A regular column returns with a look at an unproduced Aziz Ansari script

02.22.16 1 year ago

One Thing I Love Today is a daily column dedicated to putting a spotlight on some pop culture item worth your attention. After all, there's enough snark out there. Why not start every day with one quick shotgun blast of positivity?

When I wrote my 25 Years In LA series last year, one of the things I talked about was my experience with the screenplay for Anchorman. When I read it, the film was stalled out in development, and I thought it was ridiculously funny. I couldn't imagine what kept the executives in charge from pulling the trigger and making the movie.

By far, the hardest I've laughed reading a script since then was when I read Olympic-Sized Assholes by Harris Wittels and Aziz Ansari last week.

I've had the script for a while, but only just got around to reading it, and it struck me as a sad coincidence that only a few days later, I saw Ansari and Chelsea Peretti and other friends of Wittels mentioning that it's been a year now since we lost him.

Actually, scratch that. We didn't lose him. We know where he is. He died, and that really, really sucks. I'm guessing based on his work and the words he put out into the world that he hated phrases like “we lost him.” He didn't dance around language. He jumped into it with both feet like a kid in a puddle, and he loved how messy and crazy it was. Hell, how many people ever truly devise a word? Wittels created #humblebrag, and in doing so, not only named but shamed a very specific sort of social media presence. It was just one little thing for him, but it's a genuinely lasting contribution, an idea that I think it amazing in its simplicity. There is a joy in the blunt and the direct in his sense of humor that appeared in his Twitter feed, his stand-up, and in this script, and I wish this film had happened. I wish Wittels was alive and working right now. I have a number of friends who knew him and worked with him, and the loss they experienced seemed to be a profound one. I don't think you can ever overstae the value of someone who is just plain to-the-bone funny, and Wittels certainly was.

Olympic-Sized Assholes tells the story of Kevin and Forest, who were written to be played by Aziz and Danny McBride, apparently. Best friends, they are determined they are going to sell their million-dollar idea, and in the first few pages of the script, they put a plan in motion to make a presentation directly to the Hanes Underwear company. Once they have everyone in place, they make a Powerpoint presentation that is just plain madness. In case they ever make the film, I won't really give away the joke here, but let's just say the gap between the impression they hope to make and the impression they actually make is vast, and they are escorted out of the building by security.

They're convinced that all they need to do is get the right person to back their product, and they'll be rich, and they get the idea to go to local celebrity Spence Treadwell, who is a decathlete and a star. The only thing he has yet to do is win an actual Olympic gold medal, and he's on track to finally do that. When Forest and Kevin meet Treadwell, they think at first that he's going to help them. Instead, he sleeps with both their girlfriends and kicks off a war with the two guys that is absolutely ridiculous. I laughed at least once a page, pretty much continuously as I read it. It is consistently filthy, and I loved that every time I thought I knew where the story was going, it simply refused to go there because the characters are such complete and utter dorks.

It's strange, though… I think maybe the moment passed. Ansari's Netflix show Master of None was smart and sophisticated, with moments of real maturity alongside some of the same sort of absurd observational stuff that has been part of Ansari's stand-up. I'm not sure I would want to see him play this kind of stunted man-baby at this point, even if the script is hilarious. The same is true of McBride. I think this feels like a script that was written at a particular moment, and should have been made at that particular moment. I'm not saying I wouldn't see the film if it got made; I'd be eager to see it. But artists grow and change, and Ansari is so sharp and smart on film that it would feel like a step backwards in some ways.

Even so, reading it made me deeply miss Wittels, and I wonder what else of his is out there, unproduced but still potentially able to be made. I hope audiences have yet to enjoy their final laugh written by him.

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