeah, I think it still has to be funny on some level. You can't just go up there and scream, "I was eating pussy today!!!" (Laughs) Although, wait a minute, that is pretty funny.
Beaks: (Laughing) Did you work on the character in clubs before you did that big show in January?
Ansari: You know, I've been doing stand-up for maybe eight years, and when we were doing the scenes with Randy, it was before we shot the stand-up scenes. So I was like, "Oh, you know, when I do the stand-up, I shouldn't do it as myself. Randy is much different than me, so his stand-up would be much different." So I started doing some shows where I tried to do how I though Randy would do stand-up. I did my material, but then Randy'd it up a little to kind of get a feel for the character. But then I decided I should write some material for Randy, and that's when I started writing the hot tub joke or having to take a shit before sex - all of that stupid stuff. By the time we were filming [the concert], I had a whole ten-minute Randy set.
Beaks: Was stand-up something you were always interested in?
Ansari: Back when I was in college, some friends were like, "You should try to do stand-up." So I did, had a good time, and kept at it while I was in college in New York. And I've been doing it ever since.
Beaks: It's so tough starting in New York or L.A. You have to fight for stage time and do all of those "bringer shows".
Ansari: Yeah, it's pretty bad. But I just kept at it.
Beaks: So is this Comedy Central special going to be all Randy?
Ansari: No, it's like an hour special. I do a seven or ten minute chunk of Randy in the middle. Actually, it's not in the film, but I did a scene where I was talking to Sandler about what a Randy special would be like, and that's what we made that chunk of the special like. During the Randy segment, I come out wearing all sequins, and this huge sign drops down saying "RAAAAAAAANDY!" There's smoke machine and dancers and money starts falling on the audience. It's really pretty crazy. It was really fun to shoot. I think it'll be a cool part of the special.
Beaks: "Money cannons", right?
Ansari: Yeah, yeah. (Laughs) I'm pretty psyched about it.
Beaks: Did you have to clean up your material at all for Comedy Central?
Ansari: No, they put it out on DVD. They have that "Secret Stash" that they air uncensored, and when they air it during the day it gets bleeped or whatever. But the one thing in the Randy set they didn't want me to do was... (Laughs) they were like, "Can we take out all of the jokes about him getting blow jobs and eating pussy?" They re-run those shows during the day, and they can't even run [those jokes] bleeped because they're still dirty. So I did this thing where I say, "Hey, y'all! This next Randy joke is a little too dirty for the daytime version. So when I talk about eating pizza, you know what I really mean!" (Laughs) So I did the joke like, "I'm just swimming around lookingforthepizza, lookingforthepizza, lookingforthepizza..." It sounds like I'm doing a joke about eating some girl's piece of pizza in a hot tub. That'll be on the daytime version, but it'll be [dirty] on the DVD.
Beaks: Who are your major influences in comedy?
Ansari: The people I watch the most now are Patton Oswalt and Louis C.K. They're probably my two biggest influences as far as people who around now. As far as when I was in high school, I really loved the Chris Rock specials. And, obviously, guys like Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, etc.
Beaks: Have you and the other Human Giant guys talked about maybe doing a movie together?
Ansari: Yeah, we've talked about stuff like that. I'm definitely trying to write some stuff for myself. We don't have anything firm in the mix, but we've definitely tossed around ideas and stuff, and I'm sure that'll get going whenever we get some time to put it together. If we did a Human Giant movie, it probably wouldn't be a sketch movie; it would probably be a whole narrative movie.
Beaks: You were saying that you had a few scenes cut from FUNNY PEOPLE?
Ansari: There was that once scene with Sandler at the end that'll be on the DVD.
Beaks: Were you doing a lot of riffing with Sandler in that scene?
Ansari: Sure. We really developed the character [of Randy] on set. As far as the scenes go, we were writing bits for Randy on set. So you do bunch of stuff, and then Judd's like, "Do this again," or "Do that again." He kind of picks his favorites.
Beaks: And oftentimes people generate material for other characters. Did you find that people were wanting to write for Randy?
Ansari: In that documentary thing we shot, we sat down with Evan Goldberg and Jonah [Hill] and a couple of other friends, and... they helped us come up with ideas for that. Seth and Evan and all those guys really took a liking to Randy, and they were psyched when we started doing that documentary.
Beaks: And DJ Old Youngin'. How'd he get worked into the show?
Ansari: That was just one night when I was at the UCB Theater in L.A. I was doing Randy, and I'd brought my laptop because I had the idea to hit that Reggaeton horn at the end of jokes. I had it set up with all of those noises and was just going to hit them myself. But then Brandon [Johnson] was there, and I was like, "Man, would you like to be Randy's DJ and do that bit?" And so he just started doing it with me. He's so funny. I kept doing it with him whenever I could. Unfortunately, we shot him at the Orpheum show, but he wasn't in the scenes we did before I hadn't come up with the idea of having him in the mix yet. But he's in the Comedy Central show.
Beaks: What if Randy becomes this huge phenomenon, and people start demanding new Randy material? Are you ready to do more Randy?
Ansari: Oh, not right now. I've got to do some Aziz stuff for a little bit. (Laughs) I mean, it's a minor character in the movie, but Judd and Seth really got into the character, which is why we have that documentary and the website and all that stuff. It's very flattering. But it's a fun character to do. It's just like being a dick. (Laughs) And super high-energy.
Beaks: It strikes me that you have to be in pretty good shape to do Randy.
Ansari: Oh, man! You watch those Katt Williams specials, and he's jumping around for an hour. I like Katt Williams. I think he's funny. But I watch him, and I'm like, "Man, that must be tiring." I do ten minutes of Randy, and I'm exhausted. (Laughs)
Beaks: That night you did him at the Orpheum, you were sick, right?
Ansari: Yeah, and I was only supposed to do ten minutes. But the crowd was so into it, Judd was like, "Go out there and do some more!" And then I had to my own material because I ran out of Randy stuff. But, yeah, I was really sick that day.
Here are the concluding chapters of the Randy documentary.