In America he’s a household name who stars in hit show Parks & Recreation, sells out huge theatres and hangs out with Tom Cruise. In Britain he’s “that guy from Funny People”. But with YouTube clips being passed round like Kettle Chips, and a series of London shows, that’s all about to change for 28-year-old Aziz Ansari.
Have you had to change your material for UK crowds?
No, I’ve been doing this tour for a couple of months and I’m pretty sure 95 per cent of the stuff will translate. There might be the odd reference that doesn’t work, but most of it is fine. And when I’m in the UK I’ll have some funny stuff happen to me that I’ll parlay into the set.
As an American, were you outraged by Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes?
Not at all. He wasn’t making fun of kids dying in car accidents or anything. He was making fun of Tom Hanks. I don’t see what the big deal is. Some of the jokes were a little sharp, but that’s what every awards show host does — they look at the audience and they make fun of them.
You had a Twitter bromance with Kanye West after he re-tweeted your fake Kanye entries — are you surprised he was so good about it?
Yeah, he had a great sense of humour. I didn’t know him at the time, but after meeting him I saw he’s very self-aware. More so than people give him credit for. There’s often a joke or two in his verses and they’re very clever.
How did you become a member of Judd Apatow’s film crew?
I did a sketch show for MTV called Human Giant, and that was my calling card for a while. Judd had seen my Human Giant stuff, and I got the part in Funny People [because of that]. When we were filming, I asked if I could do a documentary on Randy, the character I played. We had a great time doing it, so he said, “Why don’t come up with some movie ideas for me?” He’s a good guy to have in your corner.
You star in your own TV show as well. Do you generally rate US television?
There’s a few really good comedy shows, but mostly it’s about fat people losing weight, and game shows. There’s a show called Minute To Win It, and the host gives you a task like throwing a ring around a bottle, and you have a minute to do it to win $10,000. I rarely sit and flip through channels, but one day I was bored in a hotel room and I started flicking through them, and I saw this and I was like, “I want to stay and see if she tosses that ring around those bottles.” There’s some stupid part of your head that hopes she can do it.
Have you had any odd celebrity encounters?
When I did the MTV Movie Awards, Tom Cruise did a lot of stuff as Les Grossman. That was pretty crazy. That guy’s been the most famous person in the world for as long as I’ve been a human being so it was pretty surreal. That’s the greatest thing for me — I’m getting to meet people that I really look up to, like Jesse Eisenberg, who’s an amazing actor. That’s the best part for me, not being able to say: “Look! Brad Pitt’s over there taking a sh*t in a bush.” Although that would be pretty cool, too.
Aziz Ansari plays London’s Soho Theatre from the 24-28 February