Judd Apatow’s [movie id="383434"]“Funny People”[/movie] stars some of the most established names in comedy — [movieperson id="55545"]Adam Sandler[/movieperson], [movieperson id="262582"]Seth Rogen[/movieperson], [movieperson id="379429"]Jonah Hill[/movieperson] — and features cameos from heavyweights like Ray Romano, Sarah Silverman and Paul Reiser.
But heading into Friday’s opening, the actor everyone seems to be talking about is [movieperson id="491485"]Aziz Ansari[/movieperson], who has created an unforgettable character named Randy — or “Raaaaaaaandy!,” as he likes to scream — a foul-mouthed sexual braggart and stand-up comedian who shows up in a couple scenes and ends up stealing every one. Ansari’s moment, it seems, has finally arrived. With the April premiere of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” in which he plays a government employee heavy on the irony and lacking in motivation, and now “Funny People,” Ansari is looking to be one of 2009′s breakout stars.
The recognition is well-deserved. The 26-year-old got his start as a hustling stand-up comic in New York, something he tried on a whim at the suggestion of NYU college friends. He soon found himself performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a hotbed of improvisatory comedy that has helped launch the careers of performers for “Saturday Night Live.” From there, he hooked up with Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer to form the improv troupe Human Giant.
Their comedy show premiered in 2007 on MTV and delivered a slew of classic sketches: “Shutterbugs,” about struggling execs in the ruthless world of a child talent agency; a short clip in which Ansari declares that, as the old joke goes, the hardest thing about learning how to rollerblade is telling your parents you’re gay; and a mock news segment investigating the ridiculous and painful acts some people endure to become viral-video stars.
Ansari’s true gift proved to be the contrast between his sweet, slightly nerdish everyman appearance and the raw, macho-man declarations he often spouted. It was simply so unexpected, and it landed him a prime role alongside Amy Poehler in “Parks,” where his scenes were consistently the funniest during the show’s six-episode first-season run.
And then there’s Apatow’s “Funny People,” the director’s ode to the highs and humiliations of life spent as a stand-up comic. Ansari started wondering what Soulja Boy Tell’em would be like as a comedian and eventually came up with his Randy character. Apatow liked it so much that Randy has received an entire mock documentary on FunnyOrDie.com as part of the film’s viral-marketing campaign.
Comically egotistical, Randy tells stories about hot-tub hookups and integrating food into his love-making. It’s an act he’s bringing to his own Comedy Central special, and Apatow has been talking about the possibility of giving Randy a movie of his own. Everyone, it seems, will be watching a lot more of Randy (and Ansari) in the future — including Randy.
“Who’s the stand-up I watch the most?” Randy asks at one point in his Funny or Die doc. “Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy? No! Randy! I watch my own stuff so I can become a better performer.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Funny People.”
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