TORONTO - Beneath the wisecracks and snarky jabs, comic Aziz Ansari admits he's a romantic at heart.
The baby-faced stand-up star says he's fascinated by how we connect with each other in this era of texting and Instagram, but especially so when it comes to love.
Finding that special someone is the focus of his new Netflix special "Buried Alive," where he muses on the increasing pressures he feels to settle down, raise a family and, well, grow up.
"I'm not like totally consumed by it, thinking about it all the time, but it is kind of interesting," Ansari says of feeling the clock ticking now that he's 30.
"You start getting old and you don't even realize it. It's like, 'People my age are popping kids out! That's pretty crazy.'"
During a recent stop in Toronto, Ansari says he wrote this material while watching a lot of his friends get married and have kids, bringing into sharp focus his own impending adulthood.
Filmed live at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, "Buried Alive" features Ansari musing on marriage proposals, raising children, arranged marriage, and the whole terrifying notion of till-death-do-us-part.
It's a markedly more mature look at life than his other comedy specials "Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening" and "Dangerously Delicious," he agrees, noting that it's part of his own conscious evolution as a writer.
"My favourite musicians and artists are ones that change and evolve over the course of their albums," says the "Parks and Recreation" co-star, who filmed and paid for the special himself to be sure he had complete control over the final product.
"I hate it and I think all artists hate it when people are like, 'Oh, well, this is what that guy does.' You know, 'That's his thing,' whatever it is — talking about my cousin Harris or you know, (cocky alter ego) Randy, or whatever — and I like all that stuff but you don't want to repeat yourself. I was like, 'Let me do something different and not do any of the stuff I've done in the past.'"
Stretching himself in new directions includes embarking on an ambitious multimillion-dollar book deal for Penguin Press. The book will investigate modern single life and how today's relationships have been affected by new technologies.
Ansari says he plans to tackle this seriously, by interviewing academics and conducting his own research to pull his theories together.
"I've been approached about doing books before but I think a lot of times those books can be like, you know, a money grab where someone kind of just puts their standup in a book and I didn't want to do that," he explains.
"When I was writing the material for the next (comedy routine), which I don't have a name for yet, it was a lot about technology and modern courtship and things like that and I was reading all these books and stuff about it and then I was like, 'There isn't like one book that's kind of just about what it means to be single in this modern era.... It would be amazing if there was a Malcolm Gladwell-like 'Freakonomics'-type book about that topic.' And I couldn't find it and then I was like, 'Oh, I should write that.'"
Ansari bemoans the radical ways technology has changed how people communicate, especially the simple act of inviting someone on a date.
"It used to be a very special thing when a guy asked someone out," he says.
"It used to be you'd have to work up courage and call someone on the phone and speak to them and, you know, it was a much different thing than just like (pretends to text on a phone): 'Hey, what are you doing tonight?'"
Now the whole ritual doesn't seem to mean as much, he says, and despite being known for sardonic comedy bits, that disappoints him.
"I'm frustrated by all this stuff but I am a romantic at heart," he allows. "I think when things do work out it's a really beautiful thing."
"Buried Alive" debuts Friday on Netflix.