Are you familiar with the website Funny or Die? It’s a comedy site developed by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell where people upload uproarious videos that get voted on – those not deemed funny are sentenced to death (or at least the site’s “crypt”). The first video I remember seeing was the Landlord skit featuring Farrell and a barb-tongued toddler, but since then tonnes of celebrities have contributed all kinds of crazy stuff. There are no rules in the interweb, and Funny or Die is where famous people let loose. Like, major looseness.
Funny or Die is such a machine now that it’s actually spawned its own comedy festival, dubbed the Oddball Festival, and it’s been running for 3 years now. I happened to catch it during its inaugural run 3 years ago in Chicago when it was co-headlined by Flight of the Conchords (!) and Dave Chappelle in his return to stand-up. The night before we saw him, he was in Hartford, where the audience literally drowned him out with heckling and shouts of “White power!”. Chappelle walked off and then treated us to quite an anti-Hartford diatribe, including his fervent wish that North Korea would bomb Hartford. It was an epic set.
This year the festival is being co-headlined by Aziz Ansari and Amy Schumer. There’s a million other brilliant comedians on the bill as well (including Jay Pharaoh, Michael Che, and fucking Nick Kroll!) and we’re lucky enough to see all of them. Amy Schumer is having quite a year (if you haven’t read our review of Trainwreck yet, I assure you, we were entertained) but Aziz is our man.
I first came across Aziz Ansari in yet another Judd Apatow movie: Funny People (although in a little dose of kismet, if I’d only been paying attention, he’d previously appeared in an episode of Flight of the Conchords). Adam Sandler plays a movie star who copes with his illness and impending death by returning to his stand-up roots. He enlists the help of Seth Rogan to write jokes and “assist” him. I like this movie for a lot of reasons. Like seeing Sandler do something with some emotional depth. I LOVED seeing baby Sandler doing his earliest bits (he and Apatow were actually college roommates, and guess who filmed heaps of footage! – baby Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo also appear, if you squint). I loved Jason Schwartzman as a sleazy sitcom star, and Jonah Hill as a competitive bitch, and Eric Bana popping up in this after the little ode to Eric Bana in Apatow’s Knocked Up was just the shit, and I really REALLY loved this explosive unknown stand-up act who steals scenes: Aziz Ansari. Well, technically, not Aziz. Aziz developed a character named Randy for the film, but found him to be so well-liked and compelling that he’d often slip into the Randy stuff during his own shows.
Aziz doesn’t do a lot of movies but you may know him as Tom on Parks and Recreation (or will no doubt come to know him through his upcoming Netflix series, Master of None). He did make small appearances in Get Him to the Greek, 30 Minutes or Less (funniest part of the movie, if you ask me), and This is the End, proving just how incestuous the Apatow crew is (and for good measure, he’s also appeared on The League, and The Kroll Show). It’s a small world and Aziz Ansari is getting closer and closer to owning it.
We’ve seen Aziz before and love love love his stand-up. In fact, we saw him serendipitously last month at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal (where we also saw Chappelle). That particular night we were actually there to see Alan Cumming, who was fabulous, but got wind of a surprise pop-up show by Ansari, who wasn’t scheduled to appear. Turns out, he was working on material for the Oddball show and wanted a test audience. It was extremely polished for a so-called dry run, and funny as hell, so we’re totally primed to see him again this weekend, and with so much other talent, there’s no way we can lose.
Which funny people are your favs?