Aziz Ansari is opening up about his sexual misconduct allegations, first with a joke and then in more serious terms.
Ansari has been keeping a relatively low profile ever since he was accused of badly mishandling a sexual encounter with a younger woman last year. For a while, it seemed like the comedian might be done with performing for good, but on Monday he took the stage for a "pop-up show" in New York City. Ansari performed in front of about 200 people at the Village Underground, according to a report by Vulture, and he did not shy away from his controversial year.
Ansari got into the topic pretty early in his set. He started off with a joke about being mistaken for another comedian, Hasan Minhaj. He described the scene of himself trying to correct a random person on the street, listing off his accomplishments in a two-sided conversation.
"'Oh, no, Aziz, right?'" Ansari said. "'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 come out last year — sexual misconduct?'" Ansari's imaginary interviewer asked.
"'No, no, no, no, no, no, that's Hasan!'" he joked.
After that, Ansari reportedly took on a more "somber" tone as he addressed the allegations in earnest. He began by explaining why he has said so little about the whole controversy in the last year.
"It's a terrifying thing to talk about," Ansari said. "There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way. But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I've become a better person."
Ansari added that, while it was personally difficult for him, he could see how the ordeal had had a positive effect on the dating world in general. He described a conversation with a friend, who told Ansari that he had been reconsidering every date he's been on.
"If that has made not just me but other guys think about this," Ansari said. "And just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that's a good thing."
As for his own career, Ansari said that his expectations were low. He was excited to be back on stage again, and revealed that had thought he might never speak in front of an audience again.0comments
"And I think it also just gave me perspective on my life," he said. "There was a moment where I was scared that I'd never be able to do this again."
Ansari's speech got mixed responses on social media. There is no telling yet what kind of comeback plans he might have going forward.