"There's times I felt scared, there's times I felt humiliated, there's times I felt embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible that this person felt this way," the 36-year-old comic said.
Aziz Ansari reflects on the sexual misconduct allegation made against him in his new Netflix comedy special, "Aziz Ansari Right Now."
As soon as the comedian hit the stage, he opened up about how the allegation and fallout that ensued made him feel vulnerable -- and perhaps never be able to do stand-up again.
To lead into the serious topic, the "Parks and Recreation" star began by telling a joke about how a guy on the street told him he loved his Netflix show but soon realized that the man was talking about fellow comedian Hasan Minhaj's series "Patriot Act."
Once he'd clarified with the man who he was, the comic then proceeded to rattle off his series of accomplishments -- which ultimately ended in an uncomfortable punchline.
"Oh, no, Aziz, right?'" Ansari recalled. "'Yeah, yeah, that's me. 'Master of None!' Yeah, yeah, that's me. 'Parks and Rec!' Yeah, yeah, that's me. 'Treat yourself!' Yeah, yeah, that's me. 'And you had the whole thing last year -- sexual misconduct?' No, no, no, no, no, no, that was Hasan!"
In January 2018, Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by an anonymous 23-year-old woman. The woman, codenamed Grace in the Babe.net article, alleged that sexual acts occurred during a date with the actor even though she was "physically giving off cues" she wasn't comfortable. Ansari considered the encounter consensual and said in a statement he didn't pick up on the non-verbal cues. The actor has kept a low-profile ever since and hadn't spoken about the allegation in depth besides for stops on his tour.
Ansari's Netflix show, which dropped Tuesday, is his most public performance (and appearance) since the allegations were made.
"You know, I haven't said much about that whole thing, but I've talked about it on this tour, 'cause you're here and it means a lot to me," Ansari began in the special. "I'm sure there are some of you that are curious how I feel about that whole situation."
"It's a tricky thing for me to answer, because I've felt so many things," he continued. "There's times I felt scared, there's times I felt humiliated, there's times I felt embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible that this person felt this way. After a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward. It moved things forward for me, made me think about a lot. I hope I've become a better person."
The "Master of None" star then referenced a conversation he had with a friend who said the whole thing made him rethink every date he's been on.
"I always think about a conversation I had with one of my friends where he was like, 'You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I've ever been on,'" Ansari said. "And I thought, wow! That's pretty incredible. If this made not just me but other people be more thoughtful, then that's a good thing, and that's how I feel about it."
He added, "This isn't the most hilarious way to begin a comedy show, but it's important to me that you know how I feel."
Throughout the special, Ansari made jokes about a wide variety of topics, including cultural appropriation, drawbacks of certain types of birth control and interracial relationships.
Ansari ended the 65-minute performance on a serious note and expressed his appreciation for the audience coming to the show.
The actor recalled how at the end of every show, he would always tell the audience "Thanks so much!" but he realized he didn't really mean it. However, for the comic, the meaning has now definitely changed.
"But now, when I see you guys here, it hits me in a different way," Ansari said. "All of you guys, you drove down here, you waited in line and you did all of this stuff, just to hear me talk into a microphone for an hour or so."
"It means the world to me, because I saw the world where I don't ever get to do this again," he said. "It almost felt like I died. In a way, I did. That old Aziz that said 'treat yourself' or whatever. He's dead."
"But I'm glad. Because that guy was always looking forward to what was happening next," he concluded. "I don't think that way anymore. I realize it's all ephemeral. ... All we really have is the moment we're in and the people we're with."
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