Aziz Ansari Returns to the Comedy Cellar in ‘Nightclub Comedian’

The comedy club acts as a second home to many aspiring stand-up comedians. These halls operate as opportunities for hopeful performers looking to create some laughs. If a comedian makes it big, they often move on to larger venues, bigger cities or new writing/ acting opportunities. Under the limelight, it can be easy to forget the stage that gave you your start, but Aziz Ansari returns to his first comedy club, the Comedy Cellar, in the new short special “Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian.”

In 2018, Ansari took a year long hiatus after allegations of sexual misconduct, but returned in 2019 for a stand-up tour. While his career never quite returned to the same stride he had in the mid 2010s, Ansari has continued to perform stand-up in 2019 and returned in 2020 for the “Parks & Recreation” reunion episode. “Nightclub Comedian” is the performer’s most recent project.

Aziz Ansari at the Comedy Cellar in New York City. Courtesy of Netflix.

In his special that takes place in the famous Comedy Cellar of New York City, Ansari commentates on life after COVID-19, his return to the United States after moving to London, and smartphones. As far as comedic talent goes, Ansari has always been a skilled comedian with a distinct form of delivery that helped him in his ventures as an actor appearing in popular roles in “Parks & Recreation” and “Master of None.” Ansari does have the ability to deliver a remarkable stand-up routine, but this 30 minute set is fairly standard. While Ansari’s presence is electric, it is also somewhat sobering. The set is still funny, but the material of his jokes are not what draws the audience into watching the show. 

As previously mentioned, the Comedy Cellar is where Ansari first started to perform comedy for an audience. The heart of the special relies on the Emmy-winning comedian’s return to where it all began. In the cold open of the special, we see a young Ansari walking around the city and then we watch the comedian standing outside the Comedy Cellar while the emcee introduces him. In the context of this special, Ansari’s set was a surprise to the audience, so there is genuine shock to his appearance on stage. It is odd to see Ansari waiting to appear on the stage, but it is also a realistic experience for every stand-up comedian that once stood in his shoes. It goes to show that even the household names of the comedy industry can have the same experiences as everyone else in the beginning. There is always a sense of uncertainty when it comes to performing that can make any entertainer anxious, no matter how famous. 

At the end of the special, some old footage of Ansari performing at the Comedy Cellar plays while the credits roll. It is in these final moments where we see Aziz Ansari at his most genuine. He is not a man in the limelight, just a new comedian telling fresh jokes. In an unusual sort of way, we can argue that the old and new footage of Ansari acts as a contrast to the comedian before and after rising to fame. In the old footage, he has a fresh energy while in the new material, he has the jaded experience of a Hollywood comedian. 

Overall, if you are interested in stand-up comedy, “Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian” is worth checking out solely for the purpose of seeing the successful comedian return to the small comedy club basement. While not the most remarkable source of laugh-out-loud jokes, it is probably one of the most realistic specials to showcase the world of stand up comedy.

“Aziz Ansari: Nightclub Comedian” is available for streaming on Netflix.

By Nicole Parisi

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