One of comedy's rising stars, Aziz Ansari brought his "Buried Alive" tour to the Riverside Theater Friday evening for an early 7 p.m. show.
Ansari set the tone for the night by beginning the performance with a series of ground rules. Off-stage and under the silly, needless guise of "DJ Eggplant Parmesan," Ansari told the darkened Riverside crowd that they were not to take any pictures, that they could not draw and sell caricatures of any kind in the lobby and that the audience was to not yell out random references while Aziz was performing.
By bringing up the last point in this introduction, Ansari was able to prevent what has been a troublesome issue for years at many big Milwaukee comedy shows. It was nice to not hear people shouting anything about "Parks & Recreation" or mentioning Ansari's cousin Randy from some of his previous standup work.
A few months ago, Ansari released a special called "Dangerously Delicious," which is available exclusively through his website. The material performed on Friday, though, was all brand-new. Ansari came out to the Beastie Boys song "Sabotage," a nice understated tribute to Adam Yauch of the hip-hop group, who passed away earlier in the day.
While the fresh set was at times a bit rough, Ansari's confidence in himself and eagerness to jump into each bit helped cover the inadequacies. The overall theme of his set was relationships, but it also extended into the realms of kids and clubbing.
While talking about marriage, Ansari started to talk about how an engagement is supposed to be such a magical expression of love. He consulted a married couple in the front row and asked for a rundown of how their proposal occurred. It was clear that Ansari was anticipating the story to be a bit bland, but he was blown away when the engagement involved a private gazebo in the middle of the Pacific Ocean while the pair was in Hawaii.
Ansari's improvisation and commendation that the tale was awesome even if it hampered the joke he was doing came off as very genuine. He returned to the audience later for a few more rounds of participation, which worked two-fold in that it gave him a new stimulus to react to and it made the large Riverside Theater feel more intimate.
The final stretch of Ansari's set revolved around going out to clubs. After making fun of alpha male club-goers, Ansari set his sights on the type of music that is blasted inside such hotspots. He did two perfect impressions of fake modern dance songs and nailed the way beats are currently dropped to segue into another part of the song. In a nice touch, he reworked one of the songs he'd made up to incorporate a perfect reference to an online dating joke he'd made earlier in the evening. The callback resulted in a huge laugh and Ansari thanked the Riverside crowd for their support.
Without much delay, Ansari returned to the stage for a brief encore in which he talked about meeting Barack Obama, as well as an experience Ansari had at a charity event with the singer Seal. The closing few minutes revolved heavily around the lyrics of Seal's song "Kiss From A Rose," which connected with the Riverside crowd.
However, while exiting the theater, many commented aloud at how short the show was. While an hour and forty-five minutes total is a suitable amount for a comedy show, the early start time might have skewed their perception. To be fair, it was a bit weird to be walking out of a Friday night live show and for it to not yet be 9 p.m.
Joe Mande served as the opening act for the night. Despite being one of the best comedians to utilize Twitter and creating some very clever work on the internet, Mande's set didn't capture him at his strongest. He earned bonus points with the audience by establishing that in his youth he went to a Jewish camp in Oconomowoc and his story of suffering IBS while at camp was the highlight of his set.
However, Mande's revolting bit about doing inappropriate things to a pet was really unfortunate and spoiled his early momentum. He said it was his barometer for gauging an audience's tolerance, but he'd be better off leaving it out of his set entirely. Mande wrapped up on a higher note by making fun of the notion of foodies, but his misstep lingered throughout his 20 minutes on-stage.