On to the next Aziz-cap! As a special supplement to your regular recaps of Master of None, we’ve asked New York Magazine cover star Aziz Ansari to give us the behind-the-scenes breakdown of each episode, pieced together from multiple conversations over the past several months.
Episode 7: “Door #3”
This episode is mostly about Dev’s professional future, with a nice reprise of the “Parents” episode from season one, in which Dev and Kelvin Yu’s Brian bond with their dads. We begin on the set of Clash of the Cupcakes, where Chef Jeff (Bobby Cannavale) offers Dev a seven-season contract to stay on as the show’s host, just after he’s had to record some very humiliating promos. Dev’s indecision about an opportunity he doesn’t really want provides the narrative framework, as he goes out to lunch with Chef Jeff; visits his dad, Ramesh, who’s hard at work at his gastroenterology office pulling strange things out of people’s butts (and is, again, delightfully played by Aziz Ansari’s real dad, Shoukath, who is a real gastroenterologist); and finally gets a glimpse of how depressing his life could be via an encounter with COTC guest judge Kenny the Magician (Cedric the Entertainer), who is so nervous onscreen that he accidentally inflicts bodily harm on himself.
The best part, though, is the side story, which marks the first substantial Brian appearance since his brief pop-up as an obsessive fan of the Jabbawockeez dance troupe in “The Dinner Party,” plus a deep dive into the dating life of Brian’s dad, Peter (Clem Cheung), who’s sowing his oats as a divorced elderly Taiwanese immigrant. Alan Yang, Master of None co-creator and the basis for Brian’s character, guest stars in this Aziz-cap. Buon appetito!
Clash of the Cupcakes
Aziz Ansari: Oh my God, I love Leonard [Ouzts]. He’s the comedian who plays Lawrence, the producer of Clash of the Cupcakes. We didn’t know who we wanted that character to be, so we auditioned a bunch of people and he just made us laugh. We’d never seen him in anything. He improvised a lot, and we would throw him jokes on the day and he would just nail it. It’s so fun having a fun character like that. He made us laugh so much.
When Dev gets offered seven seasons, it’s like, do you go for something safe, or do you take a risk and try to pursue something you really love and are passionate about? Which I think is a conundrum a lot of people have faced in their professional lives. The part where Chef Jeff tells Dev that there’s no diversity in the food world — we were just trying to come up with a reason of why Bobby’s character would want my character around so much, or why he would get the opportunity to do that show, and that was a reason that made sense to us. And the show that Dev pitches, Best Food Friends, as you see in episode 210, that show looks pretty good! The only thing that becomes a disaster is what happens with Chef Jeff.
We put Kenny the Magician in there as a kind of cautionary tale for Dev. He’s someone who continues to do something because it’s easy, not because he’s passionate about it. We loved this idea of that guy being a magician character and then someone pitched out Cedric the Entertainer playing the part and we instantly took to it. We’re huge fans of his and he was so nice. There’s a lot of sadness to Kenny the Magician. He’s kind of the guy that just went down this one path and never stopped to reflect on his life and change it up, and he ends up putting a spike through his hand. [Laughs.]
It’s all related to the part at the end where Dev calls Francesca to tell her about BFFs. Maybe in the back of his head, he thinks he could pick this up, and then when she gets engaged, he realizes, “Oh fuck. I have a connection with this person and nothing’s going to come of it. Oh fuck.”
Ansari: Having my parents on the show has changed my whole relationship with them. I see them more. You get older and you start realizing like, “Wow, I’ve really got to spend time with these people.” And you kind of forget to do that because you get so busy with things. It’s hard to make, like, going to visit your parents a big priority sometimes, especially if they live far away. So you realize how special it is that you get to share these kinds of moments with them, and you really learn to not take it for granted.
My dad, or Dev’s dad, is always a fun character to write for and bring in the mix. We wanted to do an episode that was just me and my dad. It was going to be about me being in the hospital for a whole day, because I remember how he used to take me to rounds when I was a little kid, but we couldn’t quite figure it out. The episode is really about Dev’s career stuff, but we had that scene about the toothbrush and we needed something, so we put it in there.
My dad actually pitched that story about the toothbrush! He said that’s a common thing that happens with gastroenterology. People put electric toothbrushes up there to get off. He was like, “This is a real thing. And I have to pull it out.” I was like, “Well, Jesus Christ.” And then we Googled it and it’s like, “Yeah, it happens.” People put electric toothbrushes up their butts to get off.
It wasn’t quite like what’s in the show, but as a little kid I remember seeing a collection of things [he’d pulled out of people] — things like ball bearings, a nickel. He doesn’t have a shrine like that in the office, and he never had a SpongeBob [figurine] or anything like that. But I do remember seeing that little collection of stuff.
My parents live in North Carolina and my dad is still a doctor there. I grew up in South Carolina. Those are both red states; I’m from a very red America. But we’re there. That’s what the show is saying: “We’re here, man.” We’re here. Wherever you don’t think we are, we’re there. And we’re American, and we’re doing stuff. We have the same stuff going on that everyone else does. None of these people are the caricatures you want to paint them out to be, you know? A Muslim character who’s a doctor pulling a toothbrush out of some guy’s butt is different than showing a Muslim character who’s in a sleeper cell. So you can see some Muslim guy and be scared of him and think of the guy from Homeland or whatever, but hopefully, you see the show and then you’re like, “Maybe that guy is a guy that pulls a toothbrush out of a guy’s butt.”
Ansari: There’s a whole story with Clem and his girlfriends, but ask Alan if he’s cool talking about it.
Alan Yang: That one I’m gonna plead the fifth on! I haven’t told my dad about this yet, man! [Laughs.] No, so it’s obviously super heightened. But the thing that is based in reality is that he’s a single Asian man in his 70s living in Southern California. And he’s legitimately on eHarmony.
You know, I saw him a few months [before we wrote the episode] and he was like, “I met a woman on eHarmony and I’m gonna go meet up with her.” That’s intensely interesting! Whenever I tell Aziz about stuff with my dad, he’s like, “We’ve got to put that in the show, because what other show is doing that? What show is depicting the dating life of a 70-year-old immigrant from Taiwan?” Very few shows! [Laughs.] We’re not encountering a lot of competition in that department. You see the dating life of a fucking pretty 30-year-old person in the city all the time, right? But my dad goes through the same romantic stuff I do. It’s true. He does. So I just thought that was more interesting. Who cares about my life in that respect?
Ansari: Alan told me that story and I thought it was so funny. We just talked about, “Oh, I love that we’re doing this because in most shows you don’t even see a young Asian guy who’s adept with women enough to have one real, romantic relationship, and we’re showing an older Asian gentleman who is balancing two relationships.” He’s a playboy! I love that segment because it’s a cool kind of continuation of the “Parents” chunk, of just showing the relationship between Brian and his dad evolving. And Clem, who plays Peter, just really makes me laugh in that episode. Yeah, the real story that Alan told is basically what’s there and it’s so funny. It always made me laugh. I’m glad we got it in.
You know, I saw some video on YouTube of someone asking a group of [American] girls like, “Do you think Asian guys are cute?” or something, and they all started laughing. Again, it’s the fucking Homeland theory, because the only time they’ve seen Asian guys on TV they’re like, “Errrrggghhlah, I’ve never seen a bra before!” Just fucking completely inept. Now people are going to see older Asian guys and be like, “He’s probably fucking like five different ladies.”