This week sees the release of Funny People, Judd Apatow’s much-anticipated leukemia dramedy, featuring Adam Sandler as a famous comedian stricken with a rare form of the disease. In the movie, Aziz Ansari plays Randy (stage name: RAAAAAAAANDY!), an abrasive comic whose material revolves mostly around his penis (see his tasteful official website at laughyourdickoff.com) and who could soon be the subject of his own spinoff movie. Ansari rapped with Vulture last weekend about the inspiration for his character, his steady gig as Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and his most famous Twitter follower.
How much of Randy was your idea and how much was in Judd Apatow’s screenplay?
When I got on the set, we just talked about the character for a while. Judd was just like, “I think he should be really cocky and confident.” I kind of went to Randy with the idea of like, what if Soulja Boy did stand-up comedy? And that’s the main inspiration, really. It’s not really a dig at any comedians or anything. Obviously there’s parts making fun of over-the-top stuff like Def Comedy Jam and stuff, but I was really fascinated by the idea of Soulja Boy doing stand-up. Like, he would have a dance, he would have a D.J., and it would be really over-the-top.
Is it harder to write jokes for Randy or jokes for Aziz?
I think it is harder to write Randy jokes because I don’t think like that. But it’s fun to think of dumb things. The thing is, it does have to be funny — you can’t just go up there and be like, “Oh man, yesterday I was getting my dick sucked.” Nobody’s gonna laugh at that. You have to have structure that’s a joke structure. So you do have to write funny jokes. It’s really fun to write that stuff, but it’s easier to write Aziz stuff because that’s who I am.
You’ve incorporated Randy into your own stand-up act — has he ever bombed?
No, Randy is genuinely more liked than Aziz. Randy usually does pretty well, because it’s such high energy that it’s hard not to get into it. When you come out, it’s interesting, because I’ve listened to tapes of myself and sets I did as Randy and when I come out it’s very quiet — “So, I was at the store the other day … ” — and when you listen to a Randy set, it’s like, “Oh shit! If you’re ready to laugh your dicks off, say yeah!” Of course people are going to respond to some dude who’s just jumping around and talking about laughing your dick off.
Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill do stand-up in this movie. How would you rate them?
Seth had done stand-up when he was younger, like 14, but Jonah never had. I saw him do stand-up for the first time ever, and he was great. He’s just such an instantly likable stage presence. Even if he wasn’t Jonah Hill that you knew from movies, he’d still be really likable. That’s just who he is as a person. I think he’s a little hard on himself, as far as his stand-up goes. It’s so hard to do it for a few months and then do it in a movie. I thought he did a tremendous job.
Have you retired Randy, or is he still a part of your act?
I just filmed a Comedy Central special, and it was an hour, so I did like ten minutes as Randy. And that was pretty fun. I kind of did it like it was Randy getting his own special for a while. I come out, I’m like dressed all in sequins, just tossing money at the audience and making it rain. The D.J.’s there, there’s dancers and smoke machines. It was crazy. They had a huge sign that said, “RAAAAAAAANDY.” There was music and I was just jumping around, that was just super-fun. So I did it in that. I’ll probably maybe retire Randy for a little bit, just try to come up with some new Randy jokes if I feel like it. And we still have a couple more parts of the Randy documentary to put out. I think we’re going to edit a version of the documentary for the DVD that’s like 25 minutes long.
This is going to be a pretty serious DVD …
It’s going to be a ten-disc set. They shot so much stuff. I don’t know how they’re going to cram it all in. There’s the Yo Teach! stuff and there’s all the fake George Simmons movies. I was on set for when they were shooting some of those fake George Simmons movies and there’s some really funny stuff that’s not even in the movie. I’m sure it’ll be on the DVD.
Can you tell us anything about the upcoming season of Parks and Recreation?
We’re starting it up in a couple weeks. We haven’t filmed anything yet so there’s really nothing too much I can tell you, but I’m looking forward to the second season. When I signed up for the show, I knew nothing. I just knew it was going to be a documentary-style show and that it was going to be filmed like The Office. They hadn’t locked down a premise yet, they didn’t have Amy yet — nothing. So I was really going in pretty blind. They could’ve told me the show was going to be anything. It could’ve been, you know, “It’s about you and Paul Walker running a bakery together and we’re going to shoot it like The Office.” And I would’ve had to have been like, “All right, I am signed up for that show. Let’s do it. Let’s call up Paul Walker.”
What’ve you been up to during the break from PaR?
I just shot a thing in Get Him to the Greek, which is the new movie that Jonah and Russell Brand are doing. I play one of Jonah’s co-workers and we work for Diddy at a record label. It was really fun to work with Diddy. He was hilarious. I shot that, and I shot my Comedy Central special, and I shot the Randy documentary.
You’ve been sending Diddy messages on Twitter for months. Did he know who you were?
He did know me. I’ve seen him at a couple of things and he’s kind of known me, I’m not sure from what. But he knows who I am somehow. So I saw him at the Get Him to the Greek table read and he was like, “Hey man, you hit me up on Twitter, right?” And I was like, “Yeah, I did. Hey man, why don’t you follow me?” He was like, “I don’t follow you?” And I was like, “No, you don’t!” So I got a request on MySpace from Diddy. And I was like, this is not the real Diddy. And I looked and it was the real Diddy requesting me as a friend! So I approved it and I sent him a message that was like, “Hey, after much consideration I decided to approve your MySpace friend request” And he responded to that and was like, “Oh, thank you. Let’s go!” or whatever he writes. And then the next time I saw him, I was like, “Hey, you didn’t follow me!” So he said, “Oh man, I’m sorry, I’m going to get on that right now. Write down your name.” I was like, alright. And then like a month or two later, we went back to filming and I was like, “Sean, you’re still not following me, man. It’s been like two months.” And he’s like, “Oh no, I forgot.” And then he started following me. But man, he is so funny in that movie. You are really going to be blown away. He was cracking me up. He was really good. He’s a pro. I was very impressed.