I always loved Tom Snyder’s chain-smoking, rambling, hour-long conversations with celebrities on his after-hours NBC Tomorrow show. Or when Larry King would show up and just talk and talk — sometimes clearly having no idea who he was even interviewing that night. The spirit of those shows may not succeed in today’s short-attention span, Internet-clip-friendly world, but that doesn’t mean they have to disappear into the cobwebs of YouTube, either. The idea behind “Dinner With Daniel” was simple: Daniel (that’s me) has a rambling, rollicking, no-road-map conversation with a celebrity. We drink as much good wine as we can, talk about food and life, and see where the conversation takes us. My first (and hopefully not last) guest: Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari, who just released a well-received comedy special on the interwebs. Here’s how our dinner played out.
“DUDE, WHY THE FUCK ARE THESE PLACES CLOSED SUNDAY!!!!???”
If you go to Aziz Ansari’s Twitter feed, you will see picture after picture of food: platters of cookies, meatballs, rigatoni, doughnut holes, ribs and sausage, together, in gravy. Aziz really likes food. A lot. So I probably could’ve guessed his e-mailed response after I told him his two choices for dinner (Michael Voltaggio’s Ink and Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse, Cut) are both closed.
Minutes later, I get a more conciliatory, Azizian e-mail: “OK, I’ll see what my tummy tells me tomorrow. Sorry I’m a bit frazzled today trying to finish up all this stuff for the special launch next week and also getting ready for a show in Santa Babs. We’ll have a delicious evening tomorrow, promise!”
We settle on another of his favorites: Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza. 9 p.m. He’s right on time. They give us a nice, quiet table in a back corner. I turn on my I-phone recording app and pray it works…
Waitress: Sparkling, flat, or tap water tonight?
Aziz: Tap! Tap water!
Daniel: Man of the people …
Aziz: [Reading menu.] Man, so much stuff looks good. Have you been here before?
Daniel: Yeah. I like this place — and they also have this pasta tasting thing going on here.
Aziz: I’ve done that before. It’s good.
Daniel: But at the same time, it looks like there’s a bunch of other even better stuff — and I would just say, let’s have a great feast — because the whole idea behind this was sort of a My Dinner With Andre, where we have this great feast and talk about life …1
Aziz: You don’t have to twist my arm to have a great feast …
Daniel: We should figure out what we want to order.
Aziz: Is there a cocktail menu?
Daniel: I don’t know. Here’s a wine list. You want a bottle of wine?
Aziz: If I drink wine, I will start getting sleepy.
Daniel: We can have both.
Aziz: Let’s drink a lot of wine. I’ll probably get drunk, get a DUI, or die in an accident.
[I order a bottle of '04 Brovia Barolo.]2
Aziz: [To waitress.] And I’ll have a cocktail too. Any cocktails you really like?
Waitress: The Gold Rush is excellent.
Aziz: Oh! That’s one of my favorites. I make those at home. I’m a huge Gold Rush fan! We’ll see how it stacks up to mine …
Daniel: You do? What is that? Goldschlager?
Aziz: Bourbon, honey syrup, and, uh, lemon juice.
Waitress: Would you like a cocktail too?
Daniel: Yeah. Why not? I’ll have a vodka martini, extra dry, straight up, olives. You have Tito’s?
Waitress: No, sorry.
Aziz: [Helpfully.] How about Ciroc Coconut?
Daniel: [Laughing.] Ketel — or anything like Ketel is fine. [To Aziz.] You want to order for the table?
Aziz: Sure, all right. Let’s do the grilled octopus … [to the waitress] and I’m not being a dick; we agreed I was going to order for the table … amberjack crudo … and which burrata is it …
Waitress: Not sure we have the crudo …
Aziz: Wuh? Nooooooooo!!!!
Waitress: Let me double-check. And … I hate to say it, but we might be out of the octopus, too …
Aziz: Whaaa?? All right … OK, if not, we’ll deal with it. Let’s get some pasta: that tagliatelle with the oxtail ragu. And … any ones that jump out at you?
Waitress: The spaghetti calabrese is fantastic.
Aziz: Let’s do that. Let’s do the ricotta egg ravioli. Anything super popular we’re missing out on?
Daniel: [Leaning into microphone.] How’s it going, whoever’s transcribing this so far?3
Aziz: Oh my god, such a long order! Maybe we’ll do one fish. Which fish is popular?
Waitress: The trout’s realllllly good. Also with a pancetta … cooked nice and crispy …
Aziz: OK, done!
Daniel: So, tell me about your night with Obama …4
Aziz: He was super-cool. We were backstage. And it’s me with The Roots. You’d expect someone like that — at best — to come backstage, take a photo, and leave, because it was all very serious. There were all those serious Secret Service guys … but he came back, super-friendly, joking around, and he was really cool. He talked to me about Parks and Rec, and stand-up … it was longer than I thought it’d be. I thought it was just going to be a picture and then, “Get out of here, Aziz … “
Daniel: I know from the clip his daughter watches it. Did you get the sense he had seen it?
Aziz: Yeah, it seemed like he’d seen a couple episodes. But his daughter was the one who was a huge fan. He told me his daughter was really psyched that he was getting to meet me — and I was like, “Yeah, you should be psyched you’re getting to meet me … “
Aziz: … not the other way around at all. He did y’all’s podcast, right?
Daniel: Yeah, he did Bill’s podcast.
Aziz: He’s so cool.
Daniel: I heard the other day [that] at this press conference a woman’s phone went off. And the President heard the ringtone and said, “Luda, right?” The President of the United States recognized a Ludacris song.
Aziz: He’s very quick. During the thing I did, there was a lady — and I didn’t do my stand-up, I just did like a funny speech. And there was this lady — and at like one point I said, “I’m going to get serious now … ” And she was like, “Yes. Please … “ And I was like: Who the fuck is this lady? I’m a comedian; I’m supposed to be saying nonsense. And then later, that same lady yelled at the President: “Use your power to stop the war in Iran!” And he was like super-funny, and sort of just deflected it and said, “Uh, we’re not at war in Iran … yet. Hold your horses, miss.” He got a laugh — and I was like, ‘Whoa, he’s really good at handling hecklers, too.”
Daniel: Did you bring your parents?
Aziz: No. I was just there with a friend of mine …
[The waitress brings our drinks.]
Waitress: Martini and a Gold Rush … and I asked the kitchen and they found an octopus.
Aziz: Nice!! Thank you so much!
Daniel: When you say you were there with a friend, was it your friend Brian?
Aziz: Oh — no. Brian’s a fake name. For some reason in my stand-up, I always go to Brian. It’s weird. There’s a weird thing in stand-up when you go to certain sounds. They just sound funnier. Like “k” sounds, you know. Like there’s this Chris Rock joke, where he says the only two black guys in Minnesota are Prince and Kirby Puckett. And I was like, “Shit, Kirby Puckett — that’s the funniest name ever!” But for some reason, Brian’s just a funny sounding name to me.
Daniel: Not just in this special, but also in previous specials, you talk about him and he seems like the greatest guy in the world … like he’s always there for you …
Aziz: But he’s also the name of the kid in the “Walking with Dinosaurs” piece in my other special … so sometimes he’s also a kid getting diddled by a stranger …5
Daniel: [Laughing.] True.
Aziz: Like I was doing my new special, and I was calling this guy Brian again, and I was thinking, “Oh, shit, I have to come up with a new name, because this guy Brian has so many things happening to him that conflict … “
[The first appetizers arrive.]
Aziz: Should we start eating? [Talking into microphone.] We got the burrata with bacon and leeks … and you got the gem lettuce with avocado and some burrata..
Daniel: Your plate looks WAY better than mine.
Aziz: Your plate looks like some lettuce and …
Daniel: It looks like I’m on a diet. Like I’m a fat fuck on a diet — and you’re mocking me by eating the most delicious-looking dish ever.
[Aziz starts laughing — because it's true. And nothing is funnier in comedy — even "k" sounds — than other people's misfortune.]
Aziz: [Still laughing.] No — we’re going halfsies!
Daniel: Yeah… I have to say, if you like lettuce, this is pretty good. But I guess if you like mozzarella and bacon, yours looks pretty good too.
Aziz: This octopus is amazing.
Daniel: Yeah, the wine is really good too.
Aziz: Wait, here, try this …
Daniel: I really haven’t eaten any red meat in over a month.
Aziz: Oh, really? Why? Do you take breaks like that a lot?
Daniel: Every now and then. I’m kind of a glutton. I eat a lot and I drink a lot. And you know how you inherit certain hereditary things from your family? Like sense of humor, or good looks? I got gout.
Aziz: Gout? What’s gout?
Daniel: Well, it’s called the “Disease of Kings,” because you mostly get it from eating rich foods and sauces and things like that. But it’s also hereditary. And while they say it almost never strikes women — like one in 1,000 cases are women? Both my grandmothers, on both sides of my family, got it.
Aziz: Whoaaaaa!!! I think I’m secretly a Kellison. I’m going to get gout!
Daniel: Man, you really hope you don’t. Because what happens is this: After eating a meal that’s especially rich — and after eating a bunch of rich meals — your uric acid crystallizes … like if your uric acid hits an 8.0? What happens is it flows down your body and it starts to feel like you have needles coming out of your toes — because literally you do. Your uric acid crystallizes …
Aziz: [Shoveling mozzarella and bacon in his mouth.] OK, this all sounds good so far. Go on …
Daniel: … and literally starts poking through your skin like needles. And then your feet start bleeding. It’s brutal.
Aziz: Oh, that doesn’t sound bad. So they get a little tingly?
Daniel: One time I was visiting my dad in New Mexico — it was six o’clock in the morning — and with gout you also get something called “sheet toe,” which means that if you brush your toe up against a sheet while you’re sleeping you wake up with the most excruciating pain, screaming in agony, which is literally what I did, like a baby, screaming: “Dad, wake up!”
Daniel: So my dad drives me to the Whole Foods at six o’clock in the morning, and we sat there waiting until it opened so I could get cherry juice … which I was just chugging from the container, because it’s the only thing that offers you relief, because it was a Sunday, and I couldn’t get to my doctor or real medicine …
Aziz: So why are you eating like this now?
Daniel: OK. Fair question. Well, I kind of have it under control now. You have to avoid certain foods — like gravies and runny cheeses and like [thinking back to what we ordered] oxtail …
Aziz: Dude, we’re going to finish this meal and you’re going to get the gout! We ordered oxtail! Oxtail ragu on the pasta.
Daniel: Well, I’ll try to go light on that. Though it would be funny if this thing ended with you driving me to Cedars Sinai.
Aziz: Right? Here, try this Gold Rush …
Daniel: [Trying.] Wow, that’s really great.
Aziz: Right? That’s like one of my two favorite cocktails. I started making it at home.
Daniel: What’s your bourbon of choice?
Aziz: I like Maker’s Mark.
Daniel: Well, maybe they’ll send you a case of Maker’s Mark.
Aziz: [Leaning into mic.] I usually use Maker’s Mark.
Daniel: And how do you like those new Dre Beats?
Aziz: [Laughing.] Yeah! And I like to make these while listening with my Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones.
Daniel: Another constant in your stand-up — and in this new special too — seems to be an appreciation of R. Kelly.
Aziz: It’s funny, because I didn’t even really want to talk about R. Kelly again, because I did talk about him in the last special. But here is the problem: R. Kelly keeps doing amazing things.
Daniel: People love R. Kelly.
Aziz: Yeah, there’s this video of him online. He has this song, called “Echo,” and he’s defining the word “echo” online for his fans — because apparently some of them didn’t know what the word “echo” means.
Daniel: I actually went online after seeing the special, to see whether it was possible that what you were talking about was real … and it totally is.
Aziz: I actually think this new bit about him is actually better than the last one, so I said, “I’ve got to put it in.”
Daniel: It is pretty amazing that there might be English-speaking people on this planet who don’t know what the word “echo” means — and then that he has to define it for his fans.
Aziz: And that his definition is amazing.
[Busboy comes to clear.]
Daniel: Yeah, I’m finished, thanks. You finished?
Aziz: Ooh, no. I’m going to eat a couple more of the cucumbers. There’s still cheese left! And cucumbers!!
[But now the pastas are coming. Aziz eats a quick last bite and they clear … ]
Waitress 2: The tagliatelle and the raviolo …
Daniel: What’s that one?
Aziz: You’ve never had that?
Daniel: No. What is that?
Aziz: That’s one of the best pastas in the world!
Waitress 2: The chef recommends you cut into the side with your fork and let it run out.
Daniel: [To Aziz.] You know what to do here or not?
Aziz: Just go ahead, crack it in the middle with your fork.
Daniel: That’s an egg? Oh, it is. Whoa …
Waitress 2: I just wanted to let you know, I used to see your shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York like five years ago, and I’m the hugest fan and just so happy for your success … congratulations.
Aziz: [Genuine.] Ohh, coooool!! Thanks so much.
Daniel: OK. Speaking of UCB … I think one of my favorite things you ever did on Human Giant — which was one of the best sketch shows ever, by the way — was that contest where you and a buddy tried to find the five shittiest songs. The audience voted on the playlists, and whoever lost had to walk around New York City with a boom box blasting all the shitty songs. And the looks you got were priceless.
Aziz: Yeah … I used to do this show on UCB called “Crash Test,” which I would host with different hosts each week, and it was super fun, because we would write different bits for each week. And one week I did it with my two roommates at NYU I lived with at the time. I thought that would be funny. And we had that contest. My roommate Zach won, and yeah, I lost, so I had to walk around — and we shot it, and it was pretty funny.
Daniel: Because it’s like these horrible “Crazytown” songs …
Aziz: Right, and we put it like on CollegeHumor and YouTube, and it spread around. And then when we did the Human Giant show on MTV, the people were like, “Oh, we loved that bit you did on UCB, can you put that in the show?”
Daniel: Yeah, I tried to look for it today, and couldn’t find it. I found the original UCB one.
Aziz: Yeah, it’s because the music stuff was really hard to clear. When it aired on Human Giant, we called Paula Cole and she was like, “Uh, yeah, I don’t think I want to be in a piece called “The Shittiest Mixtape Ever.” However, OMC — the people who sing “How Bizarre,” were more than ready to accept the check.
Daniel: Let me ask you about that Kanye and Jay-Z video you’re in, “Otis” … I know you’re tight with Kanye …
Daniel: Did he just call you up and say, “You want to be in a music video?”
Aziz: Yeah, that’s around the time they were recording Watch the Throne in New York and both those guys really like having people around the studio to listen to stuff. And they would call me and say, “Hey, we’re recording stuff, come hang out.” And I’d be like, “Yes, I will come.”
Daniel: So Jay-Z — would he call you, too?
Aziz: Well, yeah. They were recording Watch the Throne, so they were together.
Daniel: I knew Kanye loved you, but I guess I didn’t realize you and Jay-Z knew each other too …
Aziz: Well, I hate talking about this stuff, because there’s that whole Humblebrag part, but yeah, I was there for a lot of the Watch the Throne stuff. And one day I was there. It was at the Tribeca Grand Hotel or something, and it was the day they did “Welcome to the Jungle,” Kanye recorded his verse of “Paris,” they did the back-and-forth for … uh, what was the song the Neptunes produced? “Gotta Have It.” I wish I had a photo of it — it was so cool, they were going back and forth, and I was like, “Holy shit, this is so good.” They would play a song and then they would be like, You think we should use this song? And it would just be like me and one of my friends — and we’d be like, “Um, why are you asking us?”
Daniel: And the video?
Aziz: Yeah, so I was hanging out with them both a bunch, and Spike Jonze, who directed the video, is also a friend of mine … and they were like, It would be funny to get Aziz in there to do something random.
Daniel: Hot chicks and Aziz.
Aziz: Yeah, I know. When we’re doing the video, I said to Kanye, “Man, it’s really weird that I’m in this video.” And Kanye was like, “Dude, it’s weird for me too. Like I used to be the fucking biggest Jay-Z fan. I went to Jay-Z concerts, and now I just did an album with Jay-Z, and now we’re doing a video together — it’s crazy for me.”
Daniel: Kanye was a fan of Crank Yankers, and he reached out about doing a sort of hip-hop Muppet show6 … anyway, I really think Kanye is one of the most misunderstood people out there. He is actually really kind and thoughtful.
Aziz: No, totally.7
Daniel: When we were finishing the show, I was about to get married. And it was one of those things where I didn’t want to not invite Kanye — I mean, I would have liked to have him come, but I also didn’t want him to feel obligated. So I mentioned it pretty casually to him, and then the week before my actual wedding, he called me and said, “Hey, I was thinking, if it’s OK, maybe Alexis8 and I will come to your wedding.” And he came! He flew Southwest — commercial! — from Burbank to Austin. And it was like one of those movies, where my uncle who was sitting next to him at the reception was saying, “Kane?”
Aziz: That’s funny ….
Daniel: We should probably talk sports. I saw that picture of you on Twitter with LeBron —
Aziz: Yeah. I somehow became friendly with some people who knew LeBron. And they were in New York, and they were like, LeBron wants to come to a show with Dwyane Wade and a bunch of his Heat friends. And I was doing a spot at the Comedy Cellar.9 The Cellar’s a tiny club, like 80 seats, and it was sold out, and it was pretty tight — so I asked the club: “These guys want to come, is there any way to figure it out?” And they were like, “Yeah, we’ll figure it out.” So then like right before I went on, eight reaaaallly tall black dudes walk in and stand in the corner. And that’s how I became friends with him. And LeBron was like, “Hey. We’re playing the Clippers next week — you should come. So I said, “Wellll, you came to my show, I guess it’s only fair that I come to yours … ” I like basketball a lot. I was super into the NBA growing up.
Daniel: But didn’t you grow up in South Carolina? Who was your team?
Aziz: You don’t have a team in South Carolina. You know, if you’re a kid back then, you just like Michael Jordan. If you live in a place like South Carolina — and you don’t have a basketball team? That’s the thing, you can get away with liking the Bulls, and it’s not cheesy — because you don’t fucking have a basketball team. So I liked the Bulls. It was during the whole three-peat heyday, and I was obsessed with Michael Jordan.
Daniel: So did all the kids in your school have different teams? Or was everyone on the Jordan bandwagon?
Aziz: I don’t know, I mean what kid didn’t like Michael Jordan? Otherwise it just seemed so obvious that you’re trying to be cool, “I don’t like Michael Jordan … ” Really? You don’t like the guy who’s the best? You’re not a fan? You didn’t like Game 6? You didn’t think that was cool?
Daniel: So beyond Obama and Kanye and Jay-Z and LeBron, do you feel like there are still people you want to meet?
Aziz: It’s weird, once you do all this stuff, you meet all these people. I don’t know. I did this charity event last weekend in New Orleans, for Brad Pitt’s charity, Make It Right. They’re really cool — they build these green homes in the Ninth Ward — and they asked me to intro Seal. So for Seal’s intro bit, I said “Ladies and gentlemen, Seal’s running a little late, so they asked me whether I wouldn’t mind singing one of his hit songs for him, maybe delay a little. [At this point, Aziz starts singing "A Kiss from a Rose" in the restaurant.] And they were like, “He’s just pulling in the parking lot. So I said, “Well, it seems like people are really into the version I’m doing, so maybe I should just go ahead and finish … ” [Now, Aziz starts rushing a little through the song … ] He’s coming to the stage right now? [Singing quicker.]
Aziz: I’m like weirdly obsessed with that song, so it was so fun to sing it and know that he was actually hearing me sing it. That was pretty awesome. And they also had like a charity auction, where they had this dinner, where all the best chefs in New Orleans made all their best dishes, with all this incredible food and wine and stuff, and I had a few drinks and was having a good time — and they had a charity auction and I won — me and a friend won a cameo walk-on in the next Tyler Perry movie. So I won that …
Daniel: Whoooooaaaaa …
Aziz: [Clearly excited.] No big deal …
Daniel: Was Tyler Perry there?
Aziz: Nooo …
Daniel: That’s pretty funny. Tyler Perry’s going to be like, what the fuck? How’d Aziz Ansari end up in my movie?
Aziz: Yeah, like other people were bidding — like other people who are never going to be in movies … [Laughing.] And I was like, Ha ha ha — I’ll take it. What’s going to be really fun is picking which of my friends gets to do it with me.
[Waitress brings over the trout and pancetta entrée.]
Daniel: Jesus. I thought we were done.
Waitress: Trout with lentils and pancetta.
Aziz: [Taking a bite.] Mmmmmmmmm. So good … Mmmmmmmm.
Daniel: So what’s your next thing?
Aziz: I’m doing this thing in this movie, called The Apocalypse. It’s Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride — and all those guys.
Daniel: Is Judd Apatow directing it?
Aziz: No, Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg, Rogen's longtime writing partner] are directing it. And it’s basically all of us playing ourselves. Me, McBride, Jonah, Seth — everyone’s playing themselves, and the bit is James Franco’s having a party at his house, and the Apocalypse starts happening.
Daniel: Ha. I’ll see that. Sounds great.
Aziz: Yeah, that’s shooting in New Orleans. And then I’m also developing a few movies. Developing movies is so slow, though. I do these interviews where I mention what I’m doing and people are like, “Oh — are you shooting that next week?” And I’m like, “No, man — movie stuff is super-slow. Bridesmaids took five years, Pineapple Express took, like, seven years …
Waitress: So… are you still hungry? Could I interest you in some desserts?
Daniel: Oh yeah, you should order some dessert. I saw those pictures on Twitter. You should order some for sure …
Aziz: You like strawberries?
Daniel: Whatever you want.
Aziz: Something with strawberries. What’s the move?
Waitress: Coffee or tea?
Aziz: I’ll do a tea. English Breakfast tea.
Waitress: Earl Grey?
Aziz: That’s fine.
Daniel: OK, dessert seems like the right time to end this. And I thought we could end it with … “10 Random Questions!”
Aziz: Sure! Love it.
Daniel: Question 1: You get to pick the pizza — no one else gets to weigh in on the toppings.
Aziz: Mushroom cheese.
Daniel: What would you prefer to be —
Aziz: No, no — wait. To be honest? I’d ask the pizza place, “What are you guys really known for? What’s the most popular thing?” So I’d probably be super-neurotic. Nothing bums me out more than, “Aww, I could have had the perfect thing and I didn’t!” All right, next question.
Daniel: What would you rather be — lucky or good?
Daniel: Last movie you cried at?
Aziz: Never cried at [a] movie.
Daniel: Never ever, ever?
Aziz: No. I don’t know why. I mean, I get sad, but I don’t cry.
Daniel: OK — here you go: God comes down and says, “Aziz, you’ve been good. I’m giving you a freebie. You can sleep with ANY woman in the world. And she will desire you as well. But you have to be decisive. You have to tell me in 10 seconds. Go. 10, 9 … “
Aziz: Too much pressure.
Daniel: 8, 7 … You have to say one, or you get no one! 6, 5 …
Aziz: [Laughing.] I can’t! Because you run into these people, man!
Daniel: 4, 3 … Anyone?
Aziz: Anyone? Do they have to be current names?
Daniel: Anyone! Twooooooo ….
Aziz: OK, OK — I was just watching North by Northwest, by Hitchcock. And that actress. She’s beautiful.
Daniel: Who is that? Grace Kelly? OK, she’s dead. But she was very hot.
Aziz: I don’t remember. [Eva Marie Saint.]
Daniel: Yeah, Hitchcock was always famous for saying he never saw a romance on the screen that didn’t finish up later in the trailer.
Daniel: I took a Hitchcock class in college. Could be bullshit.
Aziz: Who’d be yours?
Daniel: Uh … I like that Eva Green from that last Bond movie. She was also in that Bertolucci movie, The Dreamers. And, uh … my wife is going to love this part of the interview. I also like that Eva Mendes. Who else … if I name a third one, will you name one current actress?
Aziz: [Laughing.] No!
Daniel: All right … fuck it, then. How about your dream director?
Aziz: Probably Woody Allen, pretty clichéd. But that would be amazing. And David Fincher. I’d like to do something serious. I think I could do it.
Daniel: Yeah, I could see it. OK … Dessert Island … Candy.
Daniel: All the food and water you want — but only one candy.
Aziz: I’d say M&Ms. Just plain chocolate M&Ms. That’s pretty good, right? You know how chocolate makes you feel real good … ?
Daniel: Hm, OK, sure. All right — what do you think happens when you die?
Aziz: Nothing. I’m not a religious person.
Daniel: So you think you just go into the ground.
Aziz: Sadly. But I don’t know, man — you hear these stories about ghosts and stuff … sounds pretty convincing! [Laughs.] Don’t you hear some ghost stuff where you’re like, “Oh, shit. That seems a little too crazy that that happened. And maybe there are ghosts??”
Daniel: No. I don’t believe that at all.
Aziz: You don’t think ghosts are a thing, at all?
Daniel: No. I mean, it would be cool. Nothing would be cooler than to know there’s an afterlife, but no. OK, have you ever taken a mind-altering drug of any sort — and what happened?
Aziz: Yes. I’ve done mushrooms a few times. What’s happened is I had an awesome time. [Laughs.] I did it at Bonnaroo a couple times. That music festival. I did it in Charleston, South Carolina, when I was in high school. And in Amsterdam, when I was in college, I went to the Van Gogh museum, and there was like a Gauguin exhibit, and I was walking around listening to the Beatles White Album. And it was fun. My argument has always been, you experience life through one perception your whole life. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view things through a slightly different perception? Everything you’re experiencing as a human being? Why wouldn’t you want to do that for a little while?
Daniel: How about a movie that changed your life?
Aziz: That’s a good question. I don’t know. That’s pretty lofty for a movie to change your life. I mean, there have been major influences: 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, all those Apatow movies have been a big influence. As a kid I really loved action movies — Terminator 2, Die Hard, Back to the Future.
Daniel: Do you have an irrational fear?
Aziz: I’m scared about being stuck in a tight space. Like imagine crawling under your bed, and then someone putting boards up where you couldn’t get out? Like that would be terrifying to me. Hyper-claustrophobia. That would be scary. I guess we can all get onboard with that being pretty scary, right?
Aziz: But it’s also never going to happen. So I guess that’s totally irrational too, right?
Daniel: The very definition of an irrational fear. OK, final question: Do you have a comedic hero?
Aziz: Probably most influential is Chris Rock. Because those specials were so huge when I was in high school and college. Tremendous influence.
Daniel: And have you met him since?
Aziz: Yeah, and he’s exactly as awesome as you’d think — super-smart, funny guy. Like I’ve met him and talked comedy and I’m like, “Fuck being in some movie or a TV show, this is fucking awesome … ” I mean, this is the guy who’s been the biggest influence on me. This is the guy who made me want to do stand-up. Actually, I saw him not too long ago. We were both dropping into the Comedy Cellar, working on stuff, and — actually, I remember one of the coolest things I saw when I started working in stand-up was I’d just go to that Comedy Cellar and just watch people, and one of the times I went, Chris Rock also dropped in to work on stuff. And he just tanked. And he didn’t care. And I was like, “Whoaa … even Chris Rock tanks, and he doesn’t care. I mean, that’s pretty awesome.”
Waitress: All right, here are your crepes …
Aziz: That looks crazy good. [Tries.] Oh my god!!
Daniel Kellison is a TV producer/writer and co-founder of Jackhole Industries with partners Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. Among their many shows, he co-created Crank Yankers and The Man Show, and was the original executive producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Before that, he spent eight years as a producer for Late Night with David Letterman and The Late Show with David Letterman. Most recently, he co-created and was EP of Comedy Central’s Sports Show with Norm MacDonald. Last month, Kellison was named to President Obama’s Entertainment Advisory Council. He is also on Twitter.