A Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Modern Romance Book Cover

Review by Daniel Hansen

Aziz Ansari is a successful comedian and actor. His big break came when he secured a main role in the television show, Parks and Recreation. In Parks and Recreation, Ansari plays Tom Haverford, a man working for the parks department. Tom seems to be there for the money.

He’s never asked to do too much, and he slacks off a lot of the time. As the show progresses through each season, Tom starts to develop into a businessman, albeit, a poor one. Most of his companies either fail or are upstaged by other competition. By the end of the series, Haverford owns many restaurant chains and other businesses, and he has also found the love of his life.

In many ways, Tom Haverford is very reflective of Aziz Ansari himself. Aziz started out as a stand-up comedian in New York City. After he finished college with a degree in marketing,he would frequent Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a very prestigious comedy club. Rolling Stone included him in their “Hot Standup” section, and he won HBO’s 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Around the same time, he started collaborating with comedian’s Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer to make short films. Their group was named Human Giant, and after a few successful series, the group decided to pursue other opportunities.

That opportunity for Ansari happened to be Parks and Recreation. Surrounded by a great cast (Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Nick Offereman, to name a few) and great writers, Parks and Recreation was an instant hit, and had a great run of seven seasons, before ending this past spring. During this time, Ansari also appeared in several films and other television shows; films like I Love You, Man, Funny People, Observe and Report, and 30 Minutes or Less. He appeared in Scrubs (the first show that I found Aziz on), as well as Reno 911. All of his screen work overshadows Ansari’s impressive stand-up comedy career. Ansari has had a new comedy special in four of the past five years, as well as tours for each of those specials. That is an impressive feat considering all his work in television and film. His comedy is very accessible, as Ansari focuses on real events in his life. Ansari’s “real life” approach to comedy is what gives his book, Modern Romance, its strength.

Modern Romance, is far from comedy. Although Aziz Ansari wrote the book, as well as sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Modern Romance is actually quite factual, and is helpful in understanding the dating scene of America in 2015. Ansari explains in the beginning of the book that he went on a date with a woman, and they had a wonderful time. He texted her a few days later, and waited. The read receipts were on, and he noticed that she had seen the text, but no response. He was furious. He then realized that ten or twenty years ago, he would never have gone through this. He was “fascinated by the questions of how and why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance.” He wondered if there were books out there that helped him understand this more, but nothing up to his standards. So, he decided to write that book.

The obvious reasons are there. With the advent of smart phones, people have become less inclined to go outside and talk to people. Why leave the house when you have a whole bevy of persons at your fingertips? Dating sites and social media have developed humans into a group of people that would rather look down to find a mate, rather than up. However, Ansari finds that this isn’t all that dissimilar to how people in the past started dating.

Take Tinder for an example.The user is given an array of photos of an individual, and the user either swipes right for a ‘like’ or a swipe left for a ‘dislike.’ The same could be said for someone 30 years ago. A man or woman may be walking down the street, past a coffee shop, and he or she might see an attractive person, they might walk up and talk to them. Another person may walk past the same shop, and see the same person, and keep walking. Our minds are programmed towards beauty. Unless you meet a person in a class, you’re most likely not going to know a single thing about that person you’re going on a first date with.

Ansari also finds that there are other reasons inhibiting the romantic quests of men and women. He held a social event, in which he invited many young men and women. There was one caveat, however: each young individual had to bring their parents. The young people then sat on one side of the room, while the parents sat on the other side. The first thing that Ansari noticed was the level at which the parents could mingle. Right away, the older people were conversing and laughing about all sorts of things. The younger people on the other side mostly stared down at their phones. Ansari asked a series of questions to both sides, trying to narrow what’s wrong with dating today. For the older folks, they said they would go to one bar or a mixer to find someone to date. With all of the options we have today, the parents found a disadvantage in how we date. They found sympathy for their children’s situation, and gratitude for their situations with dating, even though they were far from perfect.

Aziz Ansari tackles many of the problems that I have faced in my dating experiences. It’s a lot tougher today than we think it is. Ansari’s book has actually made me more aware of the dating world, and has even made me more comfortable and relaxed with my current state of love.

Modern Romance is a brilliant read by a multi-talented man.

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