Stand-Up Tuesdays is a weekly comedy spotlight written by the wonderfully talented Angie Frissore. Covering both known and unknown comics, Stand-up Tuesdays is your new source for all things funny.
This week, things became so crazy we decided to put up two editions of SUT, and this particular piece lets Angie put a spotlight on Russell Peters. If you or your comedy troupe would like to be featured on Stand-Up Tuesdays, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past weekend, Comedy Central aired the network television premiere of comedian Russell Peters critically-acclaimed 2011 special, “Russell Peters: The Green Card Tour Live from the O2 Arena”, though you’d be forgiven for missing it, given its 2:00 a.m. air time.
Filmed at London’s massive (and sold-out) O2 Arena, the all-new special features Peters at his best, taking the audience on a trip around the world to make fun of every race and ethnicity one can imagine. No demographic is safe as Peters skewers speech patterns, languages, news coverage, and even a terrorist attack in his distinctive style. He’s sold out venues around the globe, including The Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, The Nokia Theatre Los Angeles, Sydney Opera House, and London’s O2 Arena – and his latest special marks the third time the comedian has packed the massive English venue.
“I’ve done it three times now, and I think we’re working on five times, because it just went on sale again for April. I think the first one’s almost sold out and we’re adding a second one. It’s pretty cool,” Peters recently told me in an interview. “It was pretty wild considering I don’t think I’m that great at it.”
Peters, who has appeared at HBO’s Aspen Comedy Festival, The Las Vegas Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs Montreal & Chicago, and the Edinburgh Festival, is originally from Canada and got his start in comedy in 1989 while he was both DJ’ing and boxing, citing the decision as being “the less painful of the two”. He has performed in USO tours of Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Greenland, Pearl Harbor, USS Eisenhower and the HMCS Winnipeg, and has amassed an enormous and devoted following worldwide. Peters had the sense to establish himself on the international scene before making the move to the U.S. in 2006, something that, if not done methodically, could spell the downfall for a Canadian comedian looking to make it in America.
“That was always something that kind of held me back. I moved to the States in 2006 and at that time I had been doing stand up for seventeen years already. And people have been telling me from I would say about ‘97, ‘98 to move to the States,” Peters recalls. “The paperwork was very intimidating, you know, if you do it a little bit too early in your career you end up getting sucked into the vacuum that is L.A. or New York, and you get frustrated because you were starting to make headway in Canada, and then you left it all behind to chase something that wasn’t there yet. I kind of knew when I moved out here that I was going to be in a situation where I would be ahead of the game, because I’m going to be financially stable.
From an international perspective, it’s easier being a traveler when you’re Canadian, yes. There’s no negative or positive attached to you at that point. Like, with Americans, certain parts of the world, people are like, ‘We hate Americans,’ you know, they’re this, they’re that. I know some Americans that travel with a Canadian flag on their luggage,” Peters cites. “It’s funny for me, because, growing up in Canada, my ultimate goal was always to live in America. There would always be these conversations that would happen – ‘Well, what if they want Canada to become part of America?’ I’m like, uh huh, what’s wrong with that?”
While performing internationally may have been a little daunting at first, Peters more than has what it takes to take on any crowd that comes his way.
“Now they’re already there to see me, they’re already fans, so the only thing I have to overcome now is on my side; it’s not on their side. I have to make the adjustment, a certain amount of this type of joke will work better here, and less of that will work here. You’ve just got to mix it around a little bit. That’s just an adjustment comics have to make regardless of where they are, whether they’re in Oklahoma or they’re in New York City. Stand-up is stand-up wherever you go. You get caught up in trying to connect with them too much, and then you overcompensate and you’re not being yourself. That’s kind of how I felt about The Green Card Tour; I felt like I almost overcompensated a little bit there. I felt like I was pandering a bit too much, but that’s my own personal issue more than anything.”
When he’s not touring, Peters routinely drops in to local comedy clubs for a few laughs and to check out the scene, something that he says keeps him motivated in his career.
“You’re always watching guys, and these guys are excited about things, there are new guys that you haven’t seen that make you laugh. It’s what keeps you on your toes and makes you want to keep going forward. Especially after 23 years in the game, you know, you can’t be imperious like that – you know, ‘this is the way it was done back in the day’. Well, no, it’s evolving and it’s always evolving, and you have to evolve with it or it will leave you behind.”