HE SELLOUT funny man, Russell Peters, who has been dubbed the world’s biggest comic, ‘based on ticket sales, if not popularity’ is a genius at tailoring his material to suit the demographic of the city he is performing in.
His global fanbase knows what to expect at a Peters performance and are clearly willing to pay the price for his deft riffing on race, technology, accents and gender discrepancies. Plus, his skill at picking on the front few rows who get a real chance to laugh at themselves.
Ahead of his show at the Stage42 festival, we catch up with the LA-based Indian-Canadian stand up, hip-hop buff and occasional DJ, once punked by the King of Jordan and described by Chris Rock as ‘the most famous person nobody’s ever heard of’.
What were you like in school?
I was a great guy in school, just a horrible student. But I was tiny with a big mouth so I got picked on a lot.
What has been your worst experience on stage?
My worst experience was bombing when I opened for the (hip-hop group) The Pharcyde. I was super cocky and took the audience for granted. They booed me off. It was pretty bad, but it was also one of the best things to happen to me. It’s like being a boxer and getting knocked out, it’s how you come back from it that makes the difference. Every comic needs to bomb, it’s the only way you get better.
Is it true you are on a mission to see that Indians are properly represented in media? How?
Well, I’m committed to representing us properly as far as first generation Indians who were born and/or grew up in North America. We’re still under-represented in the States, but things are changing. Apparently, you’re only allowed to have one Indian at a time in the media, and someone jumped the queue on me.
Does the underlying theme of your comedy carry political undertones?
I’m not political at all and don’t do political humour. There are other guys who do it and they do it very well. It’s just not my thing. Everybody has their niche and I am staying in my lane.
Why do you say that David Guetta is the worst DJ ever?
None of these guys are actually doing anything up there. When I deejayed, you kept your head down. A DJ’s job is to keep everybody dancing. Your head only goes up to make sure that that’s what was happening, and if it wasn’t, then it was your job to change the vibe and get them dancing. Dancing is out of the equation for these ‘DJ’s’. I just saw one of these guys ‘perform’ in Vegas. Nobody was dancing. They were all just facing the DJ with their hands in the air. It was cultish and the audience was like sheep.
How would you describe your current voice in comedy?
I talk about race, culture and the world as I see it. My new act includes a lot more personal stuff about who I am as a middle-aged, technologically-challenged divorced father.
Your response to Chris Rock??
I know Chris. We have the same publicist. As he said to me, “I may be famous, but Russell Peters is huge!”
Did judging Last Comic Standing make you more recognisable?
It was a great experience and definitely made me more recognisable to certain people and I had a great time doing it.
What makes you laugh?
Stupid stuff makes me laugh – someone tripping and falling. I know it’s dumb, but I always laugh when it happens. AND my daughter makes me laugh hysterically.
What do Canadian comedians do better than American ones?
Canadians live next door to the biggest cultural giant in the world. We watch their television shows, their news and also their movies. We ‘watch’ them, we observe them and to be a good comedian you have to pay attention and observe the world around you. Comedians by nature are people watchers.
Who would you like to play you in a movie about your life?
Any advice for people who think they’re falling in love?
No, not really. It’s not that I’m against falling in love, I just don’t really buy it that much.
India tour February 11-19.
Details and tickets: insider.in
— Jackie Pinto