I have an admission. Two weeks ago, I had no idea who Russell Peters was. That may not sound so terribly shocking, after all, he’s Canadian and I haven’t been to Canada in years. He’s also a comedian, and I don’t follow the stand up scene too closely. So, really Peters is my Achilles heel, the Canadian comic.
On Friday night at The Comedy Festival in Caesars Palace I found myself surrounded with Peters’ fans at his midnight Russell Peters & Friends show. An exuberant audience stretched in a line down the hall, waiting to enter the ballroom and scramble for the best general admission seats possible – the best view of Russell or prime VOR, as I like to call it.
When everyone had settled, Peters took the stage to overwhelming cheers.
“Is Canada in the house?” he asked. And of course, Canada was in the house.
“The minute you take a Canadian and put him in America,” Peters said, the Canadian gets all sorts of national pride. “Fucking CANADA!!!!!!!” he screamed, in a meat-heady I’m-screaming-cause-I’m-from-Canada-and-you-said-Canada voice. Put the same guy back in the frigid north and Peters said the same words sounds a bit different. “Fucking Canada,” he grumbled sounding dejected. “We love how much we hate ourselves.”
Peters went on to riff on race, culture, relationships and sex, telling stories from his own life.
At one point Peters talked about growing up with mostly black friends and dating mostly black girls. When a black friend called Peters racist for not letting him date Indian girls, Peters’ response was, “You ever have that one fat friend … and he borrows one of your sweaters? … He stretches the shit out of it!”
Working through a range of accents that were surprisingly on point, Peters teased Indian audience members in the front rows for their “FOB laugh” and did a bit on the Irish pronunciation of the word “cunt.” The way we say it, he explained, sounds like “a really big rock being throw into a lake. Cunt.” But in Ireland it’s a softer, gentler “coont,” and it’s just part of daily conversation. Peters added that with the Irish you should be insulted “if someone doesn’t swear at you.”
After warming up the crowd, Peters introduced a few of his friends, Tom Segura, Nick Thune and Dom Irerra.
Segura, a recent transplant to LA, joked that his neighborhood in downtown LA has “lots of needles, but no sewing factory. It’s just like wherever you live,” he said. “If where you live is jail.”
“There’s only two kinds of guys with ponytails,” Segura continued. “Rapists and folksingers. If you don’t see a banjo, run.”
Ashton Kutcher-look a like Nick Thune, strummed an acoustic guitar as he told wry one liners with barely a smile. “Wouldn’t the world be a cleaner place, if we gave blind people brooms instead of canes,” he mused.
And Dom Irrera brought the show to a newly crude place with his sexually explicit set. But the evening, and the audience, truly belonged to Peters. Towards the end of Thune’s set, someone in the back yelled over the crowd, “Go Russell,” in a thick Indian accent.
“That’s exactly what I thought someone yelling Russell’s name at a Russell Peters show would sound like,” Thune quipped at the interruption. “Thank you for that. No really, thank you.”