Master Class
GQ Style|Fall 2017
After the smashing success of season two of his Netflix show, ‘ master of none,’ Aziz Ansari vowed to go analog. No social media. No e-mail. No laboring over season three. So we invited the stand-up turned auteur to be our plus-one at paris fashion week—and got him to teach us the art of unplugging.
Mark Anthony Green

He’s early. I’m not sure how early he got to Au Passage, a restaurant serving small plates (Aziz’s choice) that’s tucked away on a graffiti-riddled street in central Paris. But he beat me—and I was early. I found him leaning on a wall, alone. Not looking at his phone or speaking with the maître d’. In fact, his posture didn’t project any of the standard anxiety one gets while waiting alone in a crowded place. After a short back-and-forth about whether the Gucci Prince town slippers I’m wearing are still cool (when it comes to matters of taste, Aziz has opinions on everything), we sit down, elbow to elbow with other Americans who are excited to overpay for a sliver of duck.

Watching the second season of Aziz’s Netflix hit, Master of None, was like watching Kobe in a legacy-sealing playoff game. He just kept hitting shot after shot, each one more creative and impressive than the one before it. Season two has the black lesbian coming-out story. It has eight minutes of silence. (It involves a deaf couple; you just have to watch it.) It has a 12-year-old Indian boy singing pitch-perfect D’Angelo. (It’s Aziz’s character, Dev, in a flashback.) Watching the show is to watch a popular American stand-up comic who sold out Madison Square Garden but wasn’t exactly threatening Richard Pryor’s throne evolve into a legit streaming-television auteur—the execution is that original, artful, and assured.

If there’s any explanation for Aziz’s total comfort at a small artisanal restaurant in a foreign city, it could be because this has become his comfort zone. Much has been made of the time Aziz spent in Italy before shooting part of season two in Modena, but Italy is the least of it. He lived here in Paris for a month. Went to Japan for a summer. Speaks a smattering of the languages. Who knows where he’s plotting to move next?

But there’s another possible explanation, too. Before meeting Aziz, I received a tip that he’d unplugged from everything but text messaging. He’s off social media. He deleted the Internet browser from his phone and laptop. No e-mail, either. Technologically speaking, he’s living in, like, 1999. Supposedly, anyway—I was a bit skeptical. I wanted to know: Did he unplug or “unplug”? Does he have an assistant sending him breaking news via messenger pigeon? Does he monitor his in-box for important e-mails but not reply directly? Is this just a really next-level Hollywood way to stunt after finding fame and fortune? And, most important, if it is true, has it made him happier?

Once dinner is over, Aziz and I will walk to La Grande Roue de Paris—the famous Ferris wheel on Place de la Concorde—and go for a spin. Here at Au Passage, it seems wise to let the famous foodie at the table take the lead in ordering the food. He asks if I want some wine, and I tell him I’ve never drunk or smoked. “You’ve never been curious,” he asks, “about either smoking or drinking?” He puts his menu down and never returns to it.

GQ STYLE: I’ve been curious about smoking weed, I guess.… Especially when people talk about it helping with creativity.

AZIZ ANSARI: To me, the argument for drugs is that you live your life with this one perspective all the time. Why not just see what it’s like from a different perspective? To be on some crazy drugs.

What’s the most fun drug you’ve ever done?

I’ve done mushrooms a few times, but I’ve never done much beyond that. I gotta be in the right environment to do drugs. Could you imagine if I was on mushrooms right now? It’s like, everyone in this restaurant knows who I am. Do you realize how terrifying that would be? So I really have to be somewhere alone, away from everybody.

How are your paranoia levels generally?

I’m pretty comfortable with myself.

You should be, man. You’re coming off of a major win with season two of Master of None. It seemed like a big evolution from season one.

You get an incredibly different perspective when you do the second season of a show. You know what worked—you know what you were most excited about that you made. [Co-creator] Alan [Yang] and I looked at the episodes from season one, and our favorites were the ones that were really ambitious—where we were really trying something new. They really got people talking, like the “Parents” episode or “Indians on TV.” So this season, we’re like, Let’s just make every episode something like that. Not that we didn’t try to do that the first season, but we were like, Let’s be really aggressive about it. There are a lot of crazy things we tried.

The Thanksgiving episode, which was heavy on flashbacks and a total aside from the season’s main narratives, got a lot of praise.

I was sitting at dinner last night after the shoot, and this guy just started talking about that episode: “I’m gay and I’m black and that was my experience.” And it was so cool, because it seemed like it was a specific story, but it’s a really universal experience for a lot of people.

Quentin Tarantino has accused Spike Lee of criticizing Tarantino’s work simply because he’s a white man telling a black story. The criticism being: A white person shouldn’t make a movie about slavery or whatever. You explored a lot of other people’s walks of life with Master of None. Do you think it matters that you’re not gay or black or female?

I’ll say this. I wrote the Thanksgiving episode with Lena [Waithe, Aziz’s co-star in the episode]. And I wouldn’t have done it if Lena either didn’t write it with me or sit down with me for a long, long time and let me write it. If you’re only writing about yourself, that’s limiting as a storyteller, but if you’re gonna go into other people’s worlds, you’d better get it right. If a white dude wrote the episode “Indians on TV,” I don’t think they would have written it in that way; they would have gotten it wrong. And it’s a little offensive for them to be like, Well, this is what I think that experience is. You know what I mean?

What’s the most annoying question that people ask about Master of None?

You know what I’m glad about? After the first season, I fucking ran out of things to say about diversity. But after the second season, there hasn’t been anything, like, very annoyingthere’s just things that you get asked a lot. Like: What about season three? Which is obviously a question people have to ask, but for me it’s a little stress inducing. Alan once said it best: It’s like we just gave birth to a kid and they’re like, When are you gonna have another kid?

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