Ahead of his show in Abu Dhabi next week (SUBS OCT 23), Russell Peters talks about his partnership with Netflix and himself as the ubiquitous common man.
Taking over the world, one joke at a time
Can you tell us a little bit about the experience of partnering with Netflix and what you are hoping for from the deal? (This week, the streaming site debuted Peters’ Notorious, its first original standup show, as well as a four-part, behind-the-scenes documentary.)
I’ve licensed all of my specials to Netflix, from Outsourced to Red, White and Brown and The Green Card Tour. Netflix has opened me up to new fans who didn’t know me from either the original broadcast on television or from YouTube. I liked the idea of working outside the system again. What some people don’t realise is that I’ve been working independently since the beginning. I’ve been self-financing and doing my own distribution for the past eight years. I’ve partnered with Warner Brothers and Comedy Central, but it’s always been my money. Netflix is working outside the system and I really liked that about them. I’m happy with my new special, Notorious, and the documentary series lets the fans see me in a lot of different ways – with my daughter, playing arenas, playing small clubs, hanging out with my DJs and with my mom and my brother.
When you first started (before you became rich and famous) your humour appealed to the common man. While the common man still loves you, how has your approach to stand-up changed now that you are breathing slightly more rarefied air?
I am the common man. My mom worked in a Kmart cafeteria and my dad was a meat inspector. I was flat broke as recently as 2004. I haven’t forgotten that. I still hang out with the same guys I’ve always hung out with. It’s my job to stay connected and to pay attention to the world around me.
Which cultural stereotype do you enjoy highlighting the most and why?
There’s so many, it’s hard to say. I really like to know what I’m talking about when I talk about a group of people. And I’ll only talk about them if they’re in the room.
My favourite thing is when I talk about a stereotype and then right there in the front row is somebody who embodies that stereotype. I love that.
Is there anything you can do on stage in this region that you wouldn’t be able to get away with in North America? And vice versa?
Nope. My act is the same globally. People think that I do different material when I travel, but my fans want my real act. They don’t want me to change.
Can you describe the volume and types of hate mail you receive from people who don’t get your brand of comedy?
Comedy is subjective. There are always people who like you and don’t like you. You can’t worry about it. I know that there are comics in the States and Canada who don’t get what I do. I know that there are people in Hollywood who don’t get what I do.
If you’ve never dealt with different cultures or faced racism or maybe you don’t come from an immigrant family, you may not get my material. I do what I do and that’s what my fans respond to.
How do you make your daughter laugh?
I don’t think my daughter actually knows what my real voice sounds like, because I always talk to her in this high-pitched excited voice that makes her laugh. Mind you, she makes me laugh more than I make her laugh. She’s hilarious and the funny thing is, I think she knows that she’s funny. She has that twinkle in her eye when she says or does something funny that I recognise all too well.
Any thoughts on the growth in Canadian culture catching on here in the desert? (First it was Tim Hortons, now Dubai has a Canadian deli and a French-Canadian restaurant … no telling what’s next!)
You never know with us Canadians. We’re much more low-key than the Americans so we kind of sneak up on you. Next thing you know, the national sport of Abu Dhabi will be ice hockey.
• Russell Peters will perform at the du Arena, Yas Island, on Wednesday. Tickets cost Dh250 for General Admission, Dh350 for Reserve, Dh450 for Gold, Dh550 for Platinum and Dh650 for Diamond categories at www.ticketmaster.ae, and are also available at select Virgin Megastore outlets across the UAE