Comedian Aziz Ansari branches out with partially scholarly take on modern romance
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
With “Modern Romance,” published June 16, comedian Aziz Ansari has done something different than an autobiography or book of humor material. Ansari collaborated with sociologist Eric Klinenberg and a team of researchers in different locations worldwide, to collect stories about people’s experiences with dating and marriage.
On top of that, however, and what makes this book special is that Ansari also manages to inject the tone of his stand-up comedy voice into narrating what he and his team are investigating and what conclusions and observations he draws from what they find.
The best example of this is when Ansari compares the overwhelming array of options from online dating, which drives people to think there is always the better person or possibility around another corner, to the same attitude that foodies develop. Ansari counts himself as a foodie, and describes being on the road in Seattle, and exhaustively trying to pick out the best Italian restaurant to visit, but ending up eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches on his bus because the choicest restaurant was only open for lunch.
Along these lines, Ansari’s tone becomes evident when he writes a description of one of his interview subjects. He nicknames the guy “Johnny Satisficer” for his lackluster approach to online dating and mocks him as one who would be content with “sub-par tacos” (there’s Ansari’s food fetish) and his “dum-dum job.”
Ansari also finds and delivers another goldmine in a segment of the book that goes over the history of personal ads, including newspaper personals and awkward video personals of the 1980s and ’90s – back when one would have to go to the personal ad company’s location to actually view the videos that had been submitted.
Aside from this, Ansari does present some key statistics that help round out his sociological explanations, such as ones showing the geographic proximity of singles who became couples in different decades, and how couples met in different decades (including introductions by friends or family, meeting in social groups, meeting in college or the workplace, and more recently, online). These are presented attractively and match up with Ansari’s prose.
“Modern Romance” is an entertaining book. As sociology, it doesn’t necessarily have a conclusion, other than Ansari’s enthusiastic wonder at his findings, and ability to find humor in that material. As comedy, it is skilled, as Ansari breezily carries the reader through his take on dating, love and marriage.
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© 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua