On Friday night at Casino Del Sol, comedian Aziz Ansari will talk about love.
It’s been on his mind a lot lately. Love, babies — other people’s — relationships, technology.
This is not typical stand-up comedy fare.
Not, at least, from Ansari.
But those who’ve clamored for more Kanye West stories or who long to hear more from his frantic, rabid, hip-hop alter-ego Randy or who only know Ansari from his turn as Tom on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” will learn that he has evolved.
Ansari calls in from Los Angeles, where he is hosting three discussions on modern love with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, research for a book he’s doing on “singlehood.” He doesn’t know where the book will take him, perhaps his own television series or movie, but he finds the subject fascinating.
Less fascinating, stories about rap icons.
“I pushed that other stuff as far as I can,” Ansari said. “It didn’t seem worth doing over and over. Most artists, musicians who have longevity, they constantly evolve what they do. You do the same thing, and it’s ‘I’ve already seen this.’ ”
What makes Ansari special is his ability to meld the two — who he was and who he has become. There is the goofy kid from South Carolina who loves talking about food, and there is the ultracelebrity who can talk about joking around with President Obama. Even when he delves into the lifestyles of the rich and famous — hilariously, to be sure, particularly when explaining 50 Cent’s encounter with a grapefruit — it’s as if he’s floating above, looking down at the absurdity of it all.
“I still have the same friends I’ve always had,” Ansari said. “I don’t think I’ve changed as a person. Your lifestyle changes. There are things around you that change, but your personality doesn’t change.”
The act has changed, though, and quickly.
Ansari has done three comedy specials in four years, all while filming “Parks and Rec” and a run of supporting roles in almost a dozen movies, including “Funny People,” “This is the End,” “Get Him to the Greek” and “30 Minutes or Less.” He got his start in the business in 2001 while a student at NYU, performing stand-up and sketch comedy, which led to a partnership with comedians Rob Huebel (Adult Swim’s “Childrens Hospital”), Paul Scheer (FX’s “The League”) and Jason Woliner in the troupe Human Giant. Human Giant landed on MTV, where it became a cult hit, and several bit television parts eventually led him to “Parks and Rec.”
But his true love is stand-up comedy, where he can entertain and opine, the collision of the two forming his deepest passion.
Comedian Patrice O’Neal, a favorite of Ansari’s who died at 41 in 2011, once told fellow comedian Gallagher — the king of staying in one’s lane, watermelons be damned — that he “doesn’t have jokes, I have soliloquies.”
“That’s an awesome quote — I feel the same way,” Ansari said. “The observations end up being humorous, yeah; I’ve been saying this a lot – there’s two types of laughs. One type where you tell a joke and people just laugh. The other is they laugh and think, ‘Holy ****, I can’t believe you said that. That’s deep in my head and heart, and I can’t believe that other people feel the same way.’
“It’s like, hey, we’re in this **** together.”
Which leads us back to love, the current focus of Ansari’s head and heart.
Ansari’s first stand-up special, 2010’s “Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening,” included bits about Kanye, R. Kelly and M.I.A., as well as routines on Craigslist roommates, Cold Stone Creamery and, notably, his cousin Harris. His second, 2012’s self-released “Dangerously Delicious,” was in the same vein, albeit with bits on 50 Cent, Jay Z and again, R. Kelly.
His recently released “Buried Alive” special was a step toward the serious — what it’s like to turn 30, what it’s like when friends start having children — and his next release will delve even deeper into relationships and all the heartache that comes with.
“In my new show, what I’ll do in Tucson, it’s a lot about being single, all the trauma everyone goes through, all the frustrations,” Ansari said. “When I make jokes about certain things that seem personal, everyone ends up laughing, and you realize this a very shared experience.
“You realize everyone goes through the same garbage.”