Comedy is a calling. You do it because you have to, not for fame.
Canadian stand-up comic Russell Peters’ contribution to the world of live comedy is laudable, and we’re not just talking about the fact that he taught audiences across the globe that punani means flower and vagina in two different languages. Asmita Bakshi spoke to him about what his parents felt about his profession and what he thinks about the stand-up scene in Mumbai .
Q. How did life as a stand-up start for you? A. I started out by doing an open mic night at Yuk Yuk's (comedy club) in Toronto. It was 1989 and I had no real act and the material that I did have sucked. Eventually, I started getting paid gigs around Toronto and in small towns across Ontario. The pay was terrible, and sometimes I would drive two or three hours for just enough money to cover my gas and maybe I would get a free meal at the club. It wasn't glamorous, but I loved it. I never expected to be where I am today, but it has been 24 years since I started. I meet a lot of young comedians who expect to “make it” after doing stand-up for just a year. I tell them that it's not a race. There's no shortcut and you can't be doing stand-up for the money or the fame. You do it because you have to. It's a calling.
Q. What are your thoughts on the upcoming talent in India?
A. I think that's great. I know a few of the guys who are successful here, Vir Das and Papa CJ. It will take time for people to accept stand-up comedy as a profession though. When I told my parents I wanted to do stand-up comedy, they just looked at me and said, “That's nice son.” I might as well have told them I want to be an astronaut.
Q. What are your expectations from this visit?
A. I love coming to India. I have a great time when I am here and I am sure my fans will have a great time too.