After taking a brief hiatus from comedy, Aziz Ansari is back with a new Netflix comedy special titled RIGHT NOW. In the hour-long stand-up, Ansari touches on all the things he has missed out on as well as addressing his sexual misconduct allegations back in early 2018.
He also plays with audiences expectations by experimenting with the crowd in a fantastically engineered joke. It’s one of the best bits from comedy in a while and highlights the social divide in the U.S. brilliantly
What is this joke and what does it mean? Here is a breakdown of Aziz Ansari’s Pizza Hut swastika experiment and the cultural relevance behind it.
Aziz Ansari’s Pizza Hut swastika experiment explained
During the comedic experiment, Ansari speaks about an incident surrounding Pizza Hut where a pizza was delivered to a customer and the purchaser complained that the pepperonis were arranged in the form of a swastika.
Ansari then polls the crowd and ask how many thought it looked like a swastika and how many thought it looked like a regular average pizza. A number of people hesitantly clap for both arguments.
Ansari then picks out a male member of the audience who clapped for the “regular average pizza” side. He asks the man if he thought the pizza purchaser was just lying to get attention, and the man nods. Ansari then asks if he remembers where he saw the article because allegedly Washington Post had a “digitally altered” image. And the man says Washington Post.
And then with a surprise turn, Ansari says, “Okay, well, you know what’s interesting is um… I just made all that up. None of that happened.”
The crowd then uproars with laughter. He follows it up with, “I’m not trying to embarrass you dude, but you and everyone who clapped earlier, you’re the f**king problem, okay?”
This joke is brilliant because it puts a spotlight on America’s need to fight about anything without verification of whether or not the information is real. It’s a common problem in social media where one person can share anything and both sides are ready to go to war simply because they feel entitled to do so.
And as Ansari points out, the people that felt obligated to take a side like to pretend they’re superior to the other but both sides made the same mistake. He holds a mirror to their social division while saying, “See how funny you look?”
Digging deeper, one can find an interesting critique of just how gullible people are when listening to misinformation. And it’s very clear from this experiment that the issue is not isolated to any one political party specifically. The side against hate speech, Nazis, racist was just as easily influenced by a fake story as the person that thought the pepperoni swastika looked normal.
This is why we are blessed to have freedom of expression. Comedy is one of the best forms of cultural therapy and allows us to laugh at our own mistakes. Luckily, despite his own mistakes in the past year, we still have a talent like Ansari to help shed light on our social division in a humorous way.
Aziz Ansari: RIGHT NOW is currently streaming on Netflix.