Aziz Ansari has recently returned to stand up comedy, as Vulture outlines, appearing onstage in New York in Philadelphia recently, as well as in Madison, Wisc. and Milwaukee this weekend. These shows represent Ansari’s first emergence in the public eye since an infamous story on Babe.net that outlined an unnamed woman’s experience at Ansari’s apartment after a date, in which she alleges that he aggressively tried to initiate sex despite what she believed to be her apparent unwillingness. According to Vulture reporter Ryan Glasspiegel, who attended one of the shows in Milwaukee, Ansari made no jokes about, or references to, the Babe story, despite devoting a typically sizable portion of his set to dating.
If you didn’t know about the controversy, you wouldn’t have realized that this was the beginning stage of Ansari’s reemergence from it. My sense during the show was that the crowd was aware of the saga, but not judgmental about it. A woman sitting in front of me told me she saw it as “very low on the scale of ‘bad date’ to ‘Harvey Weinstein.’”
Ansari declining to address the story makes sense. Unlike, say, with Louis C.K., for whom post-#MeToo fallout is unavoidable (C.K. had a movie, I Love You, Daddy, essentially disappeared), Ansari has so far experienced no real repercussions from the Babe story. If anything, the reaction to the Babe story was that #MeToo had gone too far, damaging the reputation of a well-meaning man who was himself the victim of an unreasonable shift in cultural mores. Netflix, for its part, has already said it intends to produce a third season of Ansari’s thinly-fictitious show Master of None, though given the nature of that show—Ansari’s character Dev is constantly dating or flirting—it would seem much more difficult for Ansari to ignore the circumstances of his own life.