After a year of laying low, Aziz Ansari has once again addressed his sexual misconduct controversy, and this time, he did it on stage.
A story published on Babe.net last year recounted an incident involving Ansari allegedly pressuring a woman during a date. His response to the story was not really ideal. He said he was "surprised and concerned" and that, at the time of the encounter, he believed it was "completely consensual." He also mentioned the #MeToo movement was "necessary and long overdue."
Afterward, the comedian stepped out of the limelight, but during a pop-up show in New York on Monday, Feb. 11, Ansari approached the matter more maturely.
According to Vulture's Jesse David Fox, the comedian brought the topic up with a joke.
"'Oh, no, Aziz, right?' Yeah, yeah, that’s me," he said, impersonating a fan who mistook him for Patriot Act host Hasan Minhaj. "‘Master of None!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Parks and Rec!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘Treat yourself!’ Yeah, yeah, that’s me. ‘And you had the whole thing come out last year — sexual misconduct?’ No, no, no, no, no, no, that’s Hasan!"
Ansari went on to explain why he hasn't talked about the "whole thing" as much as everyone expected. He said he took some time to internalize and process the gravity of what happened, and that it's a "terrifying thing to talk about."
"There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” he said. "But you know, after a year, how I feel about it is, I hope it was a step forward. It made me think about a lot, and I hope I’ve become a better person."
The star also brought up a conversation he had with a friend about how to be more sympathetic, especially when interacting with women. "If that has made not just me but other guys think about this, and just be more thoughtful and aware and willing to go that extra mile, and make sure someone else is comfortable in that moment, that’s a good thing," he said.
Ultimately, the experience gave him a newfound appreciation for what he does. “And I think it also just gave me perspective on my life,” he said. "There was a moment where I was scared that I’d never be able to do this again."
Ansari's controversy shifted the way we view consent. It opened the door for nuanced discussions about "affirmative consent" in that consent isn't as simple as a "yes" or "no."
While Ansari's statement is far from an apology, he handled the situation infinitely better than other shunned comedians — even if it took him a year. Other powerful men accused of way more nefarious misconduct have failed to show any remorse, let alone make efforts to show they've changed.
Sure, Ansari's statement could have been better, but it was a far cry from the lackluster responses of stars like Louis C.K. What's important is that he reflected on his past actions and could influence other men to consider how they treat women — exactly what the #MeToo movement encourages.