Out of curiosity I was looking on wikipedia and learned (according to the anonymous wiki scribe) that Russell Peters has been a DJ since 1985. Maybe we should have stuck around but I couldn’t get excited knowing how typical the songs available in the crates were going to be.
The best comedy is truthful and finds a clever if not uproarious way in which to speak unspoken and/or uncomfortable truths. I think Chris Rock is great at this. This is different from simply breaking taboos and saying things to be offensive. Early on in the show Russell asked for members of different ethnic groups to make their presence known one at a time. Where my Indians at? Latinos? Blacks? etc. He never called out for “Arabs”(his term) until long after making them the butt of a lot of harsh jokes that had a timbre and reception different from any other ethnic humor during the night. The jokes revolved around the stereotypical image of Arabs as insane, homicidal, bomb-wielding terrorists. The best humor doesn’t reinforce stereotypes but flips them and yields a new perspective. The crowd would get incredibly loud, hooting and hollering and stamping their feet during these bits. Unlike much of Russell’s comedy these bits showed little insight or perspective. Bringing people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds together just to laugh at the mainstream media’s current scapegoat people is hardly revolutionary or inspiring. Now obviously my ideas for Russell’s comedy and its potential are very different from his own. He’s just trying to get paid. I just see lost potential. “He’s just being funny. It’s just comedy. Don’t take it so seriously, yaar.” Well, no shit he’s just trying to be funny but there are a number of ways to be funny and some require little more than eliciting knee-jerk responses.
Russell also did a bit making fun of deaf people. To me this was an example of breaking taboos and being offensive that was actually funny and insightful. His bit revolved around not feeling sorry for deaf people because they don’t miss anything of the hearing world and are probably a lot better off in most situations not being able to hear. Knowing the pride and self-sufficiency of many in the deaf community I think he pegged their resistance to hearing-world condescension right on. He also pointed out the stereotypical and inflammatory ASL signs for different races which I can’t vouch for as far as accuracy because I only know a few ASL signs.
When I’m watching comedy I’m rarely thinking of ways I could improve the comic’s bits. I’m usually either entertained and following along or bored. With Russell’s act there were many times that I thought of very interesting places that he could push his routines that he didn’t use. There were a lot of points where I thought things could get very interesting and instead the thread just stopped not pushing into any new places. At one point he was talking about how you can’t tell different ethnicites by looking at them but the way they speak English will always give them away. People were obviously psyched to see him do this bit since well-done accents are a huge part of his act. He did a funny impersonation of a Vietnamese English speaker and then a Korean speaker that fell very flat, a broad exaggerated slow speech that didn’t accurately reflect any Koreans with whom Anjali or I have spoken English. And then that was that. I was expecting some tour de force of an around the world collection of accents but I think truthfully Russell has only a few accents that he relies on for his bits.