One of my favourite comedians is Russell Peters. Ever since his Comedy Now! special, I’ve been laughing my ass off at Peters’ observations on race and culture.
Born in Toronto and raised in Brampton (that's in Ontario, Canada, for those who are geographically challenged), Peters boasts a background of Indian heritage. His mother was born in Calcutta and his father was born in Mumbai, giving him a distinct culture that he’s constantly mined for humour.
Race is a common issue for many comedians, with Chris Rock, Paul Rodriguez, and Margaret Cho all discussing their cultures in their acts. Peters’ act relies on similar principles, as he lines his performances with notes of fondness and a sense of charm that appeals to his audience both at home in Canada and abroad.
With the new DVD, Red, White and Brown, Peters carries on where his previous comedy DVD Outsourced left off. Taped at the WAMU Theatre at Madison Square Garden in February 2008, the performance was released as a DVD/CD combo.
Peters is a master at impressions and his work is on full display here. He not only prods his own Indian heritage, but takes jabs at Asian lovers of Dance Dance Revolution and the media’s portrayal of Arabs.
Audience interaction is also an essential part of his performances, as one poor woman leaving to the bathroom learns quickly. Fart sounds and jokes about Indian food pepper her mortified exit and re-entry to the theatre, as Russell nonchalantly pokes fun at her.
Body hair, penis sizes, cheap Indians competing with the Chinese for the frugality prize, race relations, and deaf people all face the music as Peters launches into a routine of material that is both hilarious and startlingly offensive. His “hatred” of deaf people stems from his understanding of sign language to include many racist inferences.
There’s no question that Peters walks and crosses many a line with his act. His racial humour remains a big hit amongst his audiences, however, as individuals from countless ethnic groups line up to see his shows around the world. His enormous multi-racial following is a testament to the human need for laughter.
The DVD/CD combo includes the act on CD, of course, but part of Peters’ joviality as a performer is the visual aspects he adds to his act. Acting out the wiping of his ass with a cup, as he had to do when visiting India, is something that has to be seen and not simply heard. The reaction shots of audience members doubled over or crying with laughter are also essential parts of this performance.
The included commentary is free-flowing, with Peters, his brother Clayton Peters, and the DVD’s director Jigar Talati yakking about anything that comes to mind. There are also some deleted scenes, including Peters’ thoughts on relationships and a segment discussing his journey to a USO performance.
All in all, Red, White and Brown makes for a side-splitting addition to the comedy library of those among us who don’t take things too seriously. Peters is offensive, riotous, and ultimately amiable with his cheeky and jubilant comedic viewpoint.