Aziz Ansari's blog is called "Aziz Is Bored," but it's hard to picture the 29-year-old comic in anything less than a state of manic excitement.
From his player-card-carrying character on "Parks and Recreation" to the excitable hip-hop fan we know from late-night talk shows, Ansari is pure energy. And on his new one-hour comedy special, "Dangerously Delicious," he just keeps humming along. He dances through awkward encounters with women and overzealous male fans, recalls outings with Jay-Z and reflects on the oddities of watching pornography, all without betraying a hint of professional detachment. (And yes, his cousin Harris makes a comeback.)
Ansari released the special for $5 on his website with no preliminary media fuss. No interviews, no billboards -- he tweeted about it and it was there. Louis C.K., who also sold his special online for $5, went on "Conan" to discuss the idea a few weeks before its release and aggressively promoted it once it was available.
So far, fans seem to appreciate the simplicity of the transaction. And since it was released online, the special is uncut, or "pure," as Ansari says. There are no commercials and no censors: just Aziz, a stage and a laughing crowd.
HuffPost Entertainment recently hopped on the phone with a very hungry Ansari, who chatted about stardom, President Obama, and "The Hunger Games" fan. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Congrats on the special. Are you happy with the downloads/streams so far?
Yeah, I'm happy. The difference between what I did and what Louis did is that, as soon as it was announced, it was available. There was no buildup, I haven't even been on talk shows yet, so I think it's going to be a slower rise. But what I'm really happy about is that everyone seems really glad that I released it this way.
I feel like I'm missing something, but was the opening on your special straight out of a James Bond movie? The music ... the lines ... the Band of Outsiders jacket ...
It was supposed to be very similar to those Saul Bass titles, particularly the one for "North By Northwest," which is one of my favorite movies. If you watch the preview on my site, it's done the same way as the old Hitchcock trailers, where he'd come out and be like, "My name is Alfred Hitchcock, and this is my new film."
President Obama gave you the comedy shout-out of the year, and I understand you're visiting Jimmy Fallon to talk about the story this week, but what do you make of Obama's presidency?
Yeah, I'm obviously a supporter and meeting him was super surreal. You never think you're going to meet the president, much less see him mentioning you in a speech and talking about watching you in a TV show. I'm still not really sure what I think about all that.
I saw that you tweeted, by way of an F-U to Geraldo, about the Trayvon Martin story. Do you think celebrities -- especially in the Twitter age -- have a responsibility to bring people's attention to stuff like this?
I do it occasionally. I think I posted a few weeks ago about this Rolling Stone article about this school district in Minnesota where there was a lot of homophobia and a lot of gay kids were being bullied. I thought it was really sad and actually I found out about it on Howard Stern. So I posted the article and we ended up doing this benefit show there, and it was great because it all happened on Twitter. With this [Trayvon Martin case] in Florida, I found about it online and it seems like the outrage is really spreading around which is good and important. These things are obviously viral for a reason.
When it comes to online fan encounters, do you ever get used to the enthusiasm? I saw a guy comment on your Reddit IAMA, "I follow the SHIT out of your Tweets."
It's just super flattering and that's why I'm glad I could release it this way. We did this thing the other day in New York where we posted in the morning that the first 10 people who email us would get lunch on me. So we found 10 people and I took them to Shake Shack, this burger place I really like, and I got to get feedback on the buying process of the special. It was just fun, you know? They were super nice and you could never do something like that six years ago. We thought of doing it that morning and we just did it, and luckily no one murdered me.
I've also been doing this thing where, when people tweet something like "I just bought Aziz's special," I find their address and I've been sending flowers and cookies and writing weird notes to people who tweet that they bought it. I just think it's fun, like if I bought a Prius and Toyota sent me flowers, I'd be like, "Whaaat?"
You hone your act in clubs around the country. When you go somewhere like the Comedy Cellar, do you ever check out less known artists?
As far as young people, I really like the people who open up for me on tour. Hannibal Buress and Chelsea Peretti are really funny comedians.
"Dangerously Delicious" had a good deal more profane or porn-centered humor than your earlier work. Do you think it's more difficult to do an hour without any penis jokes?
The porn stuff was in the "how I waste time on the Internet bit," so I feel like it's my take on that kind of stuff. It's not just another comic talking about porn. It's done through my voice.
Because there was this conversation where Rickey Gervais, Louis C.K. and Chris Rock tell Seinfeld they don't understand how he does an hour without cursing--
Yeah, but I talk about whatever happens to me that I think is funny, and that video that I talk about is really weird to me. I mean it took place in a donut shop! And she took a bite of the donut, and I was like, "Whoa, that's awesome!" And to me, it was a funny thing to explore.
You're significantly younger than most other big stand-ups (late 20s vs. mid-to-late 40s of Patton, Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan, etc). Do you feel like this adds any additional pressure, or are these people mentors to you?
With Louis, I went to his house when he was editing his special, and I thought it was a really interesting idea and I was curious to see if it would work. And without a traditional marketing system, or anything, it totally worked.
[Ed. note: At this point in the interview, Ansari's voice grows more and more muffled. After awhile, he pauses and says, "You know what? I'm sorry. I'm eating some cashews. I'm really sorry, I'm just really hungry, I haven't had lunch yet."]
But I always pick his brain about comedy. I asked him, "How do you do a new hour every year?" And he told me he just starts with an idea and goes out and does 15 minutes, then that becomes 30 and eventually he has an hour. So then I was like, "All right, I guess I'll do that too." And honestly that's what I did. Plus, we both tour theaters and we have a similar frame of reference, so we talk about things we experience on the road. If there's anyone who has anything figured out, it's Louis. He's been doing this for about as long as I've been a human.
Are there ways in which you think you've improved as a comedian, and what ways would you like to keep improving?
The only way you get better at stand-up is to keep doing it, and they talk about these markers of seven years and 10 years. I think I've gotten better and that the new special is stronger than the last one, and when I go tour the new one, the next one will be as well. I think I just have to keep doing it for a few more years.
And there's one thing I want to make really clear: The new tour that I'm doing will feature all new material, not the stuff that was available on this special.
Do you have any aspirations in entertaining beyond writing and acting? Maybe directing and producing?
I have a few films in development right now. This hiatus [from "Parks and Recreation"], I'm doing the tour, but next hiatus I think I'll do a movie. Movie stuff is just so slowwww, though. "21 Jump Street" just came out and it felt like it took five years to make that movie. That's what I love about standup, is it's just so fast and free.
Are you a "Hunger Games" fan?
I don't really know what it is! I've seen the posters but I don't really know what it's about -- I haven't seen it. I haven't gotten into all the hype. I just don't know. I'm playing hunger games every day! I'm sitting here eating cashews between radio and phone interviews.
Can you see yourself as part of some epic franchise that teens go crazy over?
That would be fun, yeah. Who knows, maybe I could reboot the "Hunger Games."
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