“Post-artisan cafe vibes”: A ‘Master of None’ conversation
Scene writers, Millennial experts and “IRL” friends Matthew Munhall and Erin McAuliffe discussed Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, “Master of None.”
Matthew Munhall: First off, I just want to say how much I love “Master of None.” Aziz Ansari has developed such a strong, specific voice as a comedian and I think that’s a huge part of why this show can cover such a wide range of topics — dating in the 21st century, being the child of immigrants, connecting with your (grand)parents — without it ever feeling jumbled.
Erin McAuliffe: Yeah, I agree and I love how the variety is set up by a different title sequence each episode.
MM: It makes each episode feel like its own short film!
EM: Can we talk about the montages? I love the montages! The montage of all the Indian stereotypes in Hollywood casting was eye-opening because they were real-life things — like Ashton Kutcher in brownface for a Popchips commercial.
MM: I didn’t even know that existed.
EM: It got pulled because it was racist.
MM: Rightly so. I think the issues the show raises with that episode and the one about harassment were interesting. I was somewhat uncomfortable watching “Ladies and Gentlemen” because I thought it was going to do too much to congratulate Dev for being a feminist. When his female co-workers give him a cake, I thought, “Are dudes really supposed to be congratulated for doing the bare minimum effort for equality?” But then at the end there’s that really great scene where Rachel calls him out.
EM: That was great. I love her!
MM: The show does such a great job having complex dialogue on these issues.
EM: The juxtaposition between Dev and Arnold walking home to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Rachel walking home to the “Halloween” theme. It’s so true! When I walk home, I’m freaked out any time it’s dark and I’m alone. My mom set up her credit card to my Uber because she’s scared I will get abducted. … It’s such a contrast between two guys walking at night. The one-liners were so good as well.
MM: So many of them were written by Harris Wittels, who passed away in February. The turtle in the briefcase!
EM: When the girl at the bar was like, “I hate it when men ask me to smile more!” And Dev goes, “Why should you smile more? Because women get paid 23 cents less on the dollar than men do? Because the government’s trying to regulate your body?” That addressed two issues in a quippy one-liner.
MM: I also wanted to talk about the use of technology in the show. It really captures how young people use technology constantly.
EM: The two-minute scene where Dev tries to find the best taco place on Yelp. It’s integrated into the show so well.
MM: The one thing that bothers me, although it’s accurate of really hip places, is how much exposed brick there is! Every bar, coffee shop and restaurant they go to is exposed brick and Edison lightbulbs.
EM: Next door to the venue where we saw Speedy Ortiz in Chicago was a store that exclusively sold wiring for naked bulbs.
MM: All I have to say about the post-artisan cafe vibe is: Give it a rest!
EM: There’s exposed brick in Dev’s apartment, which is so nice, and he wears a lot of nice suits, but he keeps getting fired and not getting roles.
MM: That bothered me too. He has this huge apartment in Williamsburg and flies to Nashville on a first date, even though he’s a commercial actor.
EM: It’s not real life!
MM: I know, but for a show that’s realistic in so many others ways, you would expect Dev’s financial situation to be as well. I also thought that for a show that has an episode explicitly about feminism, Rachel is somewhat underdeveloped as a character, especially when Dev and his friends are all such complicated characters.
EM: In one episode, Rachel’s grandma asks Dev, “Do you even know what Rachel does?” and he’s like, “No, I don’t.” How have you not discussed her job? It’s just kind of thrown to the wayside because she gets free concert tickets.
MM: Noel Wells is so good in that role — I just wish she had been in the show more! We haven’t talked about Dev’s parents, who are played by Aziz Ansari’s real-life parents.
EM: They’re so good! Both were hilarious. In the last episode, his dad references Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” After convincing Dev that he “ticktickticks on the YouTube too much” and should read a book, there is a “The Brady Bunch”-esque montage to the fig tree passage about choosing what to reach for on the metaphorical branching tree of life. It is a great reflection on what Dev is choosing to pursue at this transition point in his life, as well as a summation of the season as a whole.