At GM Place on Tuesday, June 16. Remaining performance on Wednesday, June 17
Russell Peters is a freakin’ rock star. To see GM Place filled to the rafters, cheering on the Canadian comedy icon, is a sight to behold. But there are no bells and whistles to his act. No light show. No gimmicks. Just two hours of good, old-fashioned standup comedy.
It’s easy—and fun—to dump on the í¼bersuccessful, but Peters is a solid performer who appeals to every ethnicity, and just about every culture seemed represented at Tuesday night’s show. Unlike Dane Cook—the last comic to play the Garage, and one who wants so badly to be liked by his fans—Peters appears not to care, which works to his benefit. He doesn’t come across as a needy friend. He can take us or leave us, and we love him for it. He’s as quick to shoot down an overly eager crowd member (“How about I just do what I’m doing and you just fucking listen?”) as he is to insult his fans (“Arab women are fucking hot. Maybe not these ones [in attendance] but the ones over there [in the Middle East].”).
The crowd is always with him, too, even when he steps way over the line. When he noticed a shaky spotlight, Peters looked up and wondered if it was Michael J. Fox at the controls, eliciting jeers from almost everyone. He took it in stride: “I will accept the boos on that one. I’m a comic; I have no editing system.”
He is self-assured, calm, cool, and very quick. His act is equal parts stories, opinions, and unparalleled crowd work, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If an anecdote lulls, he’ll change pace by zeroing in on a person and drilling him or her with questions and comments. Stage-side cameras pick up the subjects of his teasing so we can all enjoy a hearty laugh at someone else’s expense. And when he’s had enough of his surroundings, it’s back to another prepared bit.
The Brampton, Ontario, native now tours the world to play sold-out houses, and he told stories of his exotic travels, from partying in a Beirut bomb shelter to chatting with the king of Jordan to a discussion he had with a homeless boy in India. That last yarn, while absurd and funny, had a warm undercurrent: when he notices that the child has no shoes, the kid replies, “That’s okay—that guy’s got no feet.” Peters keeps on going until they reach a person with just a head. Part Monty Python, part Baruch Spinoza, Peters uses such bizarre stories to tell us we shouldn’t be so concerned with our petty personal problems, because someone else always has it worse.
As for the venue, Peters is in his element on such a grand stage. He was always a fine club comic and a first-rate theatre act, but he’s reached the status that suits him best: comedy rock star. The Peter Principle says everyone will rise to his level of incompetence. Peters has risen as high as he can get in standup comedy and is only getting better. Call it the Peters Principle.