In 2018, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari was accused of pressuring a date into sexual acts. His new Netflix standup special, Right Now, doesn’t address whether his behavior was as blameworthy as many people thought. He seems unsure himself of how culpable he is, but he makes it clear that he isn’t thrilled by the possibility that he may have made a woman feel used.
The special isn’t just about dealing with online fallout over personal behavior. It has good jokes, such as when he mulls over what reinstating the draft might be like with “today’s people.” (“Uh, I can’t go to war. I just started this company. We make eco-friendly shoes out of cashews. They’re called cashoes!”). It also taps into relatable feelings: our collective yearning to give proper consideration to groups who have been wronged in the past and our lack of moral consensus on “cancel culture.”
When Ansari thanks the audience for coming, he says that such thanks were perfunctory in the past but that he actually means it this time: “It means the world to me, because I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do this again and it almost felt like I died.” Burned by excesses of #MeToo, he acknowledges his much-debated sins with grace, never stooping to bitterness.