Aziz Ansari: What it’s really like to meet him in person for the first time

“Dang, look at these fancy mini sandwiches!” The time had finally arrived. After two weeks of anxiously waiting to meet, interview and drink tea with Aziz Ansari, here he was in the flesh — just five feet away from me.

Modern Romance book cover

The whole room was doe-eyed as he walked to his chair in the front of the room wearing an all-black suit over a button-down with bright red hearts on it. The hearts were a cute touch, considering the subject matter of his new book Modern Romance (kudos to his stylist on that one). My palms began to sweat and I had to suppress all urges to snap a selfie. “Come on, Vic, look around you… that’d be such a rookie move!” I scolded myself. The other professional journalists in the room would probably scoff at me, the young, innocent intern SheKnows had sent.

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So instead of whipping out a selfie stick, I watched Ansari as he settled down in the room, surrounded by eager faces all waiting for him to spew a fountain of facts about his book. Instead he just said, “Oh, am I running this?” Man, does this guy have a knack for making nervous crowds feel comfortable. I could immediately tell that he has what I like to call the “best-friend effect,” meaning he talks to everyone in a laid-back manner that makes you feel like you’ve been best friends for years.

“So yeah… I wrote a book called Modern Romance. It came out today, so what would you like to know?” With an air of confidence and relaxation, he motioned to the girl sitting next to me to ask the first question. The only thing running through my head in that moment was, “Oh shit, that means I’m next,” as I tried to conceal my mini panic attack. Luckily, Ansari started to talk about the ever-stressful rituals of first dates, and my nerves quickly faded away.

He discussed a story mentioned in his book about a guy who showed up to a first date wearing a beekeeper’s suit. Though you may be quick to write that off as a strange move, Ansari said, “That section was about the really simple idea that if you do something a little more interesting, you end up really increasing your chances of having a fun date.” (Note to self: Next time a guy shows up to our date wearing a beekeeper’s suit, think twice before running in the other direction. Gotcha.) While conducting research around the world, he found that many first dates consisted of grabbing drinks or a bite to eat. But he thinks those situations are setting up a budding relationship for failure because they end up being a boring “resume exchange” across a table. His first date suggestion? A monster truck rally or something along those lines that will put both people out of their comfort zone so they can see each other’s true character in action.

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As he started wrapping up his first response, I felt like I was going to throw up the mini sandwich I had just scarfed down, but I somehow gathered my confidence. “Well, I’m a college student and probably the youngest person in the room right now,” I said, but was promptly interrupted when Ansari jokingly blurted out, “How do you know that? You just judged everyone in the room! I’m the youngest one here…” Everyone erupted in laughter and my nerves were thankful for his comic relief. I proceeded to ask him his thoughts on the college hookup culture that’s so prevalent these days and how it affects future relationships. Though his book research didn’t really broach the subject, he did touch on the difference between younger and older generations when it comes to texting. “If someone my age — I’m 32 — doesn’t get a text back in a couple hours, they’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ But if someone in college doesn’t get a text back in a minute, they’re like, ‘What the f***?'” Bottom line: Young’uns these days, me included, need to take a chill pill when it comes to text messaging.

He continued around the room, politely asking each person’s name before they fired a question. So we’re technically on a first-name basis, Aziz and I. Pretty official, if you ask me. He periodically sipped from his wineglass full of water, though you’d think it was straight vodka because of how laid-back and real he was. Though surrounded by journalists, he didn’t feel the need to censor himself— a refreshing break from celebrities who try to give off an ultra-polished aura when surrounded by the media. Cuss words unapologetically flew around the room like flies near a Dumpster, and I couldn’t help but childishly chuckle every time he let one rip.

While answering another person’s question about the book, he mentioned how both men and women are quick to write off someone after just one date. But he said not every first date always has that “OMG” moment or what most people call the “spark.”

“People are amazing,” he said. “They have so much more to show you than what they can show you in one session of drinks.” He added that there’s a lot of social science proving that the more time you spend with someone, the deeper a connection you form. So even if a first date was mediocre, take it from Aziz Ansari and give it another shot. “Wow, a lesson in social science from a celeb and free fancy sandwiches? This event is shaping up to be the highlight of my summer so far,” I thought to myself.

Ansari spoke in the same tone as his book — lighthearted and comedic at some points and then scientific and scholarly at others. Somehow, he seamlessly mixed the two attitudes. I didn’t mind listening to him talk about his psychology research tactics because he sprinkled the discussion with occasional jokes, making it impossible to lose focus. He knows what he’s up against as a man writing about a subject like romance, something that’s written and read primarily by women. But he wants people to know that Modern Romance is a read that anyone can enjoy. “What’s interesting about this book is that it’s not like, ‘If you’re a dude, this is how you f*** ladies,’ or, ‘If you’re a lady, this is how you lock down a man!’ It’s like, ‘Hey, if you’re a lady or a man, you can enjoy this book.’ For every guy that’s nervous about what to text a girl, there’s a girl on the other end that’s nervous about what to respond.”

But Ansari has locked down a lady of his own, as he has been dating chef Courtney McBroom for quite some time. He perks up when someone in the room asks about her, quick to admit that the two often enjoy low-key nights of cooking homemade pasta together. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling inside imagining the two eating spaghetti Lady and the Tramp style, and I really appreciated that he was willing to momentarily veer off track from discussing the book to give us a peek at his personal home life.

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When asked what the biggest positive takeaway from writing the book was, he couldn’t contain himself and had to list two. “We’re all in it together. Everyone is sitting there staring at their screens in a dilemma that seems totally their own and unique to them,” he said. “But in a way, everyone’s dealing with the same nonsense. That was nice to learn.” His second lesson was aimed at the youth. He interviewed nursing home residents about their spouses and learned that many of them got married to escape the woes of living under their parents’ roof. “All of them seemed to have this longing for a period in their lives where they were just independent adults who were having fun and doing whatever they want,” he said. “Now everyone has this period when you leave your house where you just dick around and have fun and do whatever you want, but I think it’s something that young people right now really take for granted.” So basically, YOLO, am I right? Shout-out to Ansari for making me take a step back and realize how great this period he calls “emerging adulthood” really is.

Aziz Ansari book reading

Image: Victoria Messina/Instagram

As the questions wrapped up, I snapped a few Instagram-worthy photos before he thanked us in his characteristically goofy voice and left the room to a round of applause. I found myself in a momentary daze, staring at his empty chair, waiting for someone to pinch me. Did that really just happen? I just sat in an intimate gathering with a celebrity and he was actually a real person — not some stuck-up Hollywood actor too snobby to allow photos, but a cool dude who loves homemade pasta and just so happens to be famous.

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I quickly snapped out of my daze in time to snag a few more mini sandwiches before the waiters took them off the tables. And with that, I gathered my star-struck self and left the chic Crosby Street Hotel with Aziz Ansari’s nuggets of wisdom as food for thought on my subway ride home.

If you’re dying to get your hands on a copy of this hilariously informative read, be sure to order your copy on Amazon today.

Image: Amazon


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