Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue
Reginald D Hunter
Rev Obadiah Steppenwolf III
Roy Chubby Brown
Ruth E Cockburn
Saddam's Bitches in a Building
From his Red White and Brown DVD
More Russell Peters videos
|The World Cup|
Canadian comic Russell Peters is one of the most successful stand-ups in the world, netting an estimated $15million in 2009.
Born in Toronto to Indian parents, he began performing in his home town in 1989, and recorded his first TV special, Outsourced, in 2006, which was later released on DVD. Two years later, he taped another special, Red, White, and Brown, which sold more than 250,000 copies.
In June 2007, he became the first comedian to sell-out Toronto’s Air Canada Centre – performing for over 30,000 fans over two nights. He has replicated that success in the UK selling an unprecedented 9,000 tickets in one day for a show in London’s O2 Arena in February 2009. He returned in September 2010, selling out two nights there.
He has been nominated for four Gemini Awards – Canada’s leading TV accolades. The first was in 1997 for his appearance in the TV series Comics!, the last in 2008 when he won the category of best performance or host in a variety program or series.
Peters is also one of the most well-travelled comedians around, having performed in dozens of countries. His travels inform his material, which is largely based on affectionately mocking various ethnic groups.
Russell Peters at the O2
The best way to enjoy stand-up is always with a sound system that reverberates so perfectly out of sync so that after each sentence ends in one ear, you get a clear echo of the final word in the other, as if you’re sitting next to an obsessively irritating man.
But when you are the self-proclaimed biggest comedian in the world, you play the O2. Simple as. A Russell Peters gig is an event, and it needs a sense of scale – not to mention enough seats to accommodate his army of fans. He doesn’t have the media profile, certainly in the UK, of most arena-fillers, but he can certainly do the business, selling out two nights here.
Despite the size of the room, the affable Canadian plays it like an intimate club, chatting easily with the punters. Never has the ‘where are you from?’ banter been played out on such a global scale. He knows something about every nationality, raising stereotypes you never knew existed. What it is with the Ecuadorians and their massive heads? Think I’m joking? That, according to Peters, is a genuine national trait.
He’s a one-man Mind Your Language, for anyone old enough to remember the unenlightened Seventies race-based sitcom. But he doesn’t aim to be racist, but affectionately mocking, in much the way an English comic might mock thieving Scousers or Norfolk bumpkins. He’s well enough travelled to know what buttons to press and the targets of each good-natured jibe lap it up – perhaps just happy to hear jokes about their native Hungary, Phillipines or Trinidad in the same way some punters always cheer when their home town is mentioned.
But the broader the stereotypes, the lazier it gets; and Peters feels hackneyed when he’s on nationalities others cover. Nigerians are email spammers with inherently hilarious speech patterns, for instance. And whenever he mentions black men, it’s inevitably followed with a gag about the size of their dicks.
Rather too many of his jokes come from comedy misunderstandings of those crazy foreign accents, too, of Arabs who can’t say their Ps or the woman who pronounces ‘god’ as ‘gut’. You have to assume he’s particularly bad at communicating for him to be unable to decipher such trivial errors.
The lengthy – near two-hour – show isn’t all based on geographical differences, though that theme is never far away. He’s got a highly entertaining anecdote about going clubbing in Beirut, some rather ordinary material about rows within relationships, and relishes dropping the c-bomb with impunity, free from the North American aversion to the word. The strongest section is probably the one on Indians’ propensity to make up words based solely on onomatopoeia.
You don’t get to be ‘the world’s biggest comedian’ by being challenging – rude words aside – and the appeal of Peters is his easy geniality and his exaggeratedly comic facial expressions, projected on to the obligatory giant screens. Most of the material saunters along jovially, without making much of a lasting impact, though he displays a devastatingly quick wit with some of the banter, such as discovering a chap named Vi or the English couple planning a ‘fairly big’ wedding with 150 guests. ‘150?’ Peters shoots back. ‘In India, that’s a minibus full.’
There’s not much of substance to hold the interest for the full duration, but Peters is clearly filling an otherwise unmet need. As a comedian for a multicultural world, he serves an audience overlooked by many stand-ups, certainly white ones, who might fear accusations of racism. But being the butt of a joke is a sign of acceptance – we all take the piss out of our friends – and clearly Peters’ targets are gagging for it. You can’t argue with the box office.
|Date of live review: Friday 24th Sep, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
Show - Montreal 2007 -
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10/04/2013 Permanent link
Russell Peters: Red White and Brown