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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Russel Peters on his worst experiences, Kolkata connection, his daughter and more

Russel Peters, who is in India for his latest tour, titled Deported, spoke to us about his Kolkata connection, what’s he like in real life, Bollywood and much more.

more-lifestyle Updated: May 27, 2019 18:47 IST
Kabir Singh Bhandari
Kabir Singh Bhandari
Hindustan Times, Delhi
Comedian Russel Peters is performing in Bangalore on May 29, Delhi on May 31, and  on June 2 and June 3 in Mumbai.
Comedian Russel Peters is performing in Bangalore on May 29, Delhi on May 31, and on June 2 and June 3 in Mumbai.
         

Best known for his accents and cultural observations, Russel Dominic Peters (September 29, 1970) shot to worldwide fame when his 2004 performance on the Canadian TV comedy show Comedy Now! was uploaded on Youtube. Although the entire performance was of 45 minutes, users uploaded snippets where Peters spoke on certain cultural groups; the proof of the pudding lied in the fact that those very groups, like the Indian and Chinese, loved his take on them.

But it was way back in 1989 in Toronto that the Canadian standup comic started performing. Peters, who was the first comedian to get a Netflix stand-up special, was born to Indian parents and currently stays in Los Angeles, credits the late comedian George Carlin as being one of his biggest inspirations. Carlin had once told him to get on stage whenever and wherever possible, a piece of advice which Peters credits to being the reason for his success.

A lesser known fact about Peters is that he was bullied in school and took up boxing to resist the bullying. Another aspect about the comedian is that he is a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, something which helped him in taking down a jewellery thief in New York City earlier this year.

Peters was married to Monica Diaz (2010-2012) with whom he has a daughter Crystianna, while his current partner is Jennifer Andrade, with whom he has a son.

Peters, who is managed by his elder brother, Clayton, and is in India for his latest tour, titled Deported, spoke to us about his Kolkata connection, what’s he like in real life, Bollywood and much more.

Your mother is from Kolkata, what do you like most about the city?

I guess I have more memories of the city from my childhood visits compared to anywhere else in India, except for Burhanpur, where my dad grew up. My grandparents were kind of glamorous (to me as a child anyway). They were always well dressed and very social, so that made Calcutta seem kind of glamorous. As an adult I know that Bombay is way more glamorous and as I’ve said before, Bombay is the only other city outside North America where I’d like to live.

What was your worst experience when performing stand-up?

Probably getting booed offstage when I opened for (hip hop group) The Pharcyde in Toronto in 1993. But, every comic needs to have that happen to them. It’s an essential part of becoming a better comic.

  

Which are your top three Bollywood movies and why?

Yeah, I still don’t know any Bollywood movies. People think I’m trying to be cool by saying that, but I seriously never grew up watching Bollywood movies. It just wasn’t a thing in our house. And now I mostly watch documentaries.

Would you say you’re the most popular Indian comedian in Hollywood?

Nope, I’m definitely not! This business is like high school. There are the so-called popular kids that the industry tells you to like and then there’s me. I’m still an outsider and I kind of embrace that.

 

Many celebrities have spoken about mental health and the issue is gaining a lot of voice, what is your take on it.

Honestly, I’m not that guy who jumps on the latest social media talking point and then pretends to be all earnest about it. It’s just not me.

What makes Russell Peters laugh?

People falling down / tripping over something / stumbling - I know how basic that is, but it kills me every time I see it happen!

You’ve starred in quite a few Netflix originals. What are your favourites, say in the horror and thriller genre?

I hate horror movies. Never watch them. Again, I like documentaries, especially music documentaries.

 

How is Russel like in real life?

I’m a slightly less heightened version of the guy you see on-stage. I’m pretty lighthearted. As I get older, I do find myself falling into grumpy old man mode more often, but I’m definitely not dark or sombre like some comics.

When can your daughter, Crystianna, start watching your shows?

Hmmmm. Never? She’s only eight right now, so it’s going to be at least another eight or ten years before she can watch some of my filth!

The author tweets at @shadowwarior and can be reached at kabir.bhandari@htdigital.in

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First Published: May 27, 2019 18:39 IST