Known for the Netflix series Master of None and NBC’s Parks and Recreation, actor-comedian Aziz Ansari is making his return after taking some time off from television. According to CNN, Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct last year, which he denied, but discussed the issue in his new Netflix comedy special.
In January 2018, Ansari faced accusations of sexual misconduct in the height of the #MeToo movement. Apparently, Ansari went out on a date with a 23-year-old photographer, who anonymously shared her description of their evening on the now-defunct website Babe.net, as reported by CNN. The woman claimed the couple had dinner together and then went to Ansari’s apartment, where she was “pressured” into sexual activity, despite her saying she verbally and non-verbally showed she was “distressed.”
Afterward, Ansari had her picked up by an Uber according to the woman’s account. “I cried the whole ride home. At that point I felt violated,” she said.
The woman also said she was motivated to tell her story after seeing Ansari win a Golden Globe for Master of None wearing a “Time’s Up” pin. “It was actually painful to watch him win and accept an award,” she said as reported by CNN. “And absolutely cringeworthy that he was wearing the “Time’s Up” pin. I think that started a new fire, and it kind of made it more real.”
Ansari gave a statement when the allegation surfaced, and told his side of the story. “In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual,” Ansari wrote, according to CNN.
“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned,” he continued. “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said. I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
Some came to Ansari’s defense, including Caitlyn Flanagan in a column for The Atlantic, saying that Ansari had been professionally “assassinated” due to “one woman’s anonymous account.” According to CNN, the article read, “Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember,” Flanagan wrote. “They’re angry and temporarily powerful and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.”
Addressing the elephant in the room
The Netflix special Aziz Ansari: Right Now is the actor’s first special and most public appearance since the accusation. He wasted no time addressing what was probably in the minds of audience and discussed the reason he had stayed out of the spotlight.
According to Good Morning America, the actor-comedian said, “”I’m sure that some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation. And it’s a tricky thing for me to answer, ‘cause I’ve felt so many things in the last year, so. There’s times I’ve felt scared. There’s times I’ve felt humiliated. There’s times I’ve felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way,” he said to the audience. “And after a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward. It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot.”
Ansari went on to say that he’s become more thankful for his career and his fans, and feels the experience changed him for the better. “I think about what it means that all you guys, you drove down here, you waited in line, and you did all of this stuff just to hear me talk into a microphone for like an hour or so,” Ansari said to the audience.
He also said he realizes that he needs to appreciate the here and now instead of thinking too far ahead, saying “… it means the world to me, ‘cause I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do this again, and it almost felt like I’d died. In a way, I did. That old Aziz who said, ‘Oh, treat yo’ self,’ whatever, he’s dead,” Ansari told the audience as reported by Good Morning America. “But I’m glad, ‘cause that guy was always looking forward to whatever was next: ‘Oh, am I gonna do another tour? Am I gonna do another season of the show?’ I don’t think that way anymore. ‘Cause I’ve realized it’s all ephemeral, “All that stuff, it can just go away like this. [Snaps.] And all we really have is the moment we’re in and the people we’re with.”