Russell Peters Chats About Why a Wildly Successful Comic Still Has Trouble Getting Traction in Hollywood
Russell Peters is probably the only arena-size comic right now who hasn't gotten into trouble for making homophobic slurs or punching a Target employee. Of Indian heritage, but raised Catholic, he's huge in his native Canada; he hosted A Russell Peters Christmas Special in 2011 with fellow Canadian Pamela Anderson playing the Virgin Mary. He's done three world tours and published his memoir, Call Me Russell, in 2010.
The bulk of Peters's humor is Indian vs. whitey jokes, though all groups are fair game. His famous "Be A Man" punchline -- where he pokes fun of a Chinese store owner -- is even printed on T-shirts for sale on his web site.
Peters is returning to the Nokia Theater Jan. 12, and we caught up with the funny man for a quick Q&A.
Why did you decide to call your current tour Notorious?
It's in honor of the Notorious B.I.G. He was one of my all-time favorite rappers.
In your memoir, you wrote about resisting taking on one-dimensional ethnic roles in TV and film. But you poke fun of a lot of racial stereotypes in your stand-up. Is it hard to strike a balance?
My stand-up is more of a racial social commentary. There is a lot of truth in what I'm observing. Ethnic roles are usually based on a vague, uninformed writer's idea on what they think other people are like.
In 2011, you accepted a Razzie on behalf of M. Night Shyamalan for worst picture for The Last Airbender. You were hysterical when you called him a disappointment to over a billion people. You even poked fun of his name.
What I do is comedy -- therefore, nobody is off limits.
You've lived in L.A. for years and your two homes in the Hollywood Hills were featured on MTV Cribs; the second house had an elevator, both had drawers of porn. Do you still have a sizeable porn collection now that you're a father?
I don't think becoming a father changed my porn habit. I think that streaming porn changed it. So much selection and such little commitment!
You were in talks to have your own sitcom in, first in 2007 with FOX, and then in 2010 with NBC. Are you still working on your TV show? Any other big projects in the works?
I'm now in my 24th year of doing stand-up, but I don't have anything as far as TV in the works right now. My next special is going straight to Netflix, which is pretty cool. Hollywood is like high school and if you're not with the "in crowd," you're left out. It's really about being part of the group and unfortunately for me, I'm not part of the "cool kids." I'm in the cafeteria eating alone, but don't feel bad for me. I'm quite happy just to be in the cafeteria.