Perhaps one of the most debated stories to come out of the Me Too era was the one published by Babe.net in January 2018 about comedian Aziz Ansari. At the time, a woman who wanted to be known only by the pseudonym 'Grace' said she had gone on a date with the Master of None star, who, later at his apartment made her feel uncomfortable and continued to make sexual advances towards her, despite her verbal and non-verbal cues to stop.
While some felt that Ansari should suffer the same consequences as other famous men accused of sexual misconduct, some thought the story amounted to be nothing more than a bad date. Others, myself included, were glad we were talking more about the blurry lines of consent, albeit if one man has to take the fall for millions upon millions of others who have done the exact same thing.
At the time, Ansari responded to the allegations, saying that when he received a text message from Grace the following day (in which she expresses how uncomfortable she had been that evening), he was "surprised and concerned" that what he perceived as "by all indications...completely consensual" sexual activity "was not the case for her."
He added: "I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said."
After taking a break from the spotlight, Ansari returned to tour his new stand-up comedy show, Right Now, a recording of which premiered on Netflix last night. At the beginning of the show, Ansari took the time to address the allegations head-on, leading into them by joking about a fan who confused him for Hasan Minhaj, another Indian-American comic. He said when the man realised it was him, he started reading off his work - Master of None, Parks and Recreation - before saying, "You had that whole thing last year, sexual misconduct." Ansari responded, “That was Hasan.”
He then turns serious and addresses the crowd, saying:
"You know, I haven’t said much about that whole thing, but I’ve talked about it on this tour, ‘cause you’re here and it means a lot to me. And I’m sure that some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation. And, uh, 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. 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. I hope I become a better person."
"I always think about a conversation I had with one of my friends where he was like, 'You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I’ve ever been on.' And I thought, 'Wow. Well, that’s pretty incredible'. It’s made not just me but other people be more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing. And that’s how I feel about it. And I know this isn’t the most hilarious way to begin a comedy show. But it’s important to me that you know how I feel about that whole thing before we share this night together."
He finished with: "Well, that was pretty intense. What else should we talk about?" to applause from the audience.
Ansari's acknowledgement of the allegations got mixed reviews with some applauding him for taking responsibility and saying that he hopes the situation has made him a better person, and others slamming him for speaking in a performative manner, using the situation to get his Netflix special views and for joking about sexual misconduct at the beginning of his skit.