The Canadian comedy star, Russell Peters with a graph climbing into the third decade, took up whatever odds he could right from the age of 19 big or small shows and is one of the few personalities to find fame from YouTube. Listed as one of the highest-paid comedians in the world Peters spoke with Krishti Khound about the qualms of his journey and having a show of his own.
Ex: Hi Russell, there are a few pioneers in the space of comedy how does it feel to be a part of it, was it always a dream?
RP: I never set out to be a pioneer as far as ‘brown’ comics go. My dad used to tell me that it wasn’t a field for us. He said, “Look there’s Jewish comedians, White comedians and Black comedians. Do you see anyone that looks like you?” And I told him that that’s why I’d be successful because there isn’t (wasn’t) anyone that looks like me.
Ex: Tell us about your creative process is it spontaneous or does it take you a while to shift?
RP: Basically, once I record my last set – Russell Peters Deported – I erase it from my memory. I literally can’t remember it. Sometimes people come up to me and quote my jokes back to me and I’m like, ‘That’s not bad, who said that?’ and they tell me it’s me. The way I create a new act is by just getting on-stage with literally nothing. I play clubs across the States and just start talking to the audience and see where things go. I have small kernels of ideas, but it takes time to flesh them out. I don’t sit and actually ‘write’ anything down. I just get up there and do it and bits start to come together.
Ex: What do you think that you do people respond to?
RP: My fans know what to expect from me. There’s no malice in what I’m saying. My intent is to make you laugh. The way I see it, there’s ‘Russell Peters fans’ and then there are comedy fans. My fans get me because we have built a relationship.
Ex: What are the challenges that you have faced?
RP: After doing stand-up for 31 years this year and I’ve been somewhat successful for the past fifteen years. But during my entire career, I’ve been an outsider. In Canada I when I was coming up in the business, I was this brown guy in a world of white guys. In America now, I’m that Canadian / Indian guy who didn’t make his bones in New York, Chicago, Boston or LA – so when I first came on the scene around 2005, some of the American guys thought that I was some overnight sensation. I’d already been doing stand-up for sixteen years at that point. My fanbase has grown organically. I’m not a media-sensation or created by some network. That still keeps me as an outsider in this business. My fanbase has grown organically. I’m not a media-sensation or created by some network. That still keeps me as an outsider in this business.
Ex: Could you share with us an anecdote of your performance that is memorable for you?
RP: Probably my most memorable performance(s) were my two sold-out shows at (Toronto’s) Air Canada Center in 2007. That was the first time any comedian had sold out the arena (not once, but twice). It got me emotional. It was like the entire city was there with me to see me ‘win’. They gave me a standing ovation when I stepped on-stage and I was overwhelmed. I had to fight back the tears and then make them laugh.
Ex: Our generation has witnessed a massive growth in the industry, how important is it for a comedian to keep transparency with his/her audience?
RP: You have to be honest with the audience. They can tell when you’re lying. And if you look at my specials, I’m extremely honest about who I am and what’s happening with me in my life.
Ex: Lastly, what have you learnt from your journey and expect to bring in from your content in the future?
RP: I’ve learned that there’s no finish line in comedy. No joke is ever really ‘finished’ there’s always room to improve them and it’s not like there’s some goal that you reach as a stand-up and then go, ‘ok I’m done now’. I love what I do. I love being on-stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a club where there are 20 people or an arena with 20,000 people. I’m a comic, I have to be on-stage.
- What is the one thing that people get wrong about your profession?
That it’s easy. A good comedian, like a good athlete, makes it look easy.
- What is your social media pet peeve?
I hate being on social media I only do it because I have to. It has zero appeal to me.
- Your role model?
I’m inspired by George Carlin.