“I’m in no position to give advice,” Aziz Ansari told BuzzFeed exclusively as he prepares for new stand-up tour, Modern Romance. “We’re all in the same boat together. This is to make everyone realize we’re all dealing with the same shit.”
And Modern Romance is designed to dissect that so-called “shit” — from first-date fears to wedding drama — and the technological advents that have fundamentally, and forever, changed what’s required of 21st-century dating.
“An average dude who might struggle to meet the right person at a bar can go online and meet 80 women who are perfect for him,” the Parks and Recreation star explained. “That’s a very new thing. You used to have to work up a lot of courage to talk to a girl. That’s not necessary now because you can just send them a text. So what happens to someone who used to struggle to talk to girls in person and can now message 80 women any time he wants? What happens when people’s barriers to the opposite sex have gone down?”
That question led Ansari to develop a companion book to the Modern Romance tour. But unlike other recent successful nonfiction works from comedy actors, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Ansari’s won’t be comprised of personal essays. “It’s more like a sociology book,” he said. “As if the Freakonomics guys or Malcolm Gladwell tried to analyze the world right now.”
To infuse his tome with expertise, Ansari has spent months interviewing sociological rock stars, like Dr. Helen Fisher and Barry Schwartz, on a smattering of sexuality subjects. “It’s been so interesting for me to learn about things like the Paradox of Choice, which says the more choices you have, the harder a decision gets,” he noted. “I feel like that’s exactly what’s happening in dating right now because there are so many choices, it’s driving people crazy.”
But the actor-comedian is clear that he’s not of the mind-set that technology is ruining romance. In fact, it’s just the opposite. “You’ve got people meeting people on Facebook that they’d never have met before,” Ansari noted. “Or you meet someone at a party and forget to ask for their number, but if you know their name or who they’re friends with, you can look them up on Facebook, ask them out, have a fun time, and get married. None of that could happen if it wasn’t for technology.”
Which is why Ansari is infusing Modern Romance with technology-based, interactive elements, some of which were recently field-tested to wonderful results. “It’s been fun to develop a portion of the show that’s different every night and interactive,” he said. “There was this guy who had been texting someone he met recently, and we read those texts on stage. It’s interesting because you have this strange record of how people are flirting, and I saw that this kid was saying nonsense and not really asking her out. So I pushed him to make plans with her. We typed the text out on stage, sent it to her, and then eventually she said yes! It was so crazy that she responded — and that said yes. It would have been horrible if she said no.”
Far from his Parks and Rec character Tom Haverford’s womanizing ways, Ansari himself is clearly quite the romantic about modern love. “Now you can text someone in the middle of the day just to say, ‘Hey, I love you so much. You’re always in my heart,’” he mused. “That’s the sweet thing about technology.”