With the proliferation of on-demand platforms, it's becoming increasingly common for entertainment content, especially stand-up comedy, to appear there first, sometimes to the exclusion of cable, its traditional home. Netflix's latest contribution to this category is “Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive,” which shows the actor and comedian (“Parks and Recreation”) in strong form.
Recorded in April at Philadelphia's Merriam Theater, “Buried Alive” begins with Ansari, who turned 30 this year, expressing astonishment and dismay at the number of friends in his millennial cohort who have decided to marry, settle down and have kids. Unlike comic Mike Birbiglia's recent, similarly themed “My Girlfriend's Boyfriend,” another Netflix exclusive, Ansari's act is less narratively coherent, going off on frequent tangents about, say, ghosts or child molestation.
It's an entertaining hour and 20 minutes.
The molestation material, which imagines a tongue-tied sexual predator working up the nerve to approach a prepubescent — and, we are assured, preternaturally cute — school-age Ansari is, improbably, among the show's funniest segments. It is also, by far, the furthest Ansari goes into tasteless territory. “If there's anyone here from the paper,” the comedian cracks, “feel free to quote that bit in your article.”
Even when taboo or topical, Ansari's writing is as smart and sharp as his charcoal gray three-piece suit. He's never angry, preferring to skewer buffoons — say, young men in backwards ball caps and button-down shirts — with enough genial wit that his thinly veiled sense of superiority never comes across as mean-spirited.
Although he works in a plug for marriage equality — the South Carolina-born man acknowledging his regret at giving up eating Chick-fil-A sandwiches in protest of company president Dan Cathy's opposition to same-sex marriage — he does so without being preachy.
The biggest surprise? Ansari turns out to be a gifted improvisor, interacting to great comic effect with audience members that he cajoles into revealing personal tales involving a marriage proposal and sexting.
The title “Buried Alive” seems to refer to two things. Most literally, it's an allusion to repressed childhood memories. But it also suggests the fears of a young man facing the avalanche of responsibilities that come with adulthood.
As an artist, Ansari is also on the brink of growing up. As that happens, one can expect to see him both deepen and sharpen his social critique.
Unrated. Contains obscenity and sexual content. 79 minutes. Available via Netflix.