I recently watched Aziz Ansari’s new special, “Right Now.”
It was… unsettling.
This super eloquent and clear Rollingstone review by Maria Fontoura did a much better job than I ever could of explaining why it was unsettling. Very much worth a read.
As far as comedy goes, it was a good show.
For Aziz’ personal brand though?
He just “managed” his sexual misconduct accusation with a well woven PR response stitched together with well-timed jokes and well-timed serious parts.
I had read a fair amount about the sexual misconduct experience.
The really important conversation he decided not to have was that two people can be on a date and have a completely different experience because of gender norms.
And that gap is not small. Someone can become a victim of sexual assault while someone else is just having a “bad date.”
Instead his set was, “outrage culture is good, because look how far we’ve come since Apu on the Simpsons, but it’s also out of control so people need to chill, but-slash-and everyone else needs to look at themselves, too – particularly, recently woke white people competing for wokeness who need to realize that minorities have been dealing with what white people are recently woke about their whole lives.”
He uses the sexual misconduct thing as tension for a joke, talks about how it really made him think about things. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t own his behavior. He didn’t address what he’s learned from the past year in any meaningful way.
He just used his keen ability to wrap insights in jokes to skirt the issue.
And as a result, he’ll forever be a jerk. Not just because he didn’t own what happened. But because of the context in which it happened.
His personal brand has evolved around providing raising questions and providing insights into cultural norms that need to be adjusted around race.
I’m thinking of his standup, work with Master of None, and overall ability to for making and communicating insights around hard topics effectively.
If he were Gallagher smashing watermelons on stage, no one would expect that.
Ironically though, his personal brand as thoughtful insight meets silly and innocent wit is the reason in this situation and forever in my mind his being fully capable, and then using that capability to skirt responsibility, just makes it clear he’s a shitty person.
What does this have to do with marketing?
I think I just wanted to write about it.
If anything though, personal brands are delicate.
You can’t be incongruent.
You can’t be a champion of equality when it comes to race and then not own your behavior when it comes to gender.
A tarnished reputation requires an incredibly long road with massive transformation to recover from.
And recovery is an opportunity for growth that can have an impact.
Isn’t that what we all want? To get out of our own ways enough to make an impact?
If Aziz had actually learned from his misconduct, then hundreds if not thousands of men would have spent more time reflecting on their own behavior and thinking more deeply about all the “bad dates” they’ve been on.
Instead, he’s just another dick.