Russell Peters Live In Singapore
Last night I had the chance to catch the first of Russell Peters two sell-out shows in Singapore. Along with 10,000 other fans, I made my way to the Singapore Indoor stadium with high hopes of a fun night’s entertainment. The Rockstar Comedian Peters has become something of a rockstar in the comedy world. He […]
Last night I had the chance to catch the first of Russell Peters two sell-out shows in Singapore. Along with 10,000 other fans, I made my way to the Singapore Indoor stadium with high hopes of a fun night’s entertainment.
The Rockstar Comedian
Peters has become something of a rockstar in the comedy world. He recently played a 13,800 seat gig in Sydney, the largest ever in Australia for a comedian and has broken comedy event record sales in a number of countries, including the UK. His concert DVDs are best sellers and there are millions of views for clips of his routines on YouTube.
Peters’ brand of humour is a mix of observational humour, satire and mimicry. It’s an understatement to say he has a gift for accents. Anyone can do a simple Chinese accent. But, it takes skill to really understand the differences between Chinese languages and regional accents, then translate that back into the different ways Chinese people speak English, then turn that into a memorable comedy routine!
And, he does it with all sorts of other Asian, Middle Eastern, European and Latin American accents. No wonder Peters has such a global audience.
Peters In Singapore
When we arrived, DJ Ono was spinning a cool set. The music was interrupted at regular intervals by a loud announcement suggesting anyone caught trying record the concert (or use a mobile device) would be ejected from the show.
It was a mood killer, but I didn’t mind. It must be career-shorting for a comedian to have their routines prematurely posted all over the internet. And, anything that stops people holding mobile phones over the heads, or in front of the them, during a live performance is OK with me!
Before the main show, we enjoyed a short, sharp set from comedian Joey Medina. Medina was funny, blue and topical. He made some of the obvious jokes about Singapore (no chewing gum, no pornography), but also picked up on some recent news stories as well. He was a great “wake up and shake up” opening act.
Then Peters took to the stage for an hour and three-quarters, with no break and no encore. His set was hilarious, daring, well paced and simply masterful. Most of his material was new and the few jokes we had heard before were substantially reworked.
The Comic Edge
It’s fair to say that Peters often flies close to the wind; making observations that would be considered offensive in other circumstances. He gets away with it because, of course, he’s funny. But, he also gets away with it because of his Indian background, he’s a “minority” he’s one of the types he mocks. In fact, a lot of his humour is based on the kinds of jokes we make about our own kind.
Peters liberally picked on audience members in the front rows, identifying different ethnicities then using the interactions with audience members to launch into routines. However, there was one joke that didn’t fly. Peters was asking a Chinese Singaporean which languages he spoke. When the young man said he didn’t speak Malay, Peters asked if maybe that was beneath him, which was met with jeers from the audience. Interestingly, after that Peters made hardly any jokes about Chinese people and Chinese accents.
However, he more than made up for it with some great routines about India and Indians. It was kind of fitting, because there were a lot of Indians in the audience. Having lived in India myself, I was in tears of laughter at some of the routines. His story about meeting a Bollywood actress still has me in fits of laughter, 24 hours later.
The Power Of Laughing At Ourselves
Sometimes, when confronted with great satire, or observational comedy, we find ourselves saying “that’s so true.” I think that’s part of Peters’ appeal as a comedian. It’s what stops his humour from being cruel, or offensive.
Although, I did wonder how his jokes about Australians would have been received Down Under. While I don’t agree that Australian is the worst accent in the world, it certainly isn’t one of the most attractive either. And, I totally* agree that the common greeting, “how are you going,” deserves to be mocked.
There was a wonderful moment when Peters was talking to an audience member called Usman (a fairly common name in Pakistan and Northern India). Peters couldn’t quite catch the name, because of the way it was being pronounced; us-man. Then Peters asked if it was ooz-mun, and when that was confirmed, Peters said, “don’t say it like a white guy.”
A lot of us who have grown up as Third-Culture kids have had that struggle, being able to say our name in our own language. Laughing at ourselves and the absurdity of our situation is incredibly liberating. There’s something wonderful about being able to see the humour in everything and ultimately, the humour in ourselves.
When we can laugh at ourselves then we are on the road to true freedom.
*if you were at the gig, then you know to read that as toe-tah-lee!