A “Good” Job vs. the Right Job

Spoilers for the second season of Masters of None are here, so tread wisely.

CLASH OF THE CUPCAKES COULD BE A REAL SHOW IF YOU SQUINT

There’s a moment in the second season of Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s excellent and formally innovative jewel of a show, where his character, Dev, finds himself at a crossroads about his career.

For the duration of the second season, he’s booked a job as the host of a cooking competition show called Clash of the Cupcakes — a pastel nightmare of a show that requires the kind of unbridled, sugar-coated enthusiasm Dev so effervescently embodies. For Dev, the job fulfills the basic requirements — it’s within his skill set, it pays him presumably well, and it’s steady. It’s a means to an end. He’s good at it, because if you’ve seen Parks and Recreation, you understand that playing a character who has a job as an over-enthusiastic host of a cupcake competition show is not a stretch for Aziz Ansari. He’s so good at it in fact, that Jeff, the Anthony Bourdain-esque head of the network, Jeff, played by Bobby Cannevale, informs him that the network wants him to sign a 7 year contract.

Instead of greeting this news with joy, Dev has to think it through. Hosting Clash of the Cupcakes is a means to a very specific end — eventual recognition and steady money. But, the work involved seems like the kind of soul-sucking work for that career path. Sensing his uncertainty, Jeff tries to talk some sense into him over dinner. Maybe being the host of a schlocky cupcake show isn’t necessarily in line with how he saw his career headed, but it is a step in the right direction. He’s on the first rung of a magic ladder, and to step off the thing before seeing what’s at the top would be foolish. Why not try it out, see what happens? At best, it’s steady money and at worse, well…you’re the host of a show about people trying to make the best cupcakes in America. That’s something, right?

Dev turns down the job and pitches another, more intriguing idea, that involves Jeff and him traveling around the world, eating food, and talking about it: like a buddy comedy version of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Of course Jeff loves it, because it’s TV and also because its a good idea, but the lesson here is that Dev took a risk and got out of what might have been a prison for him and into something potentially better.

Put yourself firmly in the shoes of Dev Shah, fictional television character, grappling with the trajectory of your nascent career. Someone offers you steady compensation and a plodding, rising ascent to what could be a lucrative future, but the work you’d have to do to achieve that end doesn’t feel feasible. Do you stick it out? Do you take a risk? Do you leave both roads behind and take another? My question for you is this: what would you have done in this situation?