Why the world needs more people like Russell Peters

“Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.”

That’s what Russell’s dad would say prior to beating him up, just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years.

For all you deprived people out there who don’t know who Russell Peters is, go on to YouTube right now and type in “Russell Peters be a man.” Thank me later. The rest of you thankfully know what I’m talking about.

Undoubtedly, Russell Peters is one of the biggest and most successful stand up comedians today. He has performed in front of unprecedented crowds for a stand up comedian to the likes of 30,000 people at the O2 Arena in London. In 2013 alone, Peters pocketed a lazy $19 million US, second behind Jerry Seinfeld with $23 million.

Most of his jokes and stories highlight racial, cultural, and ethnic stereotypes. He uses many of his own experiences of growing up in an immigrant Anglo-Indian family in Canada whilst pulling off incredible accents to replicate various groups of people.

Like so many others, I first came to know of Russell Peters through his 2004 Comedy Now show, which went viral on YouTube. Chinese, Indian, African, Jamaican, Jewish and Anglo-Saxon communities were all on his hit list.

I remember watching his show for the first time thinking “this shit is amazing.” This guy is pulling off an incredible Chinese accent and making fun of everyone, and the audience is trying their hardest not to piss themselves with laughter. How good.

Then he got to the part about his dad.

This 1 minute bit (see the video above) instantly reminded me of my dad and every other male Indian that I’ve ever met. It’s not racist, its just the truth. All Russell is doing is highlighting the common characteristics of 99.8% of Indian dads. Mayne not 99.8% but you catch my drift. Why do you think people in the audience are pissing themselves? Because it probably reminds them of their own father too.

I was lucky enough to watch Russell Peters live when he came to Adelaide in 2006 for his Australian tour. What was most memorable about that night aside from the stomach cramps that came from too much laughing was the mix of people who were in the audience. White guys sitting next to Indians sitting next to Chinese sitting next to Persians all smiling and laughing for an hour and a half.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many places where you see instances of that.

The fact that the man can openly joke about Muslim – Jewish relations in complete freedom shows the confidence he has in the kind of people he engages – people that are not silly enough to still think that an us vs them mentality is still appropriate in the 21st century.

Russell said so himself: “Eventually the whole world is going to be beige.”

The whole experience of being in his audience got me thinking – why is everyone here? Why does everyone find Russell Peters so funny? Why do these people find it funny when Russell does a 7 minute bit on why Chinese people are rip offs, but there are others out there that will condemn him for being so ignorant and racist?

Russell Peters is not ignorant, or racist for that matter. In fact he is quite in tune with various cultures, and clearly has the knowledge and insight to back it up. Whilst he never fails to humour the audience with his witty and well prepared bits, he often provides interesting information surrounding various ethnic groups such as the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin or the history regarding mass immigration to the UK. A lot more than what the common man would probably know.

So why do we need more people like Russell Peters?

Not so much do we need more stand up comedians that do what he does, but we need a society that shares his outlooks. This isn’t me telling you to call SNIPER as soon as you see a red dot on an Indian’s forehead, but use the platform Russell Peters has laid to become more familiar with people different from you. Talk about your differences. Celebrate your differences. Connect and become friends with people from other walks of life.

Many people would tag Russell Peters and his jokes as racist. I think that’s kind of sad.

When is racism most common? When ignorance is prevalent. When is ignorance most prevalent? When a person is not well informed.

All you have to do is watch five minutes of his show to realise just how much this guy knows about different cultures and ethnic groups. He has clearly interacted and made friends with people from all walks of life. People from the audience love it when he brings up something from their culture. It not only portrays Peters’ in depth understanding of a particular culture, but it gives the people in the audience a chance to laugh and self reflect.

“When you laugh at yourself, nobody can ever make a fool out of you.”

Racism is definitely prevalent in wider society, but through mediums like this, people have the ability to learn more about each other, and become closer together. Each culture, ethnic group and country has its own individual features and trademarks that help define it in today’s society. Russell effectively draws upon these features, not to divide, but to celebrate and unite. I think the 20 million views for his video on why white people need to beat their kids speaks for itself.

At the end of the day, Russell said it best himself:

“I don’t make stereotypes, I just see them.”

 

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