Modern Romance (Ansari)

Modern Romance: An Investigation
Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg, 2015
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781594206276

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection.

his seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza? Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?! My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically.

A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita.

They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—February 23, 1983
Where—Columbia, South Carolina, USA
Education—B.A., New York University
Currently—lives in New York City, New York

Aziz Ishmael Ansari is an American actor and comedian. He starred as Tom Haverford on the NBC show Parks and Recreation.

Ansari began his career performing standup comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the critically acclaimed MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including Funny People; I Love You, Man; Observe and Report; and 30 Minutes or Less.

In addition to his acting work, Ansari has continued to work as a standup comedian. He released his debut CD/DVD, entitled "Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening," in January 2010 on Comedy Central Records, and still tours nationally between acting commitments.

In 2010 and 2011, he performed his Dangerously Delicious tour. This tour was self-released for download on his website in March 2012 and debuted on Comedy Central in May 2012. He completed his third major tour of new material, Buried Alive, in the summer of 2013. His fourth major comedy special, Live at Madison Square Garden, was released on Netflix in 2015.

His first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in June 2015

Early life and career
Aziz Ansari was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to a Tamil Muslim family from Tamil Nadu, India. His mother, Fatima, works in a medical office, and his father, Shoukath, is a gastroenterologist. Ansari grew up in Bennettsville, South Carolina, where he attended Marlboro Academy as well as the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics. He graduated from New York University with a major in marketing.

He frequently performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, as well as weekly shows such as Invite Them Up. In 2005, Rolling Stone included him in their annual "Hot List" as their choice for the "Hot Standup," and he won the Jury Award for "Best Standup" at HBO's 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

Human Giant
Around the summer of 2005, Ansari began collaborating with fellow comedians Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer (both from the improv troupe Respecto Montalban), as well as director Jason Woliner to make short films.

The first series created by the group was Shutterbugs, which followed Huebel and Ansari as cutthroat child talent agents. This was followed up by the Illusionators, which starred Ansari and Scheer as Criss Angel–style goth magicians. In mid-2006, MTV greenlit a sketch series from the group, which debuted in 2007. The critically acclaimed show completed two seasons and the group was offered a third season, but it opted to pursue other opportunities.

Parks and Recreation
The show, Parks and Recreation, debuted in 2009 with Ansari portraying government employee Tom Haverford. Ansari's performance has received notable praise from critics, including Entertainment Weekly naming him one of 2009's "Breakout TV Stars", TV Guide naming him a "Scene Stealer" and Yahoo! TV placing him in the No. 1 spot on its list of "TV MVPS."

MTV Movie Awards
On June 6, 2010, Ansari hosted the 2010 MTV Movie Awards. The show opened with a spoof of the film Precious with Ansari appearing as Aziz "Precious" Ansari. Ansari also created the short film "Stunt Kidz," which reunited him with his "Human Giant" castmates. A second short film was also made with actor Zach Galifianakis in which Ansari portrayed Taavon, Galifianakis' "swagger coach". He accepted Galifianakis' award for Best Comedic Performance in character as Taavon. Ansari also performed a musical tribute to the film Avatar in the style of singer R. Kelly.

Other notable television work
In addition to his work on Parks and Recreation, Ansari appeared on the HBO series Flight of the Conchords as a xenophobic fruit vendor who had difficulty telling the difference between Australians and New Zealanders. He had a recurring role in season eight of the ABC sitcom Scrubs as Ed, a new intern at the hospital. Ansari's character was written off the show so he could work on Parks and Recreation. Ansari also has a recurring role on the animated comedy Bob's Burgers as Darryl.

In 2011, Ansari made a cameo appearance in the music video for "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West from their collaborative album, Watch the Throne.

Stand-up comedy
Even among various acting commitments, Ansari has continued performing and touring as a standup comedian. In 2006 and 2007, he toured with the Comedians of Comedy and Flight of the Conchords. In the fall of 2008 and early 2009, Ansari headlined his own comedy tour, the Glow in the Dark Tour. The material on this tour became the basis for a DVD/CD special for Comedy Central. The set, titled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, aired January 17, 2010, with a CD/LP/DVD release on January 19.

Ansari's comedy style tends to focus on aspects of his personal life. "I like talking about things that are going on in my life, because that's always going to be different and original", he says. "No one else is gonna be talking about my personal experiences."

In July 2010, Ansari began a new tour, Dangerously Delicious, which was in theaters across the United States; stops included the Bonnaroo Music Festival and Carnegie Hall in New York City. The tour wrapped with a filming for a special, Dangerously Delicious at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., in June 2011. This special was released on his website in March 2012 for download or stream.

In 2012, Ansari announced a new tour entitled "Buried Alive," and a third stand-up special, Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive, was filmed during the tour at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and premiered on Netflix on November 1, 2013.

Ansari's first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in 2015. The book is about the comedic pitfalls of dating in the modern world and was written with sociologist Eric Klinenberg.

In 2014, it was reported that Ansari was in a relationship with professional chef Courtney McBroom. He has self-identified as a feminist, saying his girlfriend has helped influence him.

Ansari is a "foodie"; he and his friends Eric Wareheim and Jason Woliner have formed what they called "The Food Club," which involves dressing up in suits and captain hats and rewarding restaurants with "Food Club" plaques. The plaques have their faces engraved along with the words: “The Food Club has dined here and deemed it plaque-worthy.”

He explained to Vanity Fair,

It’s a really serious-looking plaque and all of the restaurants we've given it to have put it front and center. It’s funny because people will walk into a restaurant and be like, "What the fuck is the Food Club? Who are these guys etched in gold?"

They also produced a tongue-in-cheek video about the club for Jash, filming them debating whether or not restaurants were plaque-worthy. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/25/2015.)

Book Reviews
A sprightly, easygoing hybrid of fact, observation, advice and comedy, with Mr. Klinenberg, presumably, supplying the medicine—graphs, charts, statistics and the like—and Mr. Ansari dispensing the spoonfuls of sugar that help it go down. The best part of Modern Romance comes when Mr. Ansari and his team get people to share the most embarrassing aspects of their romantic quests.
Sarah Lyall - New York Times Book Review

With topics like online dating apps to serious social science research, the book is sure to have you laughing if not taking a few notes.
USA Today

Entertaining and illuminating.

A hilarious, often unsettling account of what young singles go through as they search for love in the digital age.
Rolling Stone

A funny and scholarly examination of the 24-hour romance cycle.
Boston Globe

The book is an obsessive exploration of what makes hearts flutter and break across the globe, but most importantly, it dissects those ideas through the lens of a right-and-left swiping society. And as a result, Ansari’s final product doesn’t only feel complete—it’s hilariously executed, even without his unmistakable high-register voice belting the punchlines. At 250 pages, Modern Romance is a lean, pithy read that’s perfect to reach the tech-obsessed generation it explores.
Paste Magazine

With his first foray into the literary sphere, Ansari handedly accomplishes what he set out to do. Modern Romance provides insight into what people do to find love. He infuses their stories with his sass and parallels their shame with much of his own. On top of that, Ansari’s advice is easy to follow and backed with science and research. Modern Romance is the pinnacle of romantic guides—at least until a new dating app makes it obsolete.

It’s hard to think of another celebrity book that also feels like breaking news…. Aside from the jokes, the science of Modern Romance holds water, and is absolutely fascinating.
A.V. Club

This book is essentially an Aziz Ansari standup routine in print form. His unique voice is present throughout the book. One reason that people love Aziz is his outlook on life. He has a funny way of refocusing seemingly ordinary things and zeroing in on very small details that most would not notice. He brings all of that and more to the table with this book. This book is informative, presents a lot of thought provoking topics and discusses them thoroughly. Paired with Aziz’s distinct voice, this book is even more endearing.
The Source

Funny, informative, and surprisingly earnest.
Daily Beast

Modern Romance reads like a CliffsNotes to relationshipping as it is currently experienced by (mostly middle-class, Ansari admits, and mostly straight) Americans. It’s the familiar stuff of research and sitcomedy, distilled into a funny, and highly readable, summary.

You’re not going to find a traditional humor book. And that’s a good thing. Modern Romance is something a bit more unique: a comprehensive, in-depth sociological investigation into the "many challenges of looking for love in the digital age." Modern Romance gives an impressive overview of how the dating game has changed with the advent of cell phones and the Internet. But there’s also some practical advice peppered in there by Ansari himself.

Even comedy phenoms get dumped. But when it was this Parks and Recreation star’s turn, he channeled the rejection into an extensive (and riotous) investigation of the current state of dating, going as far as recruiting an NYU sociologist to be his collaborator/wingman.
Oprah Magazine

Inspired by his own romantic woes, comedian Ansari teamed up with sociologist Klinenberg in 2013 to design and conduct a research project to better understand the dating game.... [M]ost of this material has been covered exhaustively elsewhere, but Ansari’s oddball sense of humor does bring something new and refreshing to the conversation.
Publishers Weekly

A social-science book that’s pleasant to read and a comedy book that actually has something to say.

[A] surprisingly insightful exploration of the complex realities of dating today.... Ansari's eminently readable book is successful, in part, because it not only lays out the history, evolution, and pitfalls of dating, it also offers sound advice on how to actually win today's constantly shifting game of love. Often hilarious, consistently informative, and unusually helpful.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We have two sets of Questions. The first set by LitLovers...and the second kindly submitted to us by Jennifer Johnson, Reference Librarian for the Springdale (Arkansas) Public Library. Thank you, Jennifer!

1. How have cell phones changed the conventions of modern dating? Overall, despite some of the drawbacks that Ansari points to in Modern Romance, would you say our instant texting and communications make the dating scene better or worse...or, basically, no different.

2. Talk about Ansari's statement that "the whole culture of finding love and a mate has radically changed” in the modern era." In what way...and why? Or maybe you don't really agree with him? If so, why not?

3. Discuss the research protocols that Ansari and his partner Eric Klinenberg followed in writing this book. Do their methods make the study more scientific or lend it more credibility? Does Ansari's humor undermine the seriousness of their study...enhance it...or make no difference to the results or to your experience of reading the book?

4. What do you think of the millennials' preference for texting rather than actually talking on the phone?

5. What aspects of Modern Romance do you relate to personally? What, say, embarrassments or mortifications have you experienced in the dating arena?

6. What parts of the book intrigued you, sparked your interest, irritated you...or made you laugh?

7. Toward the end, Ansari says this: “The main thing I’ve learned from this research is that we’re all in it together.” What exactly does he mean? Do you agree...or not?

8. What advice would YOU offer those in the dating world?

Additional Questions by Jennifer Johnson:

1. According to Ansari, he interviewed hundreds of people in diverse focus groups in 7 cities in 2013 – 2014. What biases can be identified in this statement—soul mate marriage “delivers levels of fulfillment that the generation of older people I interviewed rarely reached. (p. 25)”

2. What –isms does Ansari suffer from? (e.g. Feminism, Ageism, racism, sexist)

3. After reading his book, do you think Ansari has committed any failures in writing and researching the book?

4. Do you consider Ansari’s book an academic, well research book?

5. How much of a presence does Eric Klinenberg have in this manuscript?

6. How well are the generations represented in his book—Golden Age, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials?

7. Given the obvious digital divide, do you think Ansari’s subreddit participants are diverse and reflective of the general population?

8. Considering Ansari’s personal diverse background, do you think his research in the United States is diverse? What evidence does he provide that shows us he included diverse persons (various ages, gender, and ethnicity)?

9. What stereotypes are represented in his book?

10. Ansari gives the impression that he is an expert in modern romance, but is he? Can one be an expert on modern romance when they are obvious of romance throughout the ages?

11. Does Ansari have an agenda and did he research the book first or decide the outcome first and made the research match his outcome?

12. Do you think his research methods took into consideration differences between large metropolitan areas and the rural geographic areas?

13. Given that Ansari recently broke up with long term girlfriend in January 2016, what impact could this book have on his romantic live?

(First set of Questions by LitLovers; second set by Jennifer Johnson. Please feel free to use both sets, online of off, with attribution to Jennifer and LitLovers. Thanks.)

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