Talking Story With Comedian Russell Peters

October 23, 2012, 4:00 PM HST · Updated October 23, 5:04 PM
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Vanessa Wolf is a Maui-based writer who would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

By Vanessa Wolf

Comedian Russell Peters. Courtesy image.

Canadian comedian Russell Peters started out as a self-described “19-year-old smart-ass.”

Comedy followed…eventually.

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“My cousin suggested I try an open mic night at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. I went up and was awful. BUT I did get a few chuckles and that was enough for me. I was hooked. That was 23 years ago. It took me 10 years before I was even just OK. It takes a long time to find your voice. It’s not a race, there’s no finish line. I do stand-up because it’s my calling. I have to do it.”

This Friday, Peters – ranked as the 7th highest paid comedian by Forbes – plays at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.

His observational style of comedy highlights racial, ethnic, class and cultural stereotypes. Having grown up in an Indian family, he impersonates the varying accents of different groups, poking friendly fun at each.  If you’ve never caught his act, several of his comedy specials are currently available on Netflix.

Peters’ lineup of favorite comedians hits on many of the greats: George Carlin, Steve Martin, Cheech and Chong, and Eddie Murphy make the list.

“There are a lot of good comics out there now,” Peters observed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say they ‘inspire me,’ but they definitely motivate me to be a better comic and keep creating new material. There are also a lot of guys who aren’t that great, but they motivate me to be better too.”

The 2012 leg of the tour was limited to very few American cities: New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Honolulu…and Kahului!?

When asked about this, Peters explained, “I’ve never played Maui before and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m actually doing more American cities as the tour moves into 2013. I spent 2012 working the act internationally and across Canada. I get to come to Hawaii. I think I’m the lucky one here.”

As for his trip, when we inquired if he had special plans while here, Peters answered, “Just going to chill out and hopefully make people laugh. Enjoy the heat: I love the heat. Hang out on the beach. Have a shaved ice…”

Speaking of food, when challenged with picking his favorite local food, Peters was admittedly unfamiliar. However, he’s game to jump in with both feet. If offered Spam musubi, loco moco, or halo halo, Peters is open to two…if not three, considering his earlier interest in shave ice.

“I grew up with Spam sandwiches, so I could start there, but that loco moco looks pretty good to me too.”

Considering this is his first gig on Maui, we wondered if he was aware of our unique racial diversity and whether or not he might adjust his act accordingly.

“I do my best to acknowledge the local differences wherever I am,” Peters replied. “I grew up with a lot of Filipinos in the suburbs of Toronto and have played Manila before. Most of my audiences around the world are mixed and I grew up in a completely mixed environment – to me that’s normal. Sometimes my agents will be like, wow I’ve never seen so many different races at a show before and I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s the world. That’s normal.’”

Check out Russell Peters’ humorous view of the world this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $65.

Are you a local artist – sculptor, poet, mime, slack key guitar player, tattoo artist, photographer, pastry chef, performance artist, sand castle builder or comedian – with an interesting story to tell? Know of a great band, artist, author, filmmaker, or event coming to town? Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you! Vanessa(@mauinow.com)

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