The presidential inauguration and women’s march took center stage for both Saturday Night Live and the country at large this week. That didn’t stop SNL host Aziz Ansari from leaving his mark on the show.
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Aziz Ansari, a hilarious stand-up and Emmy-winning television writer, is known for being high-pitched and whiny. His comedy is smart and varied, but his persona is very often that of a complainer. He complained often as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. He reaches that high-pitched squeal about everything during his stand-up act. Nasim Pedrad’s old SNL impression of Ansari was essentially just her speaking in a whine barely audible to human ears. He brought that whiny charm to Saturday Night Live this week, and it worked!
There were six sketches during Saturday’s episode that starred Ansari. Two of them were good without resorting to the classic Ansari voice. The other four were whiny Aziz at his finest. To lead off, Ansari played a TV game show final boss in “Beat the Bookworm.” Ansari was the bookworm who knew everything about anything thanks to his years and years of reading books. When he is caught in a final showdown with the topic of 90’s pop culture, though, there is no end to his complaining.
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In “La La Land Interrogation,” Ansari gets arrested for not loving La La Land. He isn’t quite as whiny in this one, showing off his range! But he does get to unleash his rarely seen defensive-whine, where he pulls the voice up an octave to show he doesn’t understand the charges levied against him. In “Attorney Ad,” Ansari is back to complaining loudly about a lawyer he had defend him. He only receives a $6,000 settlement when everyone else in the ad received a million-plus. The final sketch to unleash peak-whiny Aziz was “Pizza Town.” Playing an animatronic robot, Ansari isn’t complaining, but he holds onto his whiny voice for every line uttered as the lead singer of a pizza band. Keenan Thompson’s cop character can’t help but be enthralled by the entertainment.
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The rest of the SNL episode was pretty great outside of Ansari’s nasally call. The cold open portrayed a shirtless Vladimir Putin in what has turned into an incredible impression by Beck Bennett. I’ve never heard the real Putin speak, but physically the impression is eerie. Ansari’s monologue followed, which was a heartfelt and telling stand-up performance and showed Aziz in his most comfortable environment. Perhaps if events in real life were different this time of year, he would have unleashed some top-level complaining in that voice of his, but instead he tried to level with everybody, and threw in a surprised reminisce for the good old days of George W. Bush. The Kellyanne Conway pre-taped music video was stellar and properly creepy. I didn’t need the final song to Barack Obama on my comedy show, but it didn’t ruin the rest of the show by any means.
It would have been hard for a host to stand out when everything was expected to be so Trump-centric, but the show actually did a good job of steering away enough from the politics. Between the monologue and the goodbye, there was really only “Weekend Update” and the Conway song that were overly political. Otherwise, it was all Ansari changing costumes but keeping his voice at just the right amount of decibels.
Todd Salem is a Contributing Editor at BuzzChomp. He’s also the New York Giants Lead Writer at Pro Football Spot, a Staff Writer for NFL Spinzone, and a Featured Columnist at College Sports Madness, among others. Follow him on Twitter.
Additional photo courtesy of splitsider.com
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