While crafting the second season of Aziz Ansari’s Emmy-winning series Master of None, one episode in particular jumps out as more personal than usual: “Religion,” the season’s third installment.
Starring his parents, Shoukath and Fatima Ansari, the episode is based on Ansari’s own experiences growing up as a bacon-coveting Muslim kid in South Carolina. The story follows him into his adulthood when, during one fateful dinner, Ansari’s character Dev finally reveals to his parents that he has an affinity for pork. Needless to say, drama ensues.
In our conversation with Ansari, he talked about the episode as something more than just a funny series of events — but as a groundbreaking way of bringing Islam-based humor to mainstream audiences.
“The third episode is about religion and Islam in a way that I’ve never seen really done before in television or film,” Ansari says. “It’s kind of similar to [last season’s Emmy-winning] ‘Parents’ episode in that it’s about the parents’ relationship with their kid, but obviously it’s about religion instead. I hope that one really hits with people. It’s definitely an issue I’ve had to deal with, and that I know other people in my family and other people in my life have had to deal with: the idea of religion and family.”
“The seed of that idea to me was I’ve never seen Islamic humor in the way you’ve seen Jewish humor,” Ansari continues. “There’s so many things that I laugh about with my family that are interesting to me, that have happened to me, that have to do with religion and I’d never seen it shown, so it seemed like a cool area to write about. I told the writers’ room when we were talking about this episode, look at the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm called ‘The Ski Lift.’ It’s a great episode of Curb.”
In the episode, Larry David tries to get Richard Lewis on a kidney donor list, so he pretends to be super religious. Ansari explains how it influences his vision for his own series: “All the jokes are just about religion. I was like, if we could do an episode like that but make it all Islam stuff, that would be a really cool episode. I think we pulled it off. I mean that’s what it feels like, that we were able to pull off. Just knowing that my dad’s character is not that religious and every time he’s putting on his little show it’s really funny to me. I think it doesn’t matter what religion you are, you know that type of behavior. There’s plenty of people who do that, who try to put on this show when there’s more religious people around. It really makes me laugh. My dad does it in such a funny way that it really made me laugh.”
Master of None season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.