Master of None: Meet Aniz Ansari, Aziz’s secret weapon (and, yes, his brother)

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When Aziz Ansari talks about putting season 2 of Master of None together, one surprising name tends to pop up frequently: Aniz, his younger brother and, increasingly, his collaborator.

Serving as the show’s writer on set, Aniz — seven years Aziz’s junior — has become an important figure, relied upon by Aziz, series co-creator Alan Yang, and supervising producer Eric Wareheim to punch up scripts and make sure things run smoothly during shoots. “Besides myself and Alan, the other two people who are probably the bigger creative forces on the show are my brother and Eric Wareheim,” Ansari told EW.

To find out more about Master of None’s secret weapon, we hopped on the phone with Aniz to chat about his role on the series, his relationship with Aziz, and the “dumb” rap jokes he sneaks into the show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So it looks your job on Master of None has expanded since the first season, but a lot of people might not be familiar with your involvement with the show. Give us a little breakdown of how you’re involved and what you do.
ANIZ ANSARI: I’m a writer on the show. I work with my brother and Alan, who run the show, and the amazing team we have this season. There were a lot of new people involved this season. On season 1, I didn’t work as closely on the show during the production because I was in L.A., and they shoot in New York. So because of my schedule and other stuff happening, I wasn’t really around for a lot of the production. I came to New York here and there, but since I was in L.A. and had other responsibilities, I wasn’t closely involved at that point of the process.

This year we wrote in New York and shot in New York, and I moved to New York temporarily for a year, so I was here from the start of the writing towards the end of production. I’m kind of involved at that point of production as the on-set writer, helping mold and change things that need to be changed, shooting and adding jokes as we’re shooting to keep it fresh and funny. 

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You’re obviously pretty close to one of the showrunners. Did you and Aziz have this kind of a relationship growing up — a lot of joking and riffing together?
Yeah, yeah, we’re really, really close. Actually, we have a pretty big age gap — Aziz is seven years older than me — so we weren’t that close in age where we’d be, like, bickering and stuff like that, you know what I mean? We’re always kind of chill and hang out. We grew up in a really, really small rural town in South Carolina and there wasn’t anything to do really. There wasn’t a mall in the town. There wasn’t a movie theater in the town. So you just sit home all day and watch TV, and then we’d make up bits and stuff to amuse ourselves. Now we basically still do that, except we make TV and use it to amuse ourselves.

And Alan I’ve known since Aziz did Parks and Recreation, so I’ve known him most of my adult life at this point. He’s always been a good friend to me, and we’ve become really close friends outside of Aziz.

And getting to know Eric Wareheim is probably more of the coolest things in the world for me — he’s become a good friend and a collaborator, but growing up Eric was one of my heroes. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and all that stuff was like seminal, seminal stuff for me. I’d stay up late watching Tim and Eric with my friends, and I even went and saw them in concert. Obviously, Eric was a huge influence, so it’s a really cool process getting to work with him, not only as a performer because also writing for his character. I try to write a lot of jokes for Arnold — it’s such a fun character to write for because it’s just Eric. It’s real. And getting to work with him as he directed was really cool. I learned a lot from just watching him direct in terms of process. He’s such a multifaceted guy, interesting, smart guy.

RELATED: Aziz Ansari, cast on the surprising ‘Master of None’ season 2 finale

Your parents have figured prominently in a few episodes now. What’s it like when the entire family is on set together?
It’s really cool, but it does create a set of difficulties in that they’re not professional actors. So there are certain things you need to do to kind of help get their performances beefed up and get stuff we need. Beyond that, on a personal level, it’s kind of weird in a way. You’re working now, and if your mom and dad were also on the line right now it would probably be a little weird for you, right? There is an element of that. [Laughs] But beyond that it’s fine. It’s really cool.

A lot of the episodes are based on Aziz and Alan’s personal experiences. How often do elements from your life creep into the show?
In every episode, there’s probably one weird joke that’s some bit of my personality, like Three 6 Mafia joke. I try to reference these dumb things that I really like, maybe to amuse myself, stuff my brother always encourages me to do. I’m a weirdly obsessive personality. I have very weird, niche interests and I always try to throw in references to those interests — mainly to amuse myself, but kind of it ends up threading my personality into the show. For example, in the “Religion” episode… I grew up a huge, huge Three 6 Mafia fan. They’re like the Beatles to me. I’m a deep Hypnotize Minds head. So I got a reference to one of my favorite Three 6 Mafia songs on the show! So the fact that that will be there and Juicy J might see it, that’s really funny to me.

Last year, I got in a professional wrestling joke, too. Me and my brother, growing up in the South, we were into pro wrestling. So I added a reference to the wrestler CM Punk, who was big when I was a teenager, into the show. If you hear any references to dumb s— in the show, that’s probably me. [laughs]

Beyond Master of None, do you have any other projects in the works we should know about?
Yeah, I have other stuff I’m working on right now that I can’t really talk about. It’s sort of the same realm, a lot of TV writing and getting involved with new stuff coming out. A lot of weird, tangential type projects that’s coming out. But right now, I’m really lucky to make this show with my brother and my friends, and I hope people will keep liking it.

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