Book Con 2015: Aziz Ansari talks “Modern Romance”

Belinda Huang ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Books Editor

Comedian, actor, and writer Aziz Ansari discussed his new book and love in the time of social media at BEA today. Modern Romance, published by Penguin Press, mixes science and humor in exploring the way that changing technologies have affected the way people connect and love in the modern world.

Aziz Ansari is most well known for his role on Parks and Recreation as Tom Haverford, as well as his numerous Netflix stand-up specials. The talk was moderated by Daniel Jones, editor of the popular New York Times column, Modern Love; Eric Klinenberg, a professional sociologist and co-author of Modern Romance, joined the two halfway through the session.

"Modern Romance" Cover. Source: Penguin Press
“Modern Romance” Cover. Source: Penguin Press

Ansari cited his own dating experience as the impetus for writing Modern Romance, telling the story of a woman named “Tanya” who had never responded to his texts, leaving him confused and wanting to understand the situation. He talked about finding scientific reasons to explain these feelings, and realizing that there were ways to explain so much of the confusing world of dating in the modern world.

When asked about marriage, Ansari talked about his parents’ arranged marriage as well as his own relationship status, saying that he wasn’t planning to marry any time soon and didn’t want to think about it in terms of reaching a “certain age” or stage of life. Ansari also read an excerpt from the book, showcasing the humorous voice with phrases like “terrifyingly Caucasian” and entertaining the enthusiastic audience.

The panel clearly showed the intersection of comedy and science, as Klinenberg discussed how Ansari’s approachability allowed them to gain access to more immediate, personal data than would be gained from a strictly scientific study. The talk was peppered with stories from focus groups from Japan to Argentina, as well as stories form Ansari’s stand up experiences.  It was by combining both his own skills and a more academic perspective that the book become reality.

At the end of the session, the audience asked a few questions, ranging from how the technology-obsessed character of Tom Haverford affected his choice of topic to the importance of “swag” in dating (The answer? Not so much “swag” as confidence.) The panel ended with Ansari telling an anecdote from his own relationship, leaving the audience on a positive note. The take away? Stressing about how we connect with other people via technology is a universal experience, but it can also make for a stronger relationship.

 

Modern Romance will be released June 5th.

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