A problem, if you can even call it that, with interviewing comedians is that you don't always know when they're kidding. We had a few moments like that recently with "Parks and Recreation" star Aziz Ansari.
We met the 30-year-old at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where he was doing a private show for 100 Superstorm Sandy volunteers as part of Advil's Relief in Action Campaign. Before he took the stage, we were guided into a luxurious suite, aptly dubbed The Vault, to go one-on-one with him -- and apparently he tested out some of his material on us.
While hitting him up for tidbits about the May 2 season finale of his NBC comedy, he joked it was going to be out of this world.
"We go to space! The whole cast gets in a shuttle and goes to space," he said with great excitement. "It's all really out there."
Confronted with a puzzled look, he came clean.
"No, we actually filmed it so long ago I don't remember what happens to be honest," he laughed. "But every finale ends with cool cliffhangers and stuff, so if you like the past season finales, you'll enjoy this one. Promise."
Ansari has been playing nickname aficionado Tom Haverford in the Amy Poehler-led series centering around local government since 2009. And while he and his co-stars bring the laughs when they're shooting, it's not all fun and games when the cameras aren't rolling. As in, there are not a lot of behind-the-scenes hijinks on the set.
"It's such a weird thing how people are always like, 'Oh, man -- there were so many crazy pranks on my movie set,'" he said. "No one does that on our show. What would happen like: 'Hey, I just cut your tires.' 'Oh, thanks ... uh ... nice prank?'"
But that's not to say he doesn't enjoy his co-stars -- and loved seeing Nick Offerman show off his breakdancing moves recently on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
"Oh my god -- that cracked me up," said Ansari, who is currently taking his comedy tour around the country. But when it came to admitting his secret talent, he claimed not to have one. "Nothing that awesome. I'm really good at foosball, though that's not nearly being as cool as being able to breakdance."
Come on … the guy who appeared in Jay-Z and Kanye West's music video can't break out some hot dance moves?
"I have no dance moves that can hold a candle to what Nick can do," he confessed. "No way."
He seemed equally in awe of co-star Rob Lowe, but for other reasons. Talking about the recent photo of the ageless former Brat Packer, in which he tested out a water-propelled jetpack, Ansari was admittedly impressed.
"That was so ridiculous," he said of the photo, which Lowe put on Twitter. "He's the most photogenic man ever. He's like in a jetpack, they take one photo of him, and he's got a perfect smile."
Speaking of smiling, Ansari's quirky character certainly brings the laughs on "Parks and Rec," especially when it comes to his unique vocabulary -- from “chickie chickie parm parm” for chicken parmesan sandwiches to “cool blasterz” for air conditioners. And viewers have been known to repeat some of Tom's catchphrases if they see Ansari walking down the street. One he hears a lot? "Treat Yo' Self."
"It's a pretty fun phrase to use. I mean -- who doesn't want to treat themselves?" Ansari allowed. And he takes the sidewalk shout outs in stride, laughing as he said, "When you become a comedian, you just have to get used to people yelling stuff at your face."
In June, Ansari can be seen on the big screen in "This Is the End," the star-studded flick in which celebrities play fictional versions of themselves as they face an apocalypse. With a cast including Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Mindy Kaling, and James Franco, there are a lot of laughs to be had -- as we saw in the trailer alone.
While he was "too classy and nice" to say which of his co-stars made him laugh the hardest, he did talk about working with Rihanna, who has a brief cameo.
"Oh, Rihanna was great," he said. "She definitely held her own. She dies, as the trailer shows, but she lives on in our hearts and minds."
The season finale of "Parks and Recreation" airs Thursday, 5/2 at 9:30 PM on NBC.