When it was released in the fall, Master of None was lauded for its diversity of viewpoints, which is partly due to the writers’ encouraging the actors to have a say in their characters’ arcs. Wells would suggest that her character, Rachel, stick up for herself in a particular scene, for instance, and Yang and Ansari would go back and change the script to reflect that imbalance.
Wells and Ansari said they worked out the relationship between their characters by simply arguing on tape — they’d pick a topic and bicker about it for 15 minutes or so while recording the conversation, then go back and select which parts would work in a script. Wells said the reason she and Ansari work as a couple onscreen is because “we argue well.”
But it was hard to imagine anyone on the stage in a truly heated dispute; they were all so damn pleasant, which, to be frank, resulted in a fairly dull panel. The event’s monotony belied the show itself, which is interesting despite its gentleness, avoiding neat or easy resolutions. (It didn’t help that moderator Andy Greenwald, a former critic who now hosts recap shows for TV geeks, asked disappointingly predictable questions.)
Yang and Ansari denied that they’re consciously trying to write “nice” comedy. “The main character is coming from a place of curiosity,” Ansari said. “The goal isn’t really to be nice,” Yang added, “the goal is just to be real. We just want to write how we talk in real life,” — and, he said, in real life they just happen to not be assholes.
And yet the moment that elicited the most laughs by far came at the end, when Greenwald announced there was time for one more audience question. Ansari admonished the final questioner not to screw up and end things on a bad note: “Don’t fuck it up!” he repeatedly insisted, prolonging his reproach as the audience erupted in laughter. “None of that recipe book bullshit!”
Considering the success of Master of None, viewers clearly crave the show’s generous-spirited approach to its characters. But judging by the volume of the audience reaction during that moment — not to mention this farce of an election season — we still have a mighty big appetite for the comedy of cruelty.