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|Written by An Nguyen|
|Tuesday, 19 May 2009 19:00|
On the TV screen, the audience roars, a woman holds back her tears as she clutches her stomach, and I go into hysterics watching Russell Peters’ latest DVD, Red, White and Brown. His YouTube videos have been viewed by over 20 million individual viewers, and he has performed sold-out shows in countries like
There’s no denying that Russell Peters, an Indo-Canadian from
After doing stand-up comedy for twenty years, Peters is best known for his ingenious ability to incorporate accents from all around the world, and to find humour in both ‘traditional’ and ‘mainstream’ culture. By allowing the differences between races and cultures to be publicly aired, Peters’ humour is a potent vehicle for expressing controversial views, by subverting or questioning commonly held beliefs.
Regardless of race, class or cultural background, people of all ages have been captivated by his humour. His DVD Outsourced has gone eleven times Platinum in
(Cult)ure: First of all, congratulations on a job well done hosting the Junos. How did you prepare yourself for the gig?
Thank you. I have three writers that I work with for the Junos – Jean Paul, Trevor Boris and Kristeen von Hagen. They’re all friends of mine and great stand-up comics, so I trust them. We go over different ideas that they’ve got and basically come together with what we all think is funny and reflective of me and my style.
Your grassroots support both in the real world and online has taken on a new life. Do you remember where you were when you realized that your fame was bigger than you could ever imagine? How do you celebrate your successes along the way?
I don’t know if I ‘celebrate’, but I can’t deny that I enjoy a pretty comfortable lifestyle. I’ve been known to do buy the odd watch or two…
In your comedy you talk a lot about
If you could perform a private show for the perfect audience, who would you want there?
Hmmmm…. I don’t know. The perfect audience is a mixed audience – everybody’s there – white, black, Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Italian… you get the idea. I have the most fun when it’s all mixed.
Every once in a while, a maven appears and somehow changes the game. As an Indo-Canadian, do you find that you’ve changed the game at all?
I was and always will be the first. No matter who comes after me and even becomes bigger than me, I was the first. I read a review of another Indian comic who performed up here recently and the reviewer commented on how the guy didn’t have to ‘comment on his race the way a certain other Indian comic does’. It pissed me off. Fact is, I already did it – so now the other guys won’t or don’t have to talk about race. I’d like to think I opened the door for other guys (and girls) to do their own thing.
Your racial humour has made you a hit with audiences around the world. It’s gotten to the point where you mention that people will write in asking you why you didn’t make fun of them. Will there be a turning point, where your humour will take a different direction?
It’s funny – I get some people asking me to talk more about their race or culture, then I get some people asking me to stop talking about race… others only want to hear me talk about race and culture… I talk about what’s important to me, the way I see the world and my experiences. You never know where that’s going to take me.
The catch phrases “Be a man!” and “Somebody’s gonna get a hurt real bad” are synonymous with your name. Have you gotten tired of hearing these signature lines? Or do you find it a compliment that people dig your material so much?
I don’t see how I could ever get mad about it. It’s people acknowledging what I’ve done and that they like it. Can’t be mad at that – it’s definitely a compliment. I get a kick out of how many people screw it up: ‘Hey Russell, someone’s going to be hurting!’ or ‘Somebody’s hurting badly!’, ‘Someone’s gonna get you…!’ That makes me LOL.
How do you deal with performing in countries where there is racial or ethnic tension?
Racially charged areas respond really well, because they’ve been dealing with race and discrimination on a daily basis. I come along and talk about all the stuff that they’ve been dealing with, thinking and saying amongst themselves every day. I say out loud what they’d like to say but can’t.
If you were to write a manifesto today – what would be your vision for Canadian art and culture?
Photographs courtesy of: David Johns
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