By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
"Imagine if marriage didn't exist, and you're a guy and you ask someone to get married," proposes comedian Aziz Ansari in his new Netflix stand-up special, Buried Alive, which premieres November 1. "Hey, so we've been hanging out all the time, spending a lot of time together. I want to keep doing that … until you're dead. … I want to keep hanging out with you until one of us dies. … Put this ring on your finger so people know we have an arrangement," he menaces in his best Bluebeard impression.
Buried Alive is the Parks and Recreation scene-stealer's third special, and it channels Ansari's anxieties of being a single, childless 30-year-old watching everyone around him get hitched and pop out newborns. His hilarious introspection on the pressures of maturity coincide with a huge leap in the comedian's stand-up skills, which have evolved away from his youthful reliance on funny faces and beta-male swagger toward a newfound wistfulness. Now, Ansari's just a regular schmo facing the universal problems of finding love, being inundated by unwanted photos of friends' babies, and hate-watching MTV's 16 and Pregnant.
Ansari shares what he learned about dating and growing up during the Buried Alive taping and tour, including the absurd frequency of dick pics, the depressing banality of most proposals, and the revelation that he's nowhere near as alone as he'd once thought.
Buried Alive is about struggling not to be buried alive by the pressures of adulthood. How did the seeds of the special come about?
As I got older and more friends started getting married and having children, I thought, Wow, I'm so not ready for that stuff. Those seem like scary commitments, such huge, strange ideas, and it seems weird to me that so many people are able to do it without any hesitation. Once I started working on the material, I realized there's plenty of people who felt the same [way].
I mean this in the best possible way, but a lot of your subject matter – dating after 30, the peer pressure to marry and have children, the nastiness of dudes today – are topics traditionally associated with female stand-ups. You also explore certain aspects of dating, like dick pics and Grindr, from a female perspective. Is that inclusively gendered POV something you actively try to cultivate?
No, but I see what you mean. That definitely is something you hear from females, not just comics but in life. I definitely empathize with women, because I see dumb dudes around me all the time and I think, "Wow, it must really suck to have to find a decent dude." But I would say the fear [of romantic hardship] is something men deal with as well. The one thing I've learned from doing this show is that I'm not alone. There's plenty of people that are very scared of this stuff, dudes who feel daunted as much as I do.
In one of the more romantic segments, you ask a married couple how they got engaged. What did you learn from that?
I did that on every city on the tour, and there were so many great ones. But there were definitely ones that were better than others. While I was filming the special, I was like, "Man, I hope whoever it is that ends up being [on the special] has a good [proposal story]. And the people ended up being so great. It was definitely one of my favorites, if not the favorite, of all the proposal stories.
There was also one guy who said he got a bunch of puppies to wear different shirts that had a different letter on it to spell "Will you marry me?" I asked, "Whoa, how did you get the puppies to line up?" He was like, "Oh, I couldn't. It was a disaster." [Laughs]
When I first started asking people about that, I thought, like, OK, at least 60 percent, 65 percent would [do] a grand gesture. Skywriting, or, "She came home and [there was] toothpaste on the floor [to propose]," whatever dumb thing.
What I realized is, 80 percent of them were, "Oh, we were at the house, we just came back from dinner, I just asked." It wasn't that spectacular. What's funny is you're asking this grand thing of someone. And you're in this very mundane setting. There's all this pressure. You don't know what's going to happen. It's a very interesting position for two people to be in.
Asking so many people about their marriage proposals, did it make you lean either way, toward the spectacular or the intimate?
It comes out a little bit in the special, but I'm definitely a romantic at heart. I think whatever I do, it will be a gesture that's special and unique.
Another big chunk of Buried Alive is about the strangeness of dick pics. Why did you choose to make it such a sizable segment in the special?
I was just talking about how dumb guys are nowadays, and the idea that people are sending dick pics – it's so crazy to me. When I started asking audiences, "Clap if you're a single woman and a guy sent you a dick pic," I was very surprised.
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