January 16, 2019

Should Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. Talk About Accusations Onstage?

“On a Saturday night this month in a cavernous theater in a casino, an Aziz Ansari I had never seen before strode onstage. Wearing a black leather jacket and skinny jeans, he looked the same, but the old swagger was diminished, replaced by a certain world-weary exasperation.

He began his set with a series of jokes poking fun at progressives who get furious online. He mocked the early summer uproar over cultural appropriation and a white girl from Utah who wore a cheongsam to prom, and sighed at those who criticized “The Simpsons” for the Indian character Apu. Later, he skewered competitive virtue-signaling, describing it as a game of “progressive Candy Crush.” The show’s major theme was contempt for “people trying to outwoke each other” online.

What went unsaid was that since the last time he toured new material, Ansari had become the high-profile subject of an internet furor himself. An anonymous woman had published a detailed article about a date with him and accused him of inappropriate behavior. (Ansari has said that their encounter was consensual.) The article drew viral outrage, an equally forceful backlash and much commentary about dating culture and the #MeToo movement.

Ansari, who will resume his tour of the United States and Canada in February, is now one of several male comics returning to the national stage after facing scrutiny for sexual conduct. T.J. Miller, who has been accused of sexual assault and denied the allegations, is performing around the country. And most famously, Louis C.K., who admitted to misconduct, has been working out new material primarily in short club sets locally, though he did an hour at a club in Long Island on Sunday, presumably laying the groundwork for a special.”

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