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::EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW::   
LE Newsletter - October 20, 2005

 

 

Interview With Russell Peters

As released in last weekís edition of my newsletter, the hot news is out that comedian Russell Peters is the next great Canadian to plant some roots stateside.  Russellís comedy has been so popular in this country that it has landed him 4 Gemini Awards (Canadaís answer to the Emmy Awards). Most recently, he was nominated at the Canadian Comedy Awards for Best Male Comic.  He has recently signed a television deal with Warner Bros. Television to develop his own sitcom, which is scheduled to be aired in the fall of 2006.  

Look for Russellís performances tonight and tomorrow in Toronto
(Thursday, October 20 and Friday, October 21) at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts and in Mississauga on Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23 at The Living Arts Centre.  

I had the opportunity to sit down with Russell at Lobby Lounge and Restaurant at 192 Bloor Street W. this week (
www.eatdrinkplay.ca).  My thanks to his brother/manager, Clayton Peters and publicist Danielle Iversen (all pictured right) for hooking up this interview.

LE:

Most people know your special brand of comedy and that it embraces unique influxes of racial humour directed at stereotypes.  How did it come about that you got on board with Tom Werner (Carsey-Werner) and his new associates Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold who are set up at Warner Bros. Television?

Russell:

I donít actually know how it came together Ė we have theories on how it came together.  A lady named Kathleen Litery (sp) came to one of my shows at the Laugh Factory in June and she became a fan.  She was having lunch with Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold and she mentioned my name.  They did some investigation and found out that Jimmy Millerís son, whoís 13, was already a fan.  Basically, that sealed the deal I think. 

Jim Carreyís people are the ones producing my show. Jimmy Miller and Eric Gold are Jim Carreyís managers as well as Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell.  They are the elite of the elite as far as managers go. 

LE:

What exactly is a talent development deal in the U.S.? 

Russell:

They are going to develop a sitcom around me, for me.  I am story editing and creative consulting. 

LE:

What can we look forward to, based on a current format?  I saw a reference to Ray Romano.

Russell:

No, thatís the way we thought it was going to go initially.  Weíre not doing a family-based sitcom, weíre doing a workplace sitcom.  Itís not an office though.  Itís more of a relaxed work atmosphere. 

LE:

Whatís the most exciting aspect of the deal for you? 

Russell:

Right now, this is all the exciting part.  Every day itís more exciting.  First, you hear that these guys are interested then the second thing is they propose an offer.  Then you accept the offer then they fly you in and you meet with them and then they come up with an idea and they find a writer.  You know, this whole process is fun right now.

Iím sure casting is going to be even more fun because theyíre going to build a really solid cast around me. 

LE:

Do they have ideas as to who theyíre going to cast or can you say?

Russell:

Well, theyíve dropped some names and I was quite impressed with the names they dropped. 

LE:

Who are some of the people that youíll be working with behind the scenes? 

Russell:

My writer as it stands right now is Tom Brady Ė he was a writer on The Simpsons, he wrote The Hot Chick and The Animal.  He also used to write on Home Improvement.

LE:

And thatís right up your alley as far as to the style of your comedy.  What about the timing of this?

Russell:

Well, itís been 16 years in the making really.  Itís multi-ethnic, multicultural.  It will be very much styled around my act.  So, there will be no apologies.


LE:


Thatís how Ray Romano got started Ė Everybody Loves
Raymond was based on his stand-up.

Russell:

Mine will have a little bit more of an edge to it.  (laughs)

LE:

Does this new deal mean that youíll be touring less and living between Toronto and LA? 

Russell:

I think as soon as we get the first pilot episode written, then the touring will have to stop for a minute.  When I can tour, I will.  

LE:

Speaking of the tour, where will you be after the Canadian tour?

Russell:

Iím between the two, Iím here, Iím there (U.S.).  The Canadian tour is the Canadian tour but then weíre doing other U.S. dates as well. 

Iím doing the HBO Vegas Comedy Festival in November.  Itís the first year for it Ė (Jerry) Seinfeld will be there, (Dave) Chappelle will be there, Iíll be there, Ricky Gervais will be there from The Office. 

LE:

Are you weirded out by all this?

Russell:

No, you know why Iím not?  Because when I show up at these events, nobody really fawns over me because all these other guys are there.  So, itís kind of cool because I still get to be the fly on the wall. 

LE:

So, the plan is to become a comedic superstar Ė whoís your favourite comedic superstar? 


Russell:


I donít want to say thatís the plan, but I guess it is the plan.  I
mean, George Carlin is the guy I always liked.  But, you know, he could walk through a mall and not everyone would know who he is.  I mean, I think heís a brilliant comic.  All the old school cats I really dug Ė thatís why I got into it. 

LE:

What pieces of advice do you give someone who wants to become a comedian? 

Russell:

Donít steal material.  Itís like wearing another manís underwear Ė why would you do that?  Iíll give you the same advice that George Carlin gave me Ė get on stage as much as possible, no matter what.  The more you get on stage, the better you get, the more it helps.  And if you bomb, thatís not a bad thing.  Bombingís good for you because it shows you how you donít want to feel. 

LE:

Other than George Carlin, who are some of your other influences - not just in comedy but also musicians, etc. 

Russell:

Iím a hip hop junkie.  Iíve been listening to the music for over 20 years.  Thatís very much shaped who I am, and the way I think, how I look at things and how I dress, how I carry myself.

LE:

Canadian artists, whoís your favourite on the urban scene?

Russell:

Kardinal, Saukrates Ė those guys are really talented.  Kardinalís got some really hot songs and Saukrates is an all-round artist, as far as producer, musician, artist, rapper, singer.  And kos as well.  I mean, all these guys, they all really do their thing and they donít really try to do the U.S. thing Ė theyíre trying to do their own thing.  I think thatís the key to success Ė when you do Ďyouí. 

LE:

Yes exactly, and I think this is the reason why this break has come for you.  Youíve got a unique brand of comedy with a global appeal.  We have a very  unique experience here in Canada.  Whatís been one of the highlights of your career?

Russell:

Headlining the world famous Apollo Theatre in April.  That was a real buzz.  I sold it out and I tell you something, I was so in the zone, and the show went so well, I really didnít want to get off the stage that night.  I did exactly one hour but I really wanted to stay.  It was the fact that it was the Apollo, 1,500 (sold out) seats, but it was the Apollo.  Everybodyís performed there.  I mean, considering that I grew up listening to Black music, every Black artist has performed there.  So, I felt like I was in the shadow of greatness the whole night. 

LE:

How is your (Indian) community embracing your success?

Russell:

My community right now is at the height of my support Ė theyíre right there with me and I couldnít be more happy about that.  Thereís nothing better than getting accepted by your own people.  Itís better when other people accept you too - it makes it all the more sweeter.

LE:

In your travels, what country stood out the most to you?

Russell:

South Africa always.  I love it Ė itís beautiful, itís hot. Durban, specifically.  The culture - everything, itís really cool over there Ė theyíve got the Indian Ocean right there. 

LE:

Whatís in your CD player right now?


Russell:


I got this really dope mixed tape from LA, itís called
Jon Moskowitz Presents Blue Eyes Meets Bed-Stuy.  Some guy took Frank Sinatra songs and mixed Biggie over it.  Itís ridiculous!  The Little Brother album is also very good Ė a solid album.

LE:

If you could work with any artist (living or past), who would they be?


Russell:


I would like to look out for my brown brothers and do something with
Ben Kingsley or Engelbert Humperdinck Ė those are both my brown brothers.

LE:

What do you want people to remember you for? 

Russell:

Being first.  Trailblazing.  I didnít set out to become that but when you find out that you are that, itís even cooler to know.  There were other Indian guys that may have tried it before me, but then I found one guy was Trinidadian posing as an Indian, one guy was Iranian posing as an Indian.  Iím the real deal baby!  (laughs) So, itís really cool that Iím the first.  And like Grandmaster Flash said - it doesnít matter who comes after me or whoís better than me, the fact of the matter is that I was the first.


What a year!  Russell Peters is certainly on the fast track to success Ė if you can call 16 years of hard work and intensive touring, fast!  Russellís star continues to shine as he performs before sold-out crowds from Toronto to New York to LA.  Iím so proud of Russell for breaking through in such a tough industry. Stay tuned to my newsletter for further updates on Russellís career.