Aziz Ansari’s East Village Crawl
Aziz Ansari is bird-dogging again. His target is petite, curly-haired, barely postpubescent. “Puppy!” he hoots, and swoops down on a young woman’s tender young cockapoo, camera-app at the ready. Ansari—stand-up comic, Parks and Recreation star, Twitter maven, and now, with the new action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less, marquee-movie player—has never met a dog he didn’t feel comfortable accosting. We’re on a walking tour of the 28-year-old comic’s old haunts from his Village days, when he was finishing a stint at NYU’s Stern School of Business and jockeying for slots at the Comedy Cellar.This was before his MTV cult-comedy breakthrough with the trio Human Giant (the other two humans were Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel), before Judd Apatow gave him a high-profile cameo in Funny People and NBC hired him to be Amy Poehler’s smarmy foil on Parks—before the tractor beam of L.A. locked onto his career and drew him westward. He’s been crashing in New York regularly for the better part of a year, working on material for the follow-up to his “Dangerously Delicious Tour” (the high point of which was a sold-out Carnegie Hall show) and dropping in on clubs to refine new material.
In just two days, though, he’s due back on the set of Parks. These are his last hours in his old bailiwick for a while; and, flâneur and foodie that Ansari is, there’s a lot of ground to cover. “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next” is his restless refrain, as we plunge from gelateria to speakeasy, from taco truck to record shop. He’s been stopped on the street several times by adoring fans and first-name-basis pals alike—one gets the sense that, long before Foursquare, Ansari was mayor of the East Village. But almost as many times, he’s the one doing the flagging down, hitting on every passing canine he finds adorable: “See, how can I be mad at people who bother me for photos? I bother puppies for photos all the time.”
“I took some other pictures of dogs,” he says, thumbing through his photo album. “I’ll show you my best stuff. These guys,” he pulls up a pair of English bulldogs, “were hanging outside this morning. And then there’s this guy”—a floppy-haired maybe-cocker mix—“whose name is East 4th Street Gizmo.” His gallery of casual quadruped acquaintances is impressive (all the more so because he doesn’t have a pup of his own). “All of these are East Village dogs,” he says, then amends himself: “Well, this guy’s West Village. I saw this dog hanging outside of Kiehl’s, probably picking up some moisturizer. Name? Johnny Jump-Up. I think I saw that dog in a bathroom at Bowery Ballroom, banging some hipster chick.” He scrutinizes it. “No, not the bathroom: He looks like more of a ‘photo booth’ man to me.”
As his fans know, Ansari’s something of a specialist when it comes to dogs of the human variety, as well. He’s built a comedic cottage industry on the Ed Hardy’d backs of bottle-service guys, transparently pseudo-macho poseurs who mimic rap-grandee pomposity with oft-ridiculous results. Parks and Recreation’s small-town playa-in-his-own-mind Tom Haverford is a subspecies of this type, as is Randy, his Dane Cook meets Soulja Boy stand-up alter ego. Like most successful alt-comedians, he sympathizes with idiot strivers. “You take little bits of your own personality and amplify them to the necessary degree of what this character is. So you know, Tom’s really into silly hip-hop, and I like that stuff too, but not to the degree Tom does. I don’t run around jumping on people’s couches singing ‘Turn My Swag On,’ but Tom does. I can amp that up in my own personality.”
Comedy, for Ansari, seems as easy as walking around and eating—which makes sense, considering these are more or less his three favorite things. He wants you to try the cecina at the Tacos Morelos cart on Avenue A and 2nd Street; he wants you to experience the Irish Maid, “a great summer cocktail” from the mixologists at Please Don’t Tell. He’s a walking, joke-cracking recommendation engine, and it’s easy to see why he interfaces so effortlessly with social media. (Twitterers might starve overnight without Ansari, who emits restaurant picks and jokes in equal proportion.)
He’s a seasoned New Yorker, but he retains an outsider’s wonder and appreciation for the inexhaustible smorgasbord of Gotham street culture. After all, he grew up in a small town in South Carolina, where street culture mostly consisted of driving down the street to Chick-fil-A (which he still craves). Ansari says his hometown of Bennettsville felt “like Friday Night Lights,” and, though he says he had a perfectly acceptable upbringing there, he doesn’t seem all that eager to go back. But his comedy often makes the trip for him: In the Parks pilot, Tom describes himself as “a redneck,” and it’s arguable that his identity as a displaced southern boy is more crucial to his appeal than his identity as a second-generation Indian-American, the ambitious and hardworking son of immigrant parents.
His character in 30 Minutes is certainly a nose-to-the-grindstone hometown boy, a nerdy-cool schoolteacher from Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose slacker best bud (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to rob a bank by a pair of small-time crooks (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). In the movie’s opening, he and Eisenberg get into the ugliest, most hilariously ungainly nerd-on-nerd brawl since Bill Gates and Steve Jobs first faced off. He and Eisenberg more or less carry the movie in tandem. It’s a big leap, and Ansari knows it. “I’m not in a position where I can be like, ‘I’m gonna do movies the rest of my life; it doesn’t matter if I do a bad one,’ ” he says. “I don’t have that right now. I’m not Ben Stiller. I’m Aziz—I can’t fuck up.”
But on the off chance that he does fuck up—and it’s looking like the offest of off chances—he says he’s more than happy to return to a life of strolling, noshing, stand-up, and dog-watching. He’s developing new material about dudes who say things like “Don’t be pushin’ on me” in crowded bars, girls who go “Wooooooo!” (“It’s like that sound, as a person”), and other social irritants. Even his interrogation of the girl at the NYC Icy stand (“This is pumpkin flavor, not pumpkin-pie flavor. Pumpkin pie has pie crust in it. In it!”) and his critique of New York’s Vita Coco ads (“See, Rihanna’s a lot more excited about her Vita Coco than Alex Rodriguez is about his. Alex Rodriguez looks like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in a fuckin’ Vita Coco ad’ ”) have the rhythm of incipient bits. Aziz Ansari is always working, even when he’s playing: How can he not? He’s Aziz. He can’t fuck up. He’s lean and hungry, his metabolism set to cheetah. Even as our tour ends and I waddle home full of taco and gelato, he’s scanning the streetscape, ravenous: What’s next, what’s next, what’s next.
Homer Simpson’s Voice Will Appear on Parks and Recreation Next Season
Vulture has learned that an iconic voice from The Simpsons will be making a live-action appearance on NBC's Parks and Recreation next season. Both the voice and body of Dan Castellaneta (a.k.a. Homer Simpson) will appear on episode three of the show's new season. He'll play an NPR-ish talk-show host, according to our source. Castellaneta has a connection to Pawnee: Parks and Recreation co-creator Greg Daniels is an ex-scribe on The Simpsons. The actor also knows something about running a small town, given that one of the many other non-Homer voices he supplies is that of Mayor Quimby.
Showrunners Paul Lieberstein and Michael Schur Talk About the Upcoming Seasons of The Office and Parks and Recreation
Aziz Ansari says fans of Parks and Recreation can expect radical changes to the show when it returns for its fourth* season next month. "The show picks up in the year 2115," he told us Monday. "So much of the original cast is gone. We all play our great-great-great-grandchildren. It's a totally new feel for the show." Ansari is lying, of course. But for Parks and The Office devotees looking for some insight into the new seasons, Vulture tracked down respective showrunners Michael Schur and Paul Lieberstein for answers during NBC's big bash at the TV Critics Association press tour earlier this week, and had an overlapping conversation with the two of them. It's appropriate, since their shows have plenty of common DNA: Greg Daniels had a hand in creating both; they both boast a mockumentary style; and Parks' Schur was a writer on the early years of The Office. Read on to hear more on the arrival of James Spader on The Office, the future of Ben and Leslie, and the truth behind those rumors about Oprah Winfrey being in the running to play Tammy No. 1 on Parks.
You can read Toby's part at the source
What about Mose? Will he be back at all? Particularly after the mix-up last season, where you credited Mike Schur as the voice of Mose, but it actually wasn't Mike.
I was upset about that. I found out later it wasn't Mike. It was one of our editors. Or maybe my brother.
[At this point, Schur stops by.]
Michael Schur: Booooo! Boooo!
We were just talking about the controversy with Mose. Is this headed to SAG?
Schur: There have been grievances filed! You were trying to pull a fast one.
Lieberstein: I didn't even know about it!
Schur: Don't you run the show?
Lieberstein: I never go to the office. I work one hour a week.
Schur: One hour a week and he gets paid 2.5 million dollars. That is a good deal. You should take it easy, go to Hawaii and take some time off.
[At this point, Lieberstein leaves and we start talking to Schur about Parks.]
So tell me everything.
Well, first the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, and ...
Har. About the new season of Parks.
The first moment of the premiere is the exact moment we left off from the finale. We start there in the cold open, and then it jumps to the middle of the summer. Ron Swanson has just seen a glimpse of his ex-wife, and Leslie has been told she's running for office.
Are Ben and Leslie still a couple?
At the beginning of the episode, they're still together.
And by the end?
You'll have to watch and see!
Do we get lots of resolutions to the various cliffhangers?
Not everything from the finale is resolved; that would be crazy. But we see a little of Tom's new life. We follow Leslie's decision. We get some advancement on Ron's ex-wife. We see April helping Andy move forward in his life. There's a lot of big, tectonic shifting going on.
What about Ben (Adam Scott) and Leslie? Is there any more progress on their path to couplehood?
It's a slow burn. There's a rule very much in place that Chris invented [about co-workers having relationships]. And the question is whether the character of Ben gets to a point where he wants to break that rule. We're going to take our time on that.
Any details about Tammy 1 [who will be played by Patricia Clarkson]?
She has a different backstory than Tammy 2. She is not a sex maniac; nonetheless, her sway and hold over Ron is no less intense. I can also tell you this exclusively: She and Tammy 2 know each other. There's a backstory with Tammy 2. She's also not a native of Pawnee.
Megan Mullally had told us she wanted Oprah for the role of Tammy 1. Did you consider it?
Oprah was thrown out there. But she can't be anybody other than Oprah. She's the most famous person in the world. She's probably also never seen our show.
Question: Parks and Recreation scoop? Give me something, please! —Ignacio
Ausiello: Hot on the heels of the news that Patricia Clarkson would be playing Tammy 1 comes word that the show is now looking for a “name” to play Tammy Zero — Ron’s mother. Though the character’s described as a no-frills all-American farmer type who’s as hard to wow as she is to ignore, I’m thinking slap some gingham on Gilmore Girl Kelly Bishop, and let ’er rip!
Question: Please tell me there will be a showdown between Parks and Recreation‘s Tammy 1 (Patricia Clarkson) and Tammy 2 (Megan Mullally). —Jason
Ausiello: “We will have our fill of the two of them” is all the man at the center of the crazy sandwich, Nick Offerman, would divulge when pressed about a Tammy/Tammy faceoff. (Translation: Hell yes!)
Parks and Rec's Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally 'Over the Moon' About Tammy 1 Casting
If you were among the many that cheered Parks and Recreation‘s casting of Patricia Clarkson as Tammy 1, know that both Nick Offerman (who plays Ron Swanson) and wife Megan Mullally (aka Tammy 2) were just as, if not more, thrilled. In fact, once the official word was handed down by the NBC comedy, the marrieds met up with Clarkson to celebrate their upcoming on-screen “three-way,” over drinks.
“I’m lucky enough to be pals with [Patricia], and I was involved in trying to woo her to the show,” Offerman tells TVLine. “So Megan and I were just over the moon.”
Offerman goes on to say that Clarkson is “exactly what we wanted” in bringing Ron’s heretofore alluded-to but never-seen first wife to life. For one, he notes, “She’s exactly the same size as Megan.” Plus, “She has such a commanding sexuality combined with a sort of wild side” — not much unlike her successor, we’d say!
Surveying Ron’s choice in brides, Offerman says, “They’re like an evil Snow White and Rose Red duo.”
Clarkson was in Los Angeles at the time Parks and Rec made its choice, “So the three of us had a drink to celebrate the news,” Offerman shares. “She was wearing a white dress and Megan was wearing dark colors, and I’m looking at the two of them just thinking, ‘What the hell did I do to get so lucky? I’m a lucky bastard.’”
Nick is, yes. But what about Ron? Based on his and Tammy 2′s horrified reaction to the news that Tammy 1 had set foot in his Pawnee workplace, we fear his luck may not be nearly as fortunate.
Clarkson is expected to appear in two episodes, beginning with Parks and Rec’s Sept. 22 season premiere.
Interview with Parks And Recreation’s Retta
HSM – So you studied science at Duke University and had plans to go on to Medical School – What kind of reaction did you get from your change in direction?
RETTA – I was on a break just before going to medical school and I was doing stand up. I remember calling my mother and saying you know what, I think I’m going to move to L.A. I’m going to try to make this stand up thing work and then move it into some acting. My mother was like, “Well if you’re going to do it then don’t half ass it. You’re carrying around your fathers name, so if you’re going to do it then do it.” (She Laughs) So I dropped my last name and I moved to Los Angeles. My parents had taken on second jobs to help pay for my college, so after having them spend seventy thousand dollars on an education that I’m not using I figured I had to do it. And I’m pretty lazy too. I talk a lot of game. (She laughs)
HSM – Was there ever any doubt in your decision to become an actor?
RETTA – I think about how Amy and I were sitting in the makeup chair. I can’t remember how we got into it but we were both talking about how we just knew that it was going to happen for ourselves. We were never stressed and thinking “will I ever make it?” “Will I ever be a working actor?” My thing was when? If someone could just tell me when, then everything would be good. Amy was like, “I’m going to do Second City and then I’m going to be on SNL.” She wasn’t thinking, “God I hope this Second City thing works out and people like me enough that hopefully I get to audition for SNL.” Instead she thought, “I’m going to do this, so I can do that. Because I’m doing this, I’m going to do that!” That’s not necessarily everyone’s route, but Amy decided that it was her route and it was going to happen. It’s about having these kind of thoughts in your head, and maybe I created it in my head knowing that I needed it if I was going to do this.
Comedy Central has a stand up competition called Laugh Riots. I did it back in 99. If you won, you got a car. You also got to do a spot on their Premium Blend. So I did this Semi Final thing out in La Brea and won. The day before the finals I was driving in my terrible 84 Mustang to meet my friend and her sister for dinner. I remember thinking “God I can’t wait to get rid of this car when I win tomorrow.” Actually, I was really thinking, “What am I going to do with this car?” Because I was going to win and I was going to get rid of it. It was really weird and kind of matter of fact. I was thinking what am I going to do with this car and not God I hope I win. So when things come to me in a manner of, “So what do I do when?” and not, “What do I do if?” I know it’s going to happen. My body has accepted that it is going to happen. My brain has accepted that it is going to happen. And there were some funny people in that show but I won. It’s not like every day I think this way, but I do have those moments.
HSM – What was your career like just before booking Parks And Recreation?
RETTA – Before Parks And Recreation, I was on the road a lot doing stand up. But I did do this pilot and it was everything to me. I wasn’t supposed to be a series regular but they had worked it out for me to reoccur if it got the green light. But it didn’t go through. Then I got another pilot and again I wasn’t supposed to be a regular, but when I shot it they liked me so much that they were like, “You’re going to be on this show.” That one didn’t go through either. So it was a lot of that. It was a lot of “We love you, we love you, we love you; it’s going to be great,” and then nothing happening. Then there was this very well know writer and every three months she would call and ask, “Are you available?” She would write something new and say “I want you in it.” So she calls me about this pilot she wrote, and HBO wanted to do it. So it’s like Pssss…“I’m about to be on HBO!”
So some time goes by and I don’t hear from the pilot. Then the writer finally calls me up and she says, “Retta I’m devastated. You never got to the President of HBO.” So I wasn’t going to be in it. So when she called me and told me, I was devastated. I was like; “I worked so fucking hard for that part.” It was mine to lose and I lost it. But then HBO totally dropped the show. They shot six episodes and then never aired it. And within that time I auditioned for Parks And Recreation. It was right after all that.
HSM – You started out as a Co-Star, but you’re now a season regular. Where is Donna at on the show and how did this transition come about?
You know Donna is kind of a man-eater. She has money for some reason but we don’t know why and no one has written about it. But she’s just now getting to talk! (She Laughs)
You can only have a person on a show for so long till people start questioning if that person is ever going to speak. So then you do the table reads. I used to get really nervous about table reads. People have lost jobs from table reads. I’ve seen guest stars come in, do a table read, and then they weren’t in the show because they had a terrible table read. A friend of mine is always like, “If you can avoid a table read, then avoid a table read.” I don’t know if it’s because people get too excited but there can be a really weird vibe in the room between the writers and the actors. So I always say try and bring it on at the table read and then you’ll be okay. You only get two lines, but you kill those two lines. And you get laughs. So people start writing you in a little bit more and more. Jim and I started out as co-stars and then by season two, we were re-curing guest stars. And then season three, regulars.
HSM – What kind of advice do you have for someone who is interested in taking a similar route into the business?
RETTA – One thing I always tell a comic is always try to carry a notebook. Write everything down. Write absolutely everything down. Anything you think is slightly funny. And if you go back to it later and you still think it’s funny then write the bit. And when you write the bit try it three times before you give up on the bit. But do it in front of a real audience and not in front of comics, because comics will not give you the love that you need. So for comics it’s, write everything down. Later on in your career you’ll know what you want to write about and the things you don’t, but write out everything especially when you’re just starting out. I had a notebook on the floor of my room, and I used to wake up in the middle of the night and scribble things down. Half the time I couldn’t read what I wrote, but with some things, I would get really great bits out of it.
HSM – You have an acting class that you go to on a regular basis – do you feel that it’s important to always be working on your craft?
I feel like I have to go. If I’m not working, then I’ve got to go to my class. It’s a cold read class. And that’s where I have the most trouble, in the audition. Yes it’s working on my craft but I never really saw it that way. On Tuesday night I go to this thing called Tuesdays At 9 over at St. Nicks. It’s with writers and actors. The writers bring in 10 pages of work. Then they cast it based on who is there. They get to hear the material out loud. So it is all cold reading. Going to my acting class on Wednesdays and to Tuesdays At 9 put me in the vicinity of actors and creators. This is how I end up getting to do shorts and other material. Same thing goes with stand up. This one comic who liked me became a producer and he ended up putting me in a Funny or Die piece that they did for HBO. So for me I realized that being around other performers and creators gets you work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten an email that says, “Hey, my friend’s casting this thing and I think you’d be so good in it.” It was only because they’ve seen me read at Tuesdays, and I would have never have met them otherwise. You really need to be around it if you want to do it.
HSM – Where do you see yourself going as an actor?
My original goal when I came here was to get my own sitcom. To be a lead in a sitcom or at the vary least be part of an ensemble where I’m a lead. But now… well I just did a play called Engagement, and it was the first play I’ve done in years. And it was really challenging. I got to be funny, but then I had a sex scene, which I was like, panicked about. I had to break down, and that freaked me out too because if it’s film or television you can do another take. But on stage you’ve got to bring that shit. And I was able to do it. A lot of people were surprised, and my manager realized what I could do after seeing me in the play. So I have since changed from thinking that I was going to be known for my comedy to… I think I’m going to win the Oscar some day! (She becomes playful) I don’t know. That’s just the vibe I get. I don’t want to bullshit you James, I feel it coming. (She Laughs).
I just feel like I’m going to do more than I set out to do. I’ve dreamed about my Oscar speech many times so it’s got to happen. Whenever I watch the Oscars I picture myself up there. Then I usually dream at night that I am up there. It’s happened so many times that I know what I’m going to say. I know what story I’m going to tell.
Retta and Jim O'Heir talk 'Parks and Recreation': Will we ever meet Jerry's wife?
My love for Jerry and Donna from Parks and Recreation is as endless as the ways Jerry embarrasses himself in every episode. What’s even better? The actors who play these characters are just as fun.
Take, for instance, the conversation they had with EW on the red carpet for NBC’s All-Star party on Monday night during TCA Press Tour. Among the topics? O’Heir’s hopes that — like Ron — we’ll delve into Jerry’s life a bit and meet some important ladies: His wife Gayle and three daughters!
“I want to,” O’Heir told EW. “I have the wife, the kids, the daughters. I’m pretty sure [they're] going to [cast] Demi Moore or Angelina Jolie. They’ve both been calling. So we might go that direction. It would make the most sense I think.” (We’re pretty sure he’s joking about that.) As for Donna, Retta said there’s only one thing she’d like to see this season…
Video won't embed. There are some mild spoilers. And mentions of our favourite Ben Schwartz.
I did The Tonight Show on Friday. Here it is in case you missed it. I was really disappointed to find out Kevin Eubanks was no longer on the show, though I’d like to imagine he was at home watching and laughing while a guitar sat on his lap.
I’m doing Kimmel (8/8) and Conan (8/10) next week too. Is that enough talk show appearances to make America see 30 Minutes or Less on August 12th?!? WE’LL SEE.
On set with #ChrisTraeger. Selling one great book and one fantastic book! #ParksAndRec
NBC throws a Bazaar party
I enjoyed talking with Yvette Nicole Brown of "Community," and her co-star, Joel McHale, caught by the paella station. Will Arnett, whose new show is "Up All Night," said not to worry about contagion, even though his older son was sick and he had been "literally up all night." He and wife Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation") slipped out the front door after about half an hour to get home to the kids.
TCA Red Carpet Pictures
Michael C. Hall and Ben Schwartz at the TCA Party for CBS, The CW and Showtime held at The Pagoda
Nick Offerman at the NBC Universal party
Did you catch Aubrey Plaza on last week's episode of The Next Food Network Star?
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