Compare the dating scene a decade ago to today's vibe and you couldn't have two more opposite entities. Texting, sexting, Facebook messaging, Tinder using, Snapchatting … the list goes on and on.
Enter Aziz Ansari, a South Carolina-born comic who can not only riff on the subject, but draw from personal moments that prove "we're all dealing with the same nonsense," he said.
Ansari, 31, best known for his role as Tom Haverford on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," is in the midst of his "Modern Romance" comedy tour, which lands in Chicago for four shows (7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday) at the Chicago Theatre. It's Ansari's fourth major tour since 2010.
"There is a saying, 'The most personal is the most universal,'" Ansari said. "You take a situation like trying to text some guy or girl that you're attracted to and the pain and angst that comes with that, the frustrations … it's usually a very private thing. You're sitting there alone, staring at your phone, wondering what this person is going to say or what they're thinking, and if you talk about that stuff, something that personal, and blow it out and make it a big thing that thousands of people can laugh at, at the same time? I think it kind of is fun, and people think, 'Oh, we're all in this [bleep] together. We're all in the same boat, we're all dealing with the same nonsense. It's universal … it's not just me.'"
When it comes to his own dating life, Ansari said his celebrity status hasn't changed his experience as much as you might think. "I always compare dating to when I drop into a comedy club unannounced to try out new material," he said. "For the first few minutes, you can coast on your charm, but after that? You have to be funny or they won't like you."
To gear up for "Modern Romance" landing in Chicago, we grilled Ansari with dating questions dreamed up by the RedEye staff. He wasn't so hopeful going in—"I have no good advice. I would take this with a grain of salt."—but he humored us.
I went on a date and the person was chewing with their mouth open the whole time. What should I have done?
"There are two approaches. You can either be like, 'Hey what are you doing? Don't chew with your mouth open,' and sit there but never see them again, or you can start chewing with your mouth open as well and just go really hardcore and try to out-open-mouth chew them. And gross them out."
Who should take care of the check at the end of the meal?
"I think that's whatever you want to do. I pay for everything myself whenever I take people out, but I don't think there's any downside to paying when you're the guy. That's not going to backfire on you."
What's the proper retaliation for an ex who breaks up with you via a text message?
"I dunno? Uh, you can put a dead deer in the back of their car? That's probably appropriate."
Is it a good idea to research a person on Facebook before you go on a first date with them?
"There are a lot of people who do that and then when they meet them they're like, 'Oh I already know everything about you. Why did we do this?' Keep a little mystery and don't do it. And if that's not fun? Go back to doing it."
Is Tinder a good way to meet people?
"I think any way to meet someone is a good way to meet someone. The goal is to find someone you have this kind of spark with, so if it's through that or anything else, I don't think it really matters how you meet someone. Whenever I talk to anyone who does online dating, I feel like people who struggle the most with it are those who spend forever sending messages and don't actually meet up with people. The key to any of that stuff is to actually meet people in person after you start using it."
My boyfriend is trying to control our relationship. What do I do?
"Break up with him and find a nicer guy. This is why I don't give dating advice; my stuff is very blunt."
When guys check me out when I'm around my boyfriend, he gets really possessive. What should I do?
"Again … break up with him and find a better dude, or tell him to have more confidence in himself."
SOCIAL MEDIA PET PEEVES
Aziz Ansari is one of our favorite Instagram users, so we asked him to rattle off his thoughts about some major social networks.
"I don't really use Facebook that much. I don't like when the ads come up."
"It's a time suck. I try not to check that, as well, because you can get stuck down a rabbit hole. It's always the same stuff."
"I have a Tumblr page, but I just post stuff, I don't check, like, 100 peoples' Tumblrs. Because I feel like once you start doing that, there's always going to be something new to see. You could look at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and then loop again, and just keep doing that. I used to do that but I had to stop because I was like, 'I'm not getting anything done.'"
"I recently unfollowed all dogs and babies that have their own accounts, because I felt like they weren't really bringing it, so that's a pet peeve. The other pet peeve is people who post a lot, like so much. You gotta be careful (who you follow)."
"I like YouTube, but it's dangerous. I end up watching so many videos, but there is one video I recommend everyone check out: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went on the Oprah Winfrey show in the '90s and it's pretty insane. It was a full hour [interview]. I only watched 15 minutes, which is too long probably."
"I've never used it."
We put Aziz Ansari on the spot and asked him to name his five favorite comedians right now. Here's who he chose: