The professional reputation of some actors and performers is inextricable from that of a larger ensemble to which they belong. Comedian/actor/screenwriter Aziz Ansari epitomizes this idea. Ansari shot to fame in the mid- to late 2000s as a member of the three-person comedy troupe responsible for The Human Giant -- a weekly, SNL-style collection of outrageous and irreverent comedy sketches that the group wrote and performed on MTV.
Ansari is -- like Jay Chandrasekhar and a few other comics to emerge during the early 2000s -- of Tamil Indian heritage. He grew up and attended university in rural South Carolina, then studied business at New York University. As a student, Ansari took classes with the famed Upright Citizens Brigade and mounted solo standup comedy gigs at Manhattan-area clubs. After a brief stint working on an Internet advertising business, Ansari discovered that he was earning enough with his standup efforts to focus on this full-time. His association with the Brigade ultimately led to a regular gig as emcee of Crash Test, a weekly standup comedy showcase at the UCB Theater, and -- in time -- to the creation of the Human Giant series. The group ended the series after two seasons on MTV. In 2008, he joined the cast of Parks & Recreation, an NBC television series from the producers of The Office. A year later, he appeared alongside Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan in the Judd Apatow film Funny People and created a series of online shorts to promote the film. He released his debut album and DVD, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, a year later. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi