Aside from an initial statement, Aziz Ansari has not publicly spoken about the accusation of sexual misconduct that was made against him in January 2018. Published on the now-defunct website Babe.net, the account came from a 23-year-old woman who accused Asari of repeatedly trying to initiate sex while ignoring her "clear non-verbal cues" that she did not consent. In its wake, the actor and comedian went dark, but began making a comeback over the summer at places like the Comedy Cellar and, eventually, a new tour. His new Netflix special, Aziz Ansari: Right Now, takes place at one of those tour stops, and begins with a somber address of the events that unfolded over the past year.
"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," Ansari said, his voice lowered as he sat on a stool, to the tense, quiet audience. "And I'm sure some of you are curious how I feel about that whole situation and it's a tricky thing for me to answer cause I've felt so many things in the last year. There's times I felt scared. There's times I felt humiliated. There's times I felt embarrassed. And ultimately, I just felt terrible that this person felt this way."
Ansari went on to say that he hopes the public conversation resulted in "a step forward," saying, "It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot. I hope I've 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."
He then cut the tension by admitting this wasn't the "most hilarious" way to begin a comedy show, prompting laughs from the audience, but that he thought it was important. He received applause and some cheers before launching into his more typical, lighthearted material.
Notable, the special focused on performative wokeness and, later, his relationship with his girlfriend. At the end, he circles back to the topic of his public downfall.
"I saw the world where I don't ever get to do this again," he says. "It almost felt like I died. In a way, I did. that old Aziz who said, 'Oh, treat yo' self,' whatever, he's dead. But I'm glad, because that guy was always looking forward to whatever was next...I don't think that way anymore. 'Cause I've realized it's all ephemeral. All that stuff, it can just go away like this. All we really have is the moment we're in and the people we're with."
With this special, it's clear Ansari hopes he can close the chapter on the allegation against him. His accuser has not publicly spoken out about his comeback, so we don't know if she finds his message of redemption satisfactory. However, his ability to drop a Netflix special in the first place shows that he's found a path forward — but it's up to the public if they'd like to join him.
Aziz Ansari: Right Now is available to stream on Netflix now.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).