Comedian Aziz Ansari will be making a leap from the big screen to the stage at Woolsey Hall at the end of this month.
Ansari, who currently stars in the NBC television comedy “Parks and Recreation,” will headline the 2010 Winter Show, Yale College Council President Jon Wu ’11 announced in an e-mail to students Monday morning. While members of the selection committee said Ansari is a break-out star who will fit well on the Yale campus, student reaction to Ansari is mixed.
Wu said Ansari was the comedy committee’s first choice to headline the Winter Show, which was originally slated as the fall comedy show but delayed in order to secure a headliner. The comedian has also guest-starred on several television shows and is known for his roles as Randy in last year’s film “Funny People” and Eugene in “I Love You, Man.”
“I am so excited,” Wu said. “[Ansari] has a very laid-back manner and is very ironic.”
Wu said the comedy committee is thrilled to have secured Ansari for the Winter Show’s headline spot because the comedian is “getting big.” Will Stephen ’11, a member of the committee, said Ansari was an ideal choice because “he is literally about to explode.”
“We’ve lucked out in getting someone that’s going to be a big name in the coming years,” Stephen said.
Securing Ansari for the show was a long process, Wu said. Wu and YCC Events Director Mathilde Williams ’11 formed a comedy committee last spring that evaluated potential acts and planned the event through the summer. The committee also strongly considered hiring David Cross, who played Tobias Funke in the television show “Arrested Development.”
After determining Ansari’s availability for a January date, Wu said, price negotiations and the contract signing took two months total.
Modeling the selection process after the one created for last year’s Spring Fling concert, planners chose not to hire a middle agent to book the acts for the comedy show, but rather to use a student committee to decide on and approach potential performers. By dealing directly with Ansari’s agent, Wu added, the committee was able to book a “top tier” artist for a “medium tier” price. The Yale College Council usually spends $7,000 to $15,000 on the show’s headliner. Wu declined to specify the exact amount spent to book Ansari.
Along with a different date — the traditional Fall Show was moved to January because of Ansari’s scheduling conflicts — this year’s event will also be preceded by a question and answer session with the comedian. The discussion will be part of the Intercultural Affairs Council’s series on humor and diversity.
“Ansari will be talking about his life and his career,” Wu said. “He’s Indian-American, but he doesn’t want that to define his roles.”
Student reaction to Monday’s e-mail (which several students reported missing because it was mistaken for spam) was mixed. Four students interviewed agreed that, though they were not familiar with Ansari, they are interested in seeing the show.
But other students were unimpressed with the comedian’s style. Julian Rajeshwar ’10, who saw Ansari in “Funny People,” said he would probably not attend the event. Derrick Ashong ’10, who has seen a clip of Ansari’s recent appearance on a late-night talk show, described the comedian as “crass.”
The Jan. 30 event will also feature as-yet-unnamed openers whom Ansari is bringing with him and student comedians who will be selected by audition.