Aziz Ain’t Sorry. But I am. For this terrible pun.

-While he may not necessarily be the best representation of a celebrity with vast social media presence, Aziz Ansari does have a strong foothold in the social media scene on Twitter, and I believe the way he combines humor with professionalism and personality is worthy of analysis in my next blog post.-

Meet Aziz.  Probably known most predominantly for his role as Tom Haverford on the popular NBC sitcom, Parks and Recreation, Aziz’s repertoire also includes film, writing, and stand-up comedy.  As an entertainer, he is fairly well rounded.  The way he performs his identity on Twitter, however, shows how he uses various performative techniques and behaviors to create a singular distinct but cohesive online performed persona, or what Hugo Liu in his article, Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances calls a “taste statement.”

Aziz’s profile section alone provides a wealth of information:

He uses his real name as his twitter handle, explicitly states “I’m an actor/comedian,” then has a small self-promotion (“Download my new standup special…only $5!”).  He’s added his location, and even has that shiny blue stamp of verification next to his name.  Each of these cues in one way or another act as a performance, presenting an overall authenticity taste statement for his Twitter.  This is probably his way of proving to the Twitter community (and especially potential followers and fans) that the Twitter account is actually his.  In another way these cues add an air of prestige to his profile as well–his proper capitalization and grammar give off a sense of professionalism (important for any celebrity in developing a positive self-image), while his self-promotional blurb helps him fit into the professional comedian community that may be using Twitter.

For further evidence of his social performances on Twitter, we can look to his actual tweets.  Some of his shamelessly self-promotional or informational tweets add to the prestige taste statement that his profile section puts forth.

Other tweets, however, add another aspect to his taste performances: humor (fitting for a stand-up comedian).

While these three tweets do add to the prestige statement we’ve established (they show that Aziz is politically informed), their unconventional grammar and use of hashtags, as well as unexpected topics and language provide the audience with humor, which has a way of humanizing him.  The hashtags here carry two forms of agency: one, by being a restored behavior.  (Restored behaviors are normative practices–short hash-tagged phrases after a sentence are common on Twitter and, as Zizi Papacharissi says in her article, Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter, are “reiterative of conventions and customs that reflect context and established ways of doing things.”)  Two, they show a playfulness that Papacharissi also provides discourse on in her article.  Playful performances, she says, are “typically associated with the manipulation of conventions that shape what is publicly or privately appropriate.”  We can see the way Aziz’s hashtags, profanity, and overuse of capital letters deviate from what may be considered “appropriate” for a public setting, adding a humorous element to his tweets (also present in the content of the tweets themselves – he is, after all, a comedian).

Another factor that we should probably take into account is that of Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd‘s “imagined audience” (from I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately; Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience).  According to Marwick and boyd, each of Aziz’s tweets is (consciously or unconsciously) shaped and formulated according to his idea of whom his tweets will reach.  It’s clear that his imagined audience is his fans–the many promotional tweets, comedic comments, and even replies to fans make this obvious.

Each of these aspects of Aziz’s profile and tweets adds to the cohesive image that he portrays on his Twitter account, and gives an the idea of the nebulous nature of social media.  Often times, profiles and activity online can be obscure, misinterpreted, or multi-faceted in terms of performances.  As we’ve seen, Aziz shows authenticity as well as prestige, humor, playfulness, and even a little differentiation (how many other celebrities have a baby photo as their profile image?).

And this is just one social media website.  You can also find Aziz on Facebook on Tumblr, and both exhibit distinctly different taste statements (which you may explore on your own if you are so inclined now that you have the tools to carry out such an analysis).  His Facebook page seems less personable (although his photo album does contain a few pictures of him with a creepy pregnant man mannequin) while maintaining a higher level of prestige, and his Tumblr seems to aim for authenticity and even differentiation (apparently he likes to cook complex Korean dishes in his spare time).

So why the media multiplexity in communicating with fans?  Papacharissi answers this question by theorizing that individuals create “cycles of self-presentation and impression formation…[and] perform on multiple stages, creating a face for each interaction and developing faces for a variety of situational contexts.”  In other words, Aziz is imagining multiple audiences, and creating slightly different performances for each audience context while keeping his personality fundamentally uniform.

And how is all this important?  What valuable life lesson has Aziz taught us today–apart from the fact that Halloween costumes take precedence over the selection of our next presidential candidate and that it’s acceptable to address a presidential debate moderator as “BOO“?  In the end, our analysis acts as a mirror.  In identifying the way Aziz performs to his various audiences, we can recognize the way we do the same in our everyday lives.  Sure, we aren’t all multi-talented actor-writer-comedian celebrity personalities, but in the rapidly expanding and thoroughly public social media sphere of today’s internet world, self-presentation and performance is becoming ever-more important to be aware of. #THE END #BYE




  1. Aziz definitely presents an interesting case. I think that the fact that he is a comedian completely impacts/changes the way we interpret his performances on social media- specifically Twitter. While his tweets, if interpreted by someone completely unaware of Aziz’s profession, could be viewed as attempts at differentiation or theatrics, his fans accept them as authentic because he is truly a comedian and truly/consistently presents himself in this way. We don’t expect, and would likely be caught off guard, if/when Aziz crafts serious or non-humorous tweets. One could say he’s free of the pressure of revealing and maintaing a specific and true backstage persona, however he is tasked with the obligation to maintain his carefully crafted front stage that we have all accepted as authentically Aziz.

  2. First of all, I am a huge fan of Aziz Ansari, and am absolutely obsessed with Parks. I think what appeals to me the most about him is his farcical persona. He comes off as a natural, both as a comedian and actor on Parks and Rec. The jokes don’t force themselves out, rather, are incorporated into the characters he takes on.

    What differentiates Ansari from other comedians and actors, however, is his high pitched voice. The fact that such a famous, collected man could produce such a high pitched voice is in and of itself, the seller, for me. As you mentioned, Aziz imagines multiple audiences, and creates slightly different personas for each audience context, but at the end of the day, he also finds a way to bring in that signature high pitched voice that while make anyone laugh. I mean how can this clip not make you at least smile;

    By and large, Aziz definitely knows what he is doing, and how to best appeal to an entire audience, while still maintaining a sense of self. This is a great post, and the most hilarious person to analyze.

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