Last Night: Aziz Ansari at Punch Line Comedy Club

From SF Weekly

January 25, 2009
By Jennifer Maerz


Aziz Ansari (W/Nick Kroll)
Friday, Jan. 23, 2009
Punch Line
Better Than: “Rollerblading”

What better way to spend a Friday night than laughing until you’re all teared up like a baby? I mean, yeah, it’s great when you leave the Great American talking about some kick ass band really tightening up its live show. But you know you’ve had a memorable start to the weekend when, in reference to the night before, your date texts you, “Grab that giraffe by the neck, Randy” — a punchline about fucking the Toys “R” Us mascot.

Said giraffe “fuck story” was just one of many lasting one-liners that came out during the Friday night performance by Aziz Ansari, one of my favorite Internet-generation comedians. The actor — best known for his part in MTV’s hilarious Human Giant series — was in town as part of Sketchfest, San Francisco’s annual comedy blowout that packs the city with two weeks straight of popular comic actors. And when I left the Punch Line at the end of the show, I was hard pressed to remember seeing another comedian whose material was so consistently, and often absurdly, funny.

But we were in for a good evening beginning with the opening act, Nick Kroll, the self-described love child of “Harry Potter and Jeff Goldblum.” Dude was funny from start to finish, but his best bits were warnings about the dangers of “drunk packing.” You know those nights, where you’re out way too late to properly prepare for that 6 a.m. flight, so, as Kroll tells it, you pack for five days in Jamaica with two pairs of shorts and two pairs of underwear… before getting distracted by high school friends on Facebook for hours. (He also had a good bit about bouncers as airport security guards — “You were born in June? What’s your sign?”).

The night was all about Aziz, though. He performed two shows on Friday, taping them for an upcoming live CD. His material was rife with the right pop cultural references, from his cell filling in the wrong words on his smart text program to stalking fans who stalk him with messages that he’s “lonelier than you’d think.” It’s impossible to show how funny a comedian is in a review (especially when the bouncers at the Punch Line give you a slap on the wrist if they see you taking notes) so I’ll just say by the middle of Aziz’s show I was wiping away tears from laughing pretty regularly.

Aziz’s best bits, though, were from a character in an upcoming Judd Apatow movie called Funny People. He’s apparently playing a comedian in that film named Randy, and for a good half hour or so Aziz became Randy–whose standup took a turn for the raunchy, as he threw out rapid fire “fuck stories” to the crowd. He was backed up by a “DJ” — a deadpan dude with a laptop who echoed Aziz’s punchlines with sampled shoutouts (mostly of the “Raaaaannnndyyyyy” variety) and random one-liners like the one about the giraffe at Toys R’ Us.

Comedians can be hit and miss — I’ve seen even Patton Oswalt lose it by dragging his show on for too long with too much old material — but Aziz never had a dull moment. He’s an impressive performer whose jokes riff off everything from race to R. Kelly. His endurance could be in part because he comes from the sketch comedy world and seems to be just breaking in to the standup circuit (he opened for Flight of the Conchords last year). Or, it could also be that Aziz Ansari is just really fucking funny.

By the way: There are still more good Sketchfest shows going on this week. Tomorrow night’s show at the Punch Line with Tig Notaro comes recommended by a friend in the comedy biz. But Friday’s the big night in my book. You have the Upright Citizen’s Brigade at the Eureka ,or over at Cobb’s it’s Zach Galifianakis, Bob Odenkirk, and a buncha other dudes. Tough choice, but I think this video of Galifianakis and Will Oldham breaks my tie.

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