The professional reputation of some actors and performers is inextricable from that of the larger ensemble to which they belong. Comedian/actor/screenwriter Aziz Ansari epitomizes this idea. Ansari shot to fame in the mid- to late 2000s as a member of the three-person comedy troupe responsible for The Human Giant -- a weekly, SNL-style collection of outrageous and irreverent comedy sketches that the group wrote and performed on MTV.
Ansari is -- like Jay Chandrasekhar and a few other comics to emerge during the early 2000s -- of Tamil Indian heritage. He grew up and attended university in rural South Carolina, then studied business at New York University. As a student, Ansari took classes with the famed Upright Citizens Brigade and mounted solo standup comedy gigs at Manhattan-area clubs. After a brief stint working in an Internet advertising business, Ansari discovered that he was earning enough with his standup efforts to focus on this full-time. His association with the Brigade ultimately led to a regular gig as emcee of Crash Test, a weekly standup comedy showcase at the UCB Theater, and -- in time -- to the creation of the Human Giant series. The group ended the series after two seasons on MTV. In 2008, he joined the cast of Parks & Recreation, an NBC television series from the producers of The Office. A year later, he appeared alongside Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan in the Judd Apatow film Funny People and created a series of online shorts to promote the film. He released his debut album and DVD, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, a year later. The television special and CD Dangerously Delicious followed in 2012, filled with stories of the comedian's increasing fame, and how it offered him the opportunity to hang with hip-hop celebrities like R. Kelly and Jay-Z. Buried Alive arrived a year later as a download or streamable special, then the Comedy Central label issued the special on CD in 2015, the same year that the Parks & Recreation series came to a close after seven successful seasons. ~ Nathan Southern