American comedian and actor Aziz Ansari is back after a short hiatus, dropping a new Netflix comedy special – directed by Spike Jonze, no less – just a few hours ago.

It’s a landmark release, because it was only last year that Ansari found himself the centre of a #MeToo allegation: that he had acted inappropriately on a date with an anonymous young woman, identified only as “Grace“.

The article in which she accuses Ansari of sexual misconduct, published on Babe.net in January 2018, caused an absolute shitstorm. Readers appeared to immediately divide into two camps – one believing that Ansari was a predator who should be censured, and one arguing that, in effect, it was “just a bad date”.

There was the now de rigueur ham-fisted non-apology, in which Ansari said that he had thought it was all consensual, and was shocked and upset to find out that it wasn’t:

I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.

And then he sort of…went away for a bit. Early this year we heard he was touring again, and now Ansari has stepped back into the public arena with the special, titled ‘Right Now‘.

It’s noteworthy just for the fact that Ansari opens the special by explicitly addressing the allegations:

You know, I haven’t said much about that whole thing, but I’ve talked about it on this tour, ‘cause you’re here and it means a lot to me. And I’m sure that some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation. And, uh, it’s a tricky thing for me to answer, ‘cause I’ve felt so many things in the last year, so. There’s times I’ve felt scared. There’s times I’ve felt humiliated. There’s times I’ve felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way. And after a year or so, I just hope it was a step forward. It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot. I hope I become a better person.

And I always think about a conversation I had with one of my friends where he was like, “You know what, man? That whole thing made me think about every date I’ve ever been on.” And I thought, Wow. Well, that’s pretty incredible. It’s made not just me but other people be more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing. And that’s how I feel about it. And I know this isn’t the most hilarious way to begin a comedy show. But it’s important to me that you know how I feel about that whole thing before we share this night together. Well, that was pretty intense. What else should we talk about?

Responses to the special have been… mixed. Which, y’know, has got to be expected.

If anything, this whole series of events has been an unexpected lesson in the practical difficulties of navigating a complete cultural shift as it happens. It’ll be interesting to see where we all go from here.

Source: Hollywood Reporter
Image: Netflix