Stand-up comic and actor Aziz Ansari is skeptical of the very idea of celebrities encouraging people to vote—not because there’s anything wrong with encouraging people to vote but because deciding to vote based on a celebrity’s say-so is stupid. And, as he points out, that’s doubly true when the celebrity is Aziz Ansari: Robert Downey Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Lawrence already want you to vote, so it beggars belief that a former Parks and Rec star would be the deciding factor. In fact, Robert Downey Jr. shouldn’t make a difference either; the very idea is kind of insulting:
There’s a fucking guy running who says he hates brown people. That’s not enough? He doesn’t believe in climate change. Do you realize how dumb you have to be to not believe in climate change? At this point?
Still, the celebrity voting video has a long and storied history, going back to Madonna threatening to spank nonvoters in her 1990 Rock the Vote spot. (If she kept this promise, people who sat out the 1990 election have kept quiet about it.) Ansari’s contribution to the genre comes from NextGen Climate, a PAC dedicated to youth voter registration and battling climate change. Its founder is Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager–turned-philanthropist who’s said to be considering a run for the governorship of California.
The company that made Steyer a billionaire, Farallon Capital, is described as “a successful California business” with no further elaboration on NextGen Climate’s website, which says something about the reputation hedge funds have in progressive circles. But Steyer has put enough money behind left-wing causes that the Republicans have tried to paint him as a shadowy, Koch brothers–style villain, so he’s got the right enemies. And the right friends: Aziz Ansari was willing to give up his lunch break to make this video, even if he was cranky about it. Only time will tell if ruining Ansari’s lunch was a good use of Steyer’s money, but one thing is clear: Americans who were planning to ride out a Trump presidency with bumper stickers reading “I WOULD HAVE VOTED IF AZIZ ANSARI HAD ONLY ASKED” are gonna need a backup plan.