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Aziz Ansari Turns the Baleful Gaze of Skynet Upon Comedy

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | July 1, 2013 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | July 1, 2013 |

I saw Aziz Ansari once, and I don’t mean I went to one of his stand-up shows. I was sitting in the Madison airport, waiting for a six AM flight on three whole hours of sleep. It’s a nice enough little airport, though its slogan of “Twelve Gates, One Quiznos, No Starbucks” is disheartening when you’re so tired that you want to die. And then a guy who looked just like Aziz Ansari walked by. That was an odd sort of hallucination, but they can’t all be Alison Brie in a bucket of Skittles.

He looked just as bored and tired and me, wandering repeatedly back and forth from the vaguely creepy massage area to the Hudson News clone, apparently under the impression that if you search the same hundred feet of faded carpet enough, maybe eventually you’ll find the place selling good coffee right under your nose. You never do.

And that’s what convinced me it wasn’t him. Because Aziz Ansari is bright and excited and full of life, and this poor soul was as dead as everyone else there. Later I looked up online and found that Ansari indeed had done a show in Madison late the night before. So further anecdotal evidence that airports are murderers of souls. And that fame is a bizarre beast of mangled pressure and expectations.

So, Mr. Ansari, if you remember an off-putting man with bloodshot eyes staring at you in the Madison, Wisconsin airport one morning before dawn, um yeah, sorry about that.

Oh, there was something to report! Yes, a reason for this trip down restraining order lane.

Ansari has started applying data mining to his comedy act, in a fantastically geeky comedy experiment that makes me happy in all the right places. Basically, he collects data on the basic demographics of his audience and is using that to look at what works, what doesn’t, and playing around with producing deliberate mixes of certain audiences. Explains the man himself:

One thing I found very interesting is how differently these conversations are among different groups of people. Single people between the age of 18-25 view these topics in a much different light than say single people over 30. Or married people over 40.

This gave me an idea. What if I could setup small shows to talk to very specific groups about these topics? What if I could do a show with half an audience of younger people and the other half is older married people? What if half the audience was single women over 30 and the other half was single men between 18-25?

I believe it is impossible to describe that last mix without using the word “cougar”. More details on Ansari’s website here. No word yet on whether the NSA will be filing suit for violation of their trademarked business practices.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.