Russell Peters is a global comedy sensation. He’s regularly listed among the highest-paid comedians in the world by Forbes magazine, selling out stadiums and arenas in London, New York and Mumbai, where he taped his latest stand-up special, Deported, for Amazon Prime Video.
But as he explains on this week’s new episode of The Last Laugh podcast, he still has trouble getting booked on talk shows.
“The people who know me and come out and see me, love me,” Peters says. “It is what it is,” he adds, telling anyone who doesn’t want to get on board, “That’s your fucking problem.”
It’s been seven years since his special Notorious became the first-ever original comedy special to stream on Netflix, but with that service getting so “crowded,” he says he was eager to find a new platform for his work. “Let’s be honest, if you’ve got Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy coming on Netflix, I’m not going to watch me either!” he jokes.
Not that the 49-year-old, Toronto-born comic could figure out how to find his new special on Amazon. “This is going to sound bad, but I tried to watch it and I didn’t know my login,” he admits. “I literally OK Boomer’d myself.”
On using an Indian accent on stage
“I’m not just doing it willy-nilly. I’m doing it because I’m talking about my parents or my family. That’s how they sounded. If a white guy goes, my dad said, ‘Hey, you son of a bitch!’ [puts on a Boston accent], no one’s like, ‘Why are you using that weird voice?’ That’s how he talked. Nobody says that to a white guy who does that. But I’m being ‘hacky.’ No, I’m just being true to what I’m talking about. Maybe some young Indian comics don’t want to do it because they don’t want people to go, ‘Oh, Russell Peters does that.’ But if it’s your reality, it’s your reality.”
On his ‘both sides’ approach to Donald Trump
“If you want to hear Trump material, you can basically put on the TV at any point in the day and you’re going to hear it for free. You have a better chance of hearing a much better joke there than you’re going to hear from me. And look, I’m a visitor in America. I’ve been living here for 14 years. I’m Canadian. I can’t vote. I can have opinions, but that doesn’t mean my opinions are worth anything. Basically, if someone was like, ‘You can’t vote, you’re not from here, shut the fuck up,’ I’d be like, ‘Fair assessment on your behalf.’ So I kind of stay out of it. But it’s a weird time we’re living in right now. There are people who love Donald Trump and there are people who hate—who despise Donald Trump. There’s nobody in the middle. Have you ever met anyone who says, ‘I don’t know, I’m gonna give him a chance, he’s not so bad?’ It’s extreme on both sides—extreme blind love and extreme blind hate. So I stay out of it. Because I’m the guy in the middle. It’s not that I think he’s great, I’m just kind of like, I don’t have any opinion on this one. I stay out of it, I stay neutral. I go, you go love who you want to love, you go hate who you want to hate, just go buy tickets to see me.”
On people ‘digging up’ old offensive tweets and jokes
“Here’s the problem when they dig up old things like that. And Kevin Hart’s a prime example. When he was gonna host the Oscars and then they dug up this old tweet. That was a tweet from 10 years before, when he said something that was deemed homophobic. Then they look at the tweets from 10 years onwards, he never said anything remotely like that ever again. Yet you want to punish him for saying it 10 years ago? You’re like, ‘You need to understand, you need to change.’ He clearly changed. But you want to negate that change that he made. So do you want change or do you not want change? Do you want the change or do you want to wallow in what makes you feel important in your little world? I know that my intent has always been pure. It’s never deviated from, ‘I just want you to laugh.’ Sometimes I’ll post old clips on my Instagram from 14, 15 years ago and people will say, ‘Hey, that’s not cool, you shouldn’t say that!’ Shut the fuck up. When I said it then, people knew what I meant.”
On the fans who want him to replace Hank Azaria as Apu on ‘The Simpsons’
“I heard there was a petition to get me to replace him. I thought that was pretty funny. Listen, if they offered me a gig, I’d be like, ‘I’m not going to be Apu but you can write a new Indian character and I’ll be him.’ What would be the point of taking over Apu? It’s a cartoon, he’s not a real person. You can draw a new guy. You’ve got to understand, if you were an Indian person in North America, we were an invisible minority as far as film and television goes. And that’s part of the reason I got into the business, because I was like, there’s nobody who looks like me on TV. There’s nobody who sounds like me doing what I do. The closest thing, I thought, was Erik Estrada. I thought he was Indian. We were underrepresented. So even with Apu, I was like, ‘Ooh, an Indian guy.’ I didn’t care if it was negative or not at the time, we didn’t think like that. It didn’t occur to me.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Actor and comedian Ben Schwartz.