In ''30 Minutes or Less,'' he races against a time bomb on the big screen, but the ''Parks & Recreation'' star's career is about to explode

By Adam Markovitz
Updated August 05, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Aziz Ansari has sold out Carnegie Hall with his stand-up act, earned raves for hosting last year’s MTV Movie Awards, and won millions of fans as the pathologically self-confident Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But ask him why he got into comedy and he draws a blank. ”I guess I just enjoyed making people laugh. I don’t know what makes me do that,” says the 28-year-old, who is visibly uncomfortable opening up about himself during a mid-July stroll through New York City’s Greenwich Village. ”Doesn’t everyone like being funny at some point?”

Sure. But not everyone — in fact, practically no one his age — is as good at it as Ansari. In recent years, he’s become the comedy world’s go-to guy for a unique brand of postmillennial irony: edgy-banal ruminations on Facebook updates, hip-hop music, and Trader Joe’s. (Sample missive sent to his one-million-plus Twitter followers: ” ‘Sorry I was 15 min late, I was YouTubing clips from Demolition Man for no reason.’ #IfIWereHonestAbout WhyIWasLateforStuff”)

Hollywood, not necessarily the easiest job market for a kid raised in South Carolina by Indian immigrant parents, is finally taking note. This month, Ansari has his first sizable big-screen role in the madcap heist comedy 30 Minutes or Less. He plays the wiseass best friend of a lazy pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) who is kidnapped and forced to rob a bank after a time bomb is strapped to his body. Ansari’s character may be a suburban grade-school teacher, but his wit is pure Aziz, fueled by virtuoso spurts of on-set improv that bowled over director Ruben Fleischer (including the spray-paint song featured prominently in the movie’s trailer). ”Everybody knows Aziz is going to be a movie star,” says Fleischer.

Everybody, that is, except Ansari himself. ”Hopefully I’ll get to do one more movie,” says the comic, who’s developing a buddy comedy called Olympic Size A–hole with 30 Minutes costar Danny McBride. ”I don’t know if I’ll feel like doing movies when I’m 80. But I guarantee I would love to do stand-up. I’ll do material I wrote when I was 26. People will be like, ‘Man, he’s still telling those jokes?”’

Aziz Ansari’s Summer Must List
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Breaking Bad is hands down the best drama on television right now. It’s a show that’s so extreme in a way that television doesn’t really get. I mean, you’re dealing with a guy who’s making crystal meth. The stakes are not higher on any show.”

Hannibal Buress, Stand-up comic
”He’s a comedian who opens up a lot for me on the road. He’s kind of like a more talkative black-dude version of Mitch Hedberg.”

Watch The Throne, Album by Jay-Z and Kanye West
”I’ve been in the studio when they’ve been working on stuff. I just sit in the corner and stay quiet and every now and then say something to make them laugh. It’s two guys who are so far ahead of everybody coming together and aggressively trying to make something amazing. And they did it.”

Flockaveli, Album by Waka Flocka Flame
”He’s this crazy rapper. It’s so aggressive. It’s a lot of POW! POW! POW! It’s a lot of yelling and going crazy. Sometimes I’ll listen to it backstage before I do a stand-up show to get fired up.”

Workout Kid, YouTube clip
”It’s this little 10-year-old kid who’s a fitness guru. The video starts off with this bigger kid who’s like, ‘Hi. I’m overweight.’ And then they start running in this very comical way, and then they’re like, ‘Look out! There’s a bear!”’