"I think a lot of comics get to a certain level then expect that their next outing should be the exact same as the last one, as far as attendance and venues and stuff goes. And then they may not want to go work it out in the clubs. They may feel they’re above it. There’s no time in the comedy game that you’re ever above anything, you know? Except for maybe a comedy competition. You might be above those."
– Russell Peters
Russell Peters: (heavily accented) Yo, Guy!
Guy MacPherson: (heavily accented) Hey, Russell! (normal) How are you?
RP: Hey, what up, Guy?
GM: You having a good day so far?
RP: You know, it’s a bit busy but it’s good, yeah.
GM: You’re always busy, busy, Russell.
RP: I’m trying, buddy, I’m trying.
GM: How’s fatherhood?
RP: Fatherhood’s great!
GM: How old’s the little one?
RP: She’s 18 months now.
GM: How often do you see her?
RP: Uh, when I’m home I try to see her every day. I go to her mom’s house and hang out with the baby. And then I usually leave around six o’clock.
GM: Oh, are you not together anymore?
RP: No, sir. I’m what they call happy now.
GM: (laughs) I didn’t know that. How long has that been?
RP: Since November, kinda. Yeah. I managed to keep it under wraps for as long as I could.
GM: It’s tough being in the public eye.
RP: Yeah, you know, you want to make sure it’s done before you make an announcement.
GM: I haven’t seen you since last time you were here. I don’t even remember when that was.
RP: Three years ago, I guess.
GM: Is your daughter now fodder for your act?
RP: No, I’m da fodder of her.
RP: But no, she’s in there. My whole life is in there. So I talk about fatherhood and all that kind of good stuff.
GM: So that’s a new wrinkle.
RP: There’s new wrinkles and then there’s the old wrinkles I’m ironing out.
GM: There’s the Louis C.K. model, which is to shit on your kid.
RP: I’m not shitting on her so much but I’m more shitting on myself for not really knowing what I’m doing. I went from my perspective. You don’t want to copy anyone else, either.
GM: Norm Macdonald’s playing at Yuk Yuk’s the weekend you’re here.
RP: I did not know that. What an odd twist. I love Norm. He’s hilarious.
GM: Is it still a rush playing arenas or is it just old hat by now?
RP: Of course it’s still a rush. I mean, the fact that I can still do it. This is my third arena tour. People are lucky to get one arena tour ever in their life. So to be on the third one is pretty incredible for me.
GM: I’ve heard that Kevin Hart is the new biggest guy in comedy. And I go, “Who’s Kevin Hart?”
RP: Kevin Hart’s hilarious, actually. I would say Kevin Hart is the new Eddie Murphy, you know? He’s in movies, he’s on TV, he’s selling out around North America, white people like him. He is very funny, though, so that’s the good news about Kevin Hart is that he’s very deserving of his success so I’m very happy for him. He’s a good guy, too.
GM: I know you work some clubs in the States when you’re developing material. If the money were equal, would you prefer to play in clubs? Is there a venue that suits you best?
RP: I love playing clubs. The only problem is it takes its toll on you because you have to do so many nights and so many shows a night. You’re trying to service all these people and it’s just easier to knock it out all in one night in an arena, you know? Being in the clubs is like being in the gym, you know?
GM: I was surprised when I saw you at how intimate it seems.
RP: Yeah, that’s your job as a comic is to make people feel like… It’s up to you to make them feel how you want them to feel, and I want them to feel like, look, we’re not in this arena because I’m trying to be an arena comic; we’re in this arena because I just want us all to be together at one time, you know? And I sew it together with the cameras.
GM: We’re attracted to the big screens so it’s kinda like watching TV. Is there a different reaction when people are watching the screen as opposed to watching you?
RP: Um, I don’t know because… That would be a good audience question since I’ve never really watched myself from the audience. I’ve tried, but it’s just hard to do both.
GM: I heard you on Marc Maron’s podcast. Did that get a good reaction?
RP: That did a lot, actually. A lot of people who didn’t know who I was, learned who I was. And a lot of people knew my comedy but didn’t know anything about me, got to learn a bit about me. I think it was beneficial for everybody: Marc won, I won, we all won. Yay!
GM: Yay! It’s neat seeing the progression you’ve had in your career. Canadians have seen you growing up whereas the rest of the world just sees you now. I remember you on a David Frost special with comedians from different countries.
RP: Probably. I’ve done a bunch of those things. But I forget half of them. Especially the TV ones. I forget a lot of them.
GM: It was early on, before you broke. I went, “Hey, there’s Russell Peters!”
RP: I think I remember that. That was at the CBC here in Toronto.
GM: You’ve achieved way more than you---
RP: Than I deserve? (laughs)
GM: That’s what I was going to say! No, probably beyond anything you imagined. Do you still have goals?
RP: I don’t really think about that. I just think about coming up with the material. I just want to make sure I’m able to do my job for as long as I can do it for.
GM: And how do you do that?
RP: Well, you’ve just got to stay out there, you’ve got to stay working. I think a lot of comics get to a certain level then expect that their next outing should be the exact same as the last one, as far as attendance and venues and stuff goes. And then they may not want to go work it out in the clubs. They may feel they’re above it. There’s no time in the comedy game that you’re ever above anything, you know? Except for maybe a comedy competition. You might be above those.
GM: It’s a matter of keeping it fresh and not trotting out your old hits.
RP: Yeah, no, you gotta keep writing. I stay writing all the time.
GM: But then there’s that faction who want to hear the old stuff, right?
RP: I think eventually I’ll possibly do a greatest hits tour but artistically I can’t bring myself to do that yet. Maybe when I do a Vegas run or something, if I ever get booked to do Vegas and I’m there for an extended period of time, maybe a year or two, I’ll possibly do a greatest hits show. But until then I’m going to keep writing.
GM: My brother-in-law is an Indo-Canadian—
RP: I’m sorry about that.
GM: --who loves you, but he says sometimes he gets the feeling that white people are laughing for the wrong reasons, laughing at who you’re representing, rather than with you.
RP: You know, everybody’s laughing for a different reason. Everyone is connecting with it on whatever level they’re connecting on it with. I mean, I can’t guarantee that you’re going to understand the joke for the same reason that the people are laughing beside you, you know? Who knows? I mean, that could be his own sensitivity. He may feel that people are just laughing at him. That’s also a personal thing, like, “Oh, they’re laughing at us.” No, no, no, you’re missing the point here. They’re laughing with us.
GM: And an artist can’t really be concerned with how somebody is reacting to their work.
RP: Yeah, it’s all subjective. It’s what you take away from it.
GM: Have you done the Louis C.K. model, not that you want to copy him in this, too, but a lot of comics are doing it now where they’re selling their own special—
RP: Now, see, here’s the thing. This is the only reason it bothers me that everybody making a big deal out of this and calling it the Louis C.K. model is that I have been spending my own money and producing my own specials since ’06. And I never made a big deal out of it. I would spend all my money on videoing it, editing it and putting a dvd out and I would collect all the cash myself however way I did it. And all of a sudden Louis does it and he’s a more marquee name as far as the mainstream goes, and people are like, ‘Oh, how fresh and ground-breaking!’ I’m like, ‘Uh, I’ve been doing this for years.’
GM: But isn’t it that his isn’t a physical product? It’s a download.
RP: No, no, he did the $5 download and do what you want with it, but the difference is my fans found me on the internet so it’s going to be difficult for me to get them to all of a sudden pay for something that they were trying to get for free all this time. I don’t know how successful it would be for me. And because somebody else did something makes me not want to do it. I need to be the guy who comes up with his own ideas and does something out[side] the box.
GM: I was thinking you could do it his way and blow him out of the water.
RP: Um… No, because I don’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, he saw what like Louis did?’ And I’m like, ‘Ugh, no, not like what Louis did.’
GM: ‘Like what I did first.’
GM: Okay, I’ll say it’s the Russell Peters model from now on.
RP: You bet your ass.
GM: So this is all new material in the Notorious World Tour?
RP: Yes, sir. All 100% new.
GM: Is it harder to relate now? You’re kind of living the good life.
RP: I mean, yeah, I’m successful and I got a lot of good things going on, but my personal life… Russell Peters has changed, but Russell the guy is exactly the same. All my friends are exactly the same and the things I do are exactly the same. Sure, some of things may be better than what I used to be able to do, but as far as I go, I manage to stay the same. People’s perception may have changed but I feel I’m still the same guy. I’m still the same goofball who’ll want to go to the mall and just hang out, and my friends are like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I dunno, let’s go to the mall and hang out.’
GM: As Newhart said, though, there got to a point where he didn’t take the bus anymore so he couldn’t do his old routine about bus drivers. He can’t relate to what a lot of his fans are doing.
RP: Yeah, there are certain things that I probably never did that people do every day but that doesn’t mean I can’t comprehend it; I just don’t talk about it if it doesn’t make any sense to me.
GM: So do you go to the mall and hang out?
RP: I do go to the mall and hang out. I put on a baseball hat and hang out. My friends that go with me always hate it because, ‘Oh, dude, we’re gonna get mobbed in there.’ I go, ‘No, we’re not. We’re fine. I’m wearing a hat.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, you think people won’t know that’s you with a hat on?’ I’m like, ‘Nah, they don’t know.’ I try and kid myself. But I don’t care, you know what I mean? Like, what’s the worst that could happen? Somebody wants a picture or an autograph? The downside of that is nobody wants your picture or autograph and that sucks worse.
GM: That’s a good attitude to have. Do you read the internet about you?
RP: No. You know why? Because the internet is one of those places where people can put anything out there. They can fabricate. They can say what they want about you. And everyone’s an internet tough guy. And I don’t have the patience to read what some dork sitting in his bedroom says or what his opinion is or what he thinks I may be like. Until you’ve met me and we’ve had some sort of interaction, you can’t really say. People speculate. And people never speculate somebody’s nice; they always speculate that somebody’s a dick. Especially with me, they see the persona on stage and they just automatically assume I’m this cocky guy. And that’s not who I am at all.
GM: That’s true for any performer. We only get a really small window into who they are and people extrapolate from it that’s how they are all the time.
GM: So are there misconceptions besides that you’ve heard about you?
RP: No. Again, I don’t really look for it at all. I’ll give you an example. I have something like 230,000 or 240,000 followers on Twitter. Ninety-nine percent of the time people are saying nice things and then there’s that one person who says something fucked up and that’s what sticks in my head the most. That bothers me more than all the compliments because I’m like, ‘Well, what’s your problem?’ Not like, ‘Why can’t you go along with everyone else?’ but ‘What have I done to you that you’ve decided to be this tough guy on the internet?’
GM: So were you always the guy when you were working the clubs to focus in on the one person sitting there not laughing with his arms crossed?
RP: I think that’s every comic. That’s what we do. Our job is to focus on the people that aren’t laughing: ‘Why aren’t you laughing? What can I do to make you laugh? How can I make you happy?’
GM: You’re a pleaser.
RP: I’m a pleaser. Russell Pleasers.
GM: Your Wikipedia entry says Canadian comedian, actor and disc jockey.
RP: That is correct.
GM: Disc jockey, really?
RP: Yeah, I used to deejay. Since 1985.
RP: Yeah, I used to play clubs and parties. I even entered a few deejay competitions back in the day. Scratching and mixing, yeah.
GM: You bring deejays on tour with you, right?
RP: Yeah, I bring Starting from Scratch and DJ Spinbad with me. They’ll be on tour with me all over the place.
GM: Who opens for you?
RP: On this leg of the tour, it’s Ryan Stout.
GM: That sounds familiar.
RP: He’s an up-and-coming kid out of LA. Really funny, though. You should YouTube him. He’s been on some things. He’s on Chelsea every now and then. Very funny guy.
GM: I see you on the sides of buses here in town.
RP: See? Huh? Who says I don’t take the bus?!
GM: (laughs) Nice callback. Good job. Alright Russell, you’ve got a million other press things to do today?
RP: Yeah. It’s pretty hectic today.
GM: I thought I had the scoop but I guess not.
RP: You do. You have the Vancouver scoop.
GM: Perfect. Okay, see you in a couple of weeks.
RP: You bet your ass, you will.
GM: There’s that cocky Russell Peters.
RP: (laughs) Are you coming to the show?
GM: Yeah, I am.
RP: Okay, great.
RP: See ya, buddy.