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Dubai: Comedian Russell Peters on cancel culture, comedy and more

Catch his ‘Act Your Age World Tour’ in the city


Ambica Sachin

Published: Tue 8 Mar 2022, 2:50 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Mar 2022, 2:54 PM

He’s got a way of working the crowd that is equal parts fun and laughter and fear and trepidation. Russell Peters has gained global fame by poking fun at people and accentuating every single stereotype out there, be it gender, ethnicity or culture. In a world where political activism is rampant and cancel culture on the rise, nobody dare accuse the Indo-Canadian comedian of being politically correct. It’s a tag he’s proud to flaunt. Born in Toronto, Canada, to immigrant Indian parents, Peters’ signature set chiefly veers around mining stereotypes many of which are drawn from his own ethnicity and race. But at the heart of it all he says is his mission to make people laugh, so what if it comes at the cost of their ego!


When we catch up with him over Zoom ahead of his Act Your Age Dubai show on March 8, we are determined to learn more about an artist who makes us laugh self-consiously at our own foibles, by shining a light on the very DNA that makes us who we are. But when we fess up our apprehension at going for his show over fears of being picked on in front of a live audience (we’d rather watch him from the safety of our home, thank you) for a moment there is an incredulous look on his face.

From cancel culture to ageing and the current state of the world, his new tour sees the ace comedian handle it all with trademark panache. Excerpts from our interview with the man who makes us look inwards and instils an awareness that despite the seeming differences we are all the same at the end of the day.

Congratulations on your wedding! You are among the rare artists who got hitched in between a world tour!

In between a pandemic and a world tour, I lost and found love, I made love! It was a lot of love everywhere!

So are there going to be loads of marriage jokes this time around?

No, not really. I don’t think that’s the angle I’m going for; I am just going with having to deal with being an old guy now.

Your world tour is named Act Your Age. How is this appropriate in the context of your own life right now? You are 51, just got married, have kids..

Because I am still very immature! I am at an age where I am not even middle aged anymore. I am past middle aged; I’m closer to dementia than anything else!

When I say act your age, for me, I will be 52 this year, so I’ve got to act at least like I’m 40. Because I definitely am not going to act my age.

If you could freeze time, what age would you choose to be?

This is going to sound awful, but I would go back to 39 and make different decisions.

How does it feel to get back to Coca-Cola Arena, where you were the first act to perform when it opened in 2019?

I’m excited to come back because the cool part is that I opened the Arena, and then less than a year later everything got shut down, and now everything is starting to kick-start up. It feels like I’m part of the crew that is reopening it again! So I opened it, now I’m getting to reopen it again! I may not be the first guy in it now, but I am definitely at the beginning of it.

Today you are likely to find more Indians among a New York audience and vice versa. As such how do you manage to bring out a fresh act for each set of audience?

It is kind of like this — if you go to a steak restaurant, you are not going to bring a vegan with you. So the people who are coming to see me are getting exactly what they want. I’m their steakhouse so to speak — maybe a steak house isn’t the right answer for Indian people, but you get the idea!

You’ve mentioned you never get into politics or religion during your act. Is that like a set rule for you?

For the most part, yes. There are people who dedicate their whole career to politics; comics who are in tune with the political world and in all fairness you just turn on the TV and see about 10-15 different channels talking about the same political events. For free. Why would you want to come hear a guy who knows nothing about it talk about it?

And religion is something that is so personal to people that it is not fair for me to say anything one way or the other.

So I figure with the two things — one I know nothing about and the other is too risky as far as I’m concerned because you can be misunderstood in that field — (better to) avoid them both.

It takes a lot of courage to be a comedian today because cancel culture is huge…

Is it though??? Have you ever met a person who is into cancel culture? I’ve never physically met one. These are all online; bots as far as I’m concerned. People are bowing down to this weird .5 per cent. I’ve never physically met one… Do you have a face for anyone on this? I don’t have a face of anybody on this.

I don’t believe it is like a real thing. It’s one of those things where you empower people who had no power ever.

With the pandemic and a world in conflict, do you think people need to laugh more now?

Whether it is me or somebody else, the world definitely needs to laugh a lot more. We need to forget about our problems and we need to remember we were once much happier.

After all these years of performing, do you still get the jitters when going on stage?

Not so much the jitters but when you are at the Coca-Cola Arena and you know 10-15,000 people have come to see you — I’ve been to Dubai so many times and they consistently show up and give me great energy — the feeling I get backstage is; I really don’t want to disappoint these people. Let me make sure I remember everything.

Do you ever feel this huge pressure to be the funniest person in the room?

I don’t know what other people are expecting but I know who I am and I know my personality. Sometimes people go; ‘you don’t have to be funny right now’, and I’m not trying to be, it is literally my nature. I like seeing people laugh, I like meeting people, I like figuring out what makes different people smile. I like connecting with people, so for me it is no pressure when I walk into a room. For me it is like, aah, wonder what’s going to happen in here.

Has anybody you have picked on during your show ever accosted you afterwards?

No (laughs). When you are in the room when I’m doing it, you understand the tone of what’s happening. Sure, sometimes — I’ll give you this — I may go past the line. Even then I will call myself out and say; ‘That was unnecessary’. But, no, I don’t do this to hurt anybody’s feelings. I just do it more to make you uncomfortable because when people are uncomfortable it is really funny.

Did you know?

*Peters has a blue belt with three stripes in Jiu Jitsu.

*He is an ardent DJ and hip-hop junkie who likes to spend a few minutes on the turntables every day.

*He has a TV series The Indian Detective out on Netflix. And also was seen in feature film, Clifford The Big Red Dog.

*His Podcast Culturally Cancelled with Russell Peters is a mix of laugh-out-loud comedy with candid conversation as he chats up celebrity guests.

*He is part of Rolling Stone’s ‘50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time’.

Catch Russell Peters on March 8 at the Coca-Cola Arena

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