The popular comedian Aziz Ansari parachuted into Madison for an unexpected performance at the Comedy Club on State on Sunday night, and it seems he’s not ready to leave.
On the heels of the three sold-out pop-up shows on Sunday evening, the Comedy Club and the Orpheum Theater have announced more shows featuring Ansari, the comic and actor best known for his roles in the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” and Netflix’s “Master of None.”
Two shows on Monday night at the Comedy Club have already sold out. At the time of publication of this story, tickets for a Tuesday night show at the Orpheum were still available.
While neither the venues nor the promotional company FPC Live were able to comment on the shows, Ansari has quietly been playing sets that have been either been unannounced, or announced on short notice, at small clubs in New York and Philadelphia since May. The appearances are his first since a woman accused Ansari in January of nonconsensual and aggressive behavior during a sexual encounter.
Zach Blumenfeld, a local tech entrepreneur, was among those who managed to snag a ticket to the Sunday night shows before they sold out on Saturday morning. He said that Ansari acknowledged the spontaneity of the performance.
“He mentioned it right when he came on stage,” said Blumenfeld. “He said, ‘I know this is really random and last-minute.’”
Blumenfeld said that at no point did Ansari acknowledge the controversy from earlier this year.
The shows have been branded as Ansari “working out new material.” He said that the new material was very much in the same spirit of Ansari’s other standup sets, rife with situational humor and reflections on being an Indian-American in comedy.
Scott Resnick, a former city alder and one of the leaders at the new startup center StartingBlock, was also at a Sunday night performance. He said some of the material touched on “the Donald Trump era, and our reaction to social commentary.”
“You could very much see that he treated this as social commentary, and as an art form,” said Resnick.
The Sunday night shows also included the "Saturday Night Live" writer Nimesh Patel as an opener.
The shows, notably, were also phone-free: Audience members were required to lock their phones up in small Yondr pouches to prevent anyone from leaking the new material.
“I thought it made the show more enjoyable,” said Resnick. “It made everyone in the audience more present.”