Mosaic / Reviews / February 3, 2016

Flix: “Master of None” defines PC comedy

Flix is a series that reviews either a movie available on Netflix or a Netflix original series. This review is for the Netflix original series “Master of None.”

More often than not, I tend to think it self-indulgent when a popular comedian opts to have their own show. And more often than not, such shows end up falling by the wayside, as the comedian’s humor proves to be unmarketable to a broader audience. But in a time when comedians deem political correctness a detriment to comedy, Aziz Ansari is one of the few mainstream comedians who begs to differ. With his Netflix series “Master of None,” Ansari reconciles political correctness and comedy, finally proving that comedy can be funny and socially aware at the same time.

The show follows 30-year-old aspiring actor Dev Shah (Ansari) as he goes about his cool, ultramodern life in New York City. Between “Yelping” the trendiest new restaurants and planning spontaneous getaways with his S.O. (played by Noël Wells) Dev learns about and confronts various forms of institutionalized oppression in their most casual appearances while also considering the various trials of life: getting married, having kids, learning to appreciate one’s parents. While the premise of the show feels like nothing new, the show’s relevance derives from its realistic yet sympathetic representations of very real social issues and the nonchalant-ness with which the show’s cast discusses such issues, often with cool, abbreviated slang that seems weirdly endearing.

The show’s writing is its main selling point. Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang utilized the show’s diverse cast by working with cast members to ensure their representations of casual sexism and racism were true to life. The result is dialogue that comes off as revelatory and informative with only the slightest bit of preachiness. The show’s writing masterfully manages to squeeze comprehensive looks on relevant social issues into self-contained 20-minute episodes. The show’s humor, in classic Ansari fashion, is deeply relatable, often finding the comedy in the mundane situations of modern urban life. It’s comedy for the typical, socially aware millennial.

The show’s cast is also of a notable variety. With appearances from Eric Wareheim (of “Tim & Eric” fame), Noël Wells (of “SNL” fame) and H. Jon Benjamin (of “Bob’s Burgers” and “Archer” fame), the show has enough familiar faces (and voices) to keep the everyday pop culture nerd engaged.

But despite all the good the show does, it is admittedly far from perfect. One of the few flaws of the show is alluded to in its name. The show aspires to present deeply complex social issues through comedy, yet never allocates enough time to present any one issue fully. In tackling social issues, the show itself is a “jack of all trades, master of none.” But then again, that may well be the point of the show.

Perhaps the thesis of “Master of None” is to remind us to continue learning, to open our minds to the perspectives of others and to empathize with those around us. As Dev learns much about life and society from interacting with his friends, so, too, must we embrace the lessons others have to teach us. “Master of None” is a reminder to millennials to keep an open mind always, for nothing is ever fully figured out (in the best way possible).

Stefan Torralba

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