Comedian Russell Peters Insults Your Heritage Russell Peters tackles often-sensitive cross-cultural issues in his stand-up routines, and has gained international acclaim. No ethnicity or stereotype is off limits. Peters uses his Indian heritage to help reach across cultural borders and find a common, hilarious thread.
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Comedian Russell Peters Insults Your Heritage

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Comedian Russell Peters Insults Your Heritage

Comedian Russell Peters Insults Your Heritage

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

As a budding comedian, Russell Peters worked the comedy circuit in his native Canada - sure, Toronto and Montreal, but as often in Kamloops, Calgary or Medicine Hat. Then with the help of fans in cyberspace, he became a worldwide phenomenon. Peters works to sold out audiences across the globe, including Australia, India and the Philippines. He broke a comedy show box office record in the UK. He's the first South Asian to sell out the famous Apollo Theatre in New York and performed in front of a sold-out audience at Madison Square Garden. His specialty is what some might call half-neck humor. He plays on the edgy line of all kinds of cultures, especially his own, with dead-on accents.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. RUSSELL PETERS (Stand-Up Comedian): But it's true. The whole world is mixing, you know? And eventually, just gonna - everybody's gonna look the same. But I think that we're all going to mix, anyway. Let's start mixing people now that would never normally mix.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Just to see what we'll get.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: You know, hook up a Jamaican with an Italian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: They could have little Pastafarians. You know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I'm Indian. I could hook up with a Jewish girl. We could have little Hinjus.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Get a woman from the Philippines, a guy from Holland: Little Hollipinos.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Guy from Cuba, woman from Iceland: Little Ice Cubes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: A French and a Greek: Freak.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: German and a Newfie: Little Goofies. You know what I mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: It's going to happen. We might as well help it along.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I used to go out with a Chinese girl. It was wicked going out with a Chinese girl. Can you imagine if her and I had gotten serious?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Could you imagine that wedding?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: You know how much rice would have been at that wedding?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Nobody would be allowed to throw it at the bride and groom. Our parents would just freak out: What the hell are you doing?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: You're wasting the food.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I told you not to invite white people to the wedding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: They throw the bloody food around.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Let's go to their weddings and throw mashed potatoes at them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And if you'd like to talk with Russell Peters about his comedy and life in the comedy business, give us a call. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: You can join the conversation on our Web site. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION. We'll also get questions from the audience here in Studio 4A. Later in the program, Bruce Campbell joins us from Miami. He's a costar in the cable TV series "Burn Notice" and the star, director and producer of "My Name is Bruce." But first, Russell Peters joins us in Studio 4A. This year, he celebrates 20 years in stand up. His latest DVD is entitled "Red, White and Brown," and he's currently on tour across the U.S. and Canada. Russell Peters, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. PETERS: Why, thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: An extraordinary moment today - we had the president of the United States addressing the Muslim world from Cairo. It's something that very few of us can relate to, but you've done things like that. You've addressed…

Mr. PETERS: Yeah. That's why I don't think it's such a big deal. And they're like, he's in Saudi Arabia. I'm like, I was in Bahrain. It's next door.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You've addressed audiences in places like Dubai, and as you mentioned, Bahrain. Do you see yourself as a cultural ambassador of any sort?

Mr. PETERS: No, not at all. I just do what I do. You know, you got to figure. You got to understand that I never came up going, I'm going to change the world. I was just, like, I just want to make people laugh. I don't want to care who they are, as long as they laugh.

CONAN: But in our culture, we've accepted that - culture of all sorts. Jazz, of course, is seen as a cultural export of the United States. Do you see comedy as a cultural export, too?

Mr. PETERS: It depends, you know. Stand-up comedy, yes, you know, but comedy in general could come from anywhere. And different countries have a different sensibility to comedy, and that's why certain films and comedians don't translate in other countries. And I think coming from Canada is the perfect hybrid of where you should be if you want to cross around the globe - I mean, where we think like Americans, and at the same time we think like British people because we're part of the Commonwealth. So we sound like you and think like the Brits, you know? And our sensibilities are - we understand both.

CONAN: And when things get tough, you just hold up your passport.

Mr. PETERS: You know, when - in a hostage situation, hold up a Canadian passport, you're good. Apparently, they're bulletproof.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Do you change your act where you're going - various places in the world?

Mr. PETERS: You have to change, you know, certain things. Certain references will change. You know, you always got to figure out who they don't like, and that's the bad guy. You know, when you're in the Middle East, you learn that the rest of the Middle East thinks Saudi is the bad guy. And so all you do is make jokes about Saudi over there - unless you're in Saudi, then you're dead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Then you make jokes about everything but them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: There was a - we caught your act last night at the Improv here in Washington, D.C. here.

Mr. PETERS: And I apologize.

CONAN: No, it's - it was pretty good. But I want to see - you told…

Mr. PETERS: I did - hold on a second. Pretty good?

CONAN: Yeah. It was pretty good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You told a very funny story, though. You were in Amman, Jordan, and you get a call from the palace.

Mr. PETERS: Yes. King Abdullah gave me a call. He - turns out he was a fan. And he - it is - it's true. The King of Jordan called me in my hotel to tell me that he's a fan and that he - him and his family sit around and watch me on YouTube. And I'm thinking, wait a minute. I'm getting downloaded by the king?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I'm getting royally screwed out of royalties, here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: What did the king - did he come and see your show?

Mr. PETERS: No. He called to apologize for not being able to come to my show, like that was going to be the reason that I would, you know, like - he called to apologize. I've never met the guy. He just called. He was, like, I can't make it to your show. And I'm, like, you know, I was going to call you about that. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: What do you call the king?

Mr. PETERS: I called the king man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I did. I didn't - I can't call another man - here's the thing. He's a man and I'm a man and, you know, I'm not calling another man your majesty or your highness. It's just - no. It's all mediumness in my world. So, he was, like, I can't make it. I'm like that's too bad, man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Justy(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Would you do the same if you met Queen Elizabeth?

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, you know, I would be, like, hello ma'am.

CONAN: Ma'am. There's your mother coming back.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah. I'm, like, hello, Ms. Queen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I don't think I could do it. Even if I met the president, I'm like - because, you know, this president, you feel - everybody feels like they know him. You know, that's the thing with Barack Obama. Everybody feels like they know him. So I don't even know if anybody who would be, like, Mr. President. They would be like: Man, do you believe what we're doing? Like - he's like, I'm doing it, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. My guest is Russell Peters. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.rog. And we'll begin with Davell(ph). I hope I'm pronouncing that rightly. It's in Columbus, Ohio.

DAVELL (Caller): Yeah. I was wondering what inspired you to get into comedy, and specifically ethnic comedy.

CONAN: Actually, I'm in radio. I guess you were aiming that question to Russell.

Mr. PETERS: No, that was you. That was you, Neal.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: When I think ethnic, I think Conan.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: The other Conan.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah. Well, well the thing - I just was a big fan of comedy growing up, like, listening to comedy records. Yeah, I said records. And, you know, I would buy Steve Martin records, George Carlin and Cheech and Chong. I used to listen to Cheech and Chong. I had no clue they were talking about drugs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Like, I had no idea. I just - I was like a kid, and I just thought it was funny the way they spoke. I even bought that one record "Big Bamboo," and it came with like a giant rolling paper and I didn't know what it was. I was, like, this is dumb, and I threw it out. And I'm sure that my teenaged neighbors next door were like, what you're doing? You know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Collectors item, now.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, absolutely. But ethnic comedy, I don't know I never really set out to do ethnic comedy. I just happened to be an ethnic guy doing comedy.

CONAN: Well, you changed your act - what? Several years in, right?

Mr. PETERS: You know, comedy is always - it's ever-evolving. So your act - well, my act will never always be the same. I mean, I'm sure - you know, from what it was to what it is now, it's evolving again, it's just a slow evolution for me because I really don't want to let my fans down. You kind of - you can't just go, look, all right, I get what you like, but here's what I like. It doesn't matter what you like. You've got to lead people to where you want them to go, slowly.

I mean, if you take a girl to your house, you can't go, hey, look at my bedroom. You've got to be like, hey, look at the kitchen, look at the living room.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I have an elevator. Do you like that? You know, and that kind of stuff? I really do have an elevator in my house.

CONAN: Really?

Mr. PETERS: I'm excited about it. I just take it sometimes for no reason.

CONAN: Do you ever get stuck in it?

Mr. PETERS: No, but there's a phone in there if there's a problem.

CONAN: Davell, thanks very much for the call.

DAVELL: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next - this is Eric, Eric calling from Lansing, Michigan.

ERIC (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hi there.


ERIC: Thanks for having me on. I had a question in regards to - I'm just a white guy from the Midwest. Is it ever appropriate for just a white guy to do race-based humor?

Mr. PETERS: It's not really - it's not about what you are. It's about what your motivation is when you're doing it. You know, I mean, if you're doing it just because that's what you think you want to do, but you have no solid base of what you're talking about, then yeah, that's a problem. People can see through it. That's the issue with it, really. It's about motivation and why you're saying these things.

ERIC: I think that's well put.

Mr. PETERS: Well, thank you, Eric, which in fact was my dad's name.

CONAN: Eric?

Mr. PETERS: Eric. Eric Reginald Peters.

CONAN: You did - Eric, thanks very much for the call. You did one of the most extraordinary - you had a highly recognizable catchphrase that everybody around the world associated you with, and you dropped it.

Mr. PETERS: I did drop it. I dropped somebody gonna get a hurt real bad, and that's because I got bored of it. You know, there's the thing. It's not like music, where you can - you know, like I'm friends with Andy Kim, the guy that wrote "Sugar, Sugar," and I don't know how he does it, but he tours around the world still singing these songs, and I'm like, dude, don't you get bored of it?

Like as a comic, I feel - I'm starting to feel more and more like an artist because I understand what it is to get bored of something and want to move on to something else, you know, and as fun as it is for me to do it for you guys, and people love to hear it, I'm like it's been recorded a few times. You can just go play it back when you want to hear it. Here's what else I've got to say.

CONAN: How does that fact, the - all of this stuff is available on YouTube for free, or we can actually go buy your DVDs…

Mr. PETERS: That would be better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Yeah. How does that change things?

Mr. PETERS: Well, it's a double-edged sword, you know. I mean, I've been doing standup 15 years before anybody knew who I was.

CONAN: Overnight success.

Mr. PETERS: Absolutely overnight success. It really was an overnight success, if you really break it down in that sense, because the clip you played of me talking about the world mixing was from a special I did in 2003, and I shot that in August of 2003, and I had been doing standup for 14 years at that time, and I was broke, like broke-beyond-your-wildest-dreams broke when I did that. They paid me $7,500 for that, which in the comedy world is trash, like for selling one hour's worth of material that you've worked many years to put together? And is - are they playing me off?

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: Yeah, they're playing you off.

Mr. PETERS: Or is that sad music?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Like, he was broke

(Soundbite of humming)

Mr. PETERS: Why don't you just play "Cry Me a River"? Why don't you do that?

CONAN: We're going to cry a river with Russell Peters when we get back from a short break. More of your calls, as well. If you'd like to talk with him, 800-989-8255, or zap us an email, Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. There's a warning at the bottom of Russell Peters' Web site. It says: Some material may offend your heritage. Very little seems to be off-limits in his comedy: race, class, sexual orientation. He's certainly not shy about poking fun at his own South Asian ancestry.

You may have seen him headlining at the Apollo or at Madison Square Garden, on HBO or on one of his DVDs or all over YouTube. Today he's here in Studio 4A to talk a little shop and take your calls.

If you'd like to talk with Russell Peters about his comedy and life in the comedy business, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, There's a conversation at our Web site too. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's get a question from the audience here in Studio 4A.

Unidentified Woman #1: So have you ever been stumped? Have you just had that moment where I can't think of anything funny to say?

Mr. PETERS: You mean onstage?

Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.

Mr. PETERS: Oh no, then you got to quit. I've had times where, you know, I've had the old brain fart, you know, where I couldn't think of anything, and that was more of a - uh, what was I talking about? And I forgot where I'm going.

Last night on "The Late Show" I didn't know how to close the show. I had gone so off of my act that I just didn't know where I was going. I even said to the audience, I go: I have no clue how to close this show tonight. But I think it's about honesty. If you're honest with them, they - people appreciate honesty, you know?

CONAN: You talked last night in your show about the Mumbai train bombings in July of 2006. How soon is too soon to talk about, you know, terrible events like that?

Mr. PETERS: You know, that's a touchy one. I mean, I think if I was Mumbai, it would be a lot harder to talk about those things, but you know, being away from a situation - it's the same thing with 9/11. I mean, nobody talked about 9/11 for at least a couple of years, but you know, you leave America, and they're talking about it the next day.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line, and this is Abu(ph), Abu with us from Charlottesville.

Mr. PETERS: Hold on a second - seriously, Abu? Hey, buddy.

ABU (Caller): I have two questions I want to ask. Question number one -I am a black man from Africa. Do you ever do black jokes, especially African jokes? And secondly, how do you prepare yourself mentally in a sold-out stage like you always do?

Mr. PETERS: Well, in fact, I do do jokes about Africans, Abu. Where are you from in Africa?

ABU: I am from Sierra Leone.

Mr. PETERS: Ah, bon jour, monsieur, (unintelligible). Well, see, my thing is you have to know about people. Like, at least I know you speak French in Sierra Leone, right?

ABU: Right.

Mr. PETERS: Thank God.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: That would be messed up. He'd be going, No…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I prepare mentally by getting my act together, literally getting my act together. So before I do like a massive - like I go on my stadium tour next week, which is 17,000 people a show, and - but I do a club run right before I go there. So I'm doing 10 shows in a small club just to get my - I used to box. So everything is boxing with me.

You go in, you train, you do your road work, and then you spar, and then the last week, before the big fight, you either go hard, or you stop training to relax your body. But I'm going hard.

CONAN: Yeah, must help your relations with your agent too.

Mr. PETERS: Oh yeah, he's very happy with that. They're never sad. Thanks, Abu. Merci, (unintelligible).

CONAN: See, you got him to laugh. Thanks, Abu, for the call. When you do an accent, do you work on it to make sure you've got it dead on before you try it on stage?

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, I think it's offensive when you don't do somebody's accent the right way, and if you don't do it the right way, at least address it that I understand that that sounded nothing like how I wanted it to sound, however this is what I can do.

CONAN: Do you have, you know, people you call up, say: do I have this right?

Mr. PETERS: No, I just listen, and I keep listening to somebody, and I keep saying the word the way - if somebody has an accent and they talk to me, I will sometimes talk right back to them in the same accent just for fun.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Let's see what happens with this lady?

CONAN: And this lady he's pointing to is here at the microphone in Studio 4A.

Unidentified Woman #2: From the ethnic groups you've already covered, which is the newest one you added to your list?

Mr. PETERS: The newest one is…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I would say Latin people, the Latin Americans living in America and - living in L.A. and hanging out with Mexicans and dating Latinas and stuff, I think. And talking to their parents, you hear the accent, and that's the newest thing for me. I'm having fun with that one in all respects of that answer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Thanks very much for the question.

Mr. PETERS: And thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: She was an easy one to do because she sounded like all of my relatives.

CONAN: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: She could have been any one of my aunts at that point. I was expecting her to go, son, will you please take out the trash? That's the next line was out of her mouth.

CONAN: Well, you are of Anglo-Indian descent, and that's something that a lot of people don't understand.

Mr. PETERS: It's true. I am Anglo-Indian. Both my parents are Anglo-Indians, and most Indians have no clue unless they're from India. Indians from India that have just recently left India will go, oh, Anglo-Indian, yes. I went to school with a few, and then - but Indians in general, when you say Anglo-Indian, they go, what does that mean, sort of like you're half-white?

I'm like - no, stupid. I'm Anglo-Indian. Both my parents are Anglo-Indian. Engelbert Humperdinck's a famous Anglo-Indian.

CONAN: I didn't know that.

Mr. PETERS: Yes, he is. His real name is Trevor - Gerry Dorsey, Gerry Dorsey.

CONAN: Really?

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, I swear to God, that's his real name, Gerry Dorsey, right? And he was from Madras.

CONAN: Well, I know that's a question you get a lot: Is Russell Peters your real name?

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, and Cliff Richard was also an Anglo-Indian.

CONAN: Cliff Richard.

Mr. PETERS: As well, yes.

CONAN: Grew up in Britain, remember.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, they always deny. The lighter they look, the easier it is for them to escape it. But yeah, my parents were not just Anglo-Indian, they were very Anglo-Indian, and that meaning you can be - like the genuine Anglo-Indians are a dying breed. Like we're not going to be around in another 20, 30 years. Once I die, it's it. We're over.

CONAN: Good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: But there will be Anglo-Indians in the purest sense of the form, being a British man married to an Indian woman, and that will be - their kids will be Anglo-Indian, but they will not be anywhere near - they won't share the same culture that the Anglo-Indians from India share.

CONAN: Do you do a public radio accent, by any chance?

Mr. PETERS: I do not, Neal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: We need your donations. Please call in now.

CONAN: We certainly wouldn't want to be mocked here. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line.

Mr. PETERS: I would never do that, Neal.

CONAN: Derrick(ph) calling from Sacramento.

DERRICK (Caller): Hi, Russell.

Mr. PETERS: Hi, Derrick.

DERRICK: I'm sort of mixed race, black and white, and I married an Indian girl named Ali(ph), and her parents were from there.

Mr. PETERS: My parents are from Calcutta.

DERRICK: I just came back like last week. I was there for three weeks.

Mr. PETERS: Did you see my family?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DERRICK: Her brother is so conservative, my brother-in-law, and we have almost nothing in common, but he introduced me to your comedy on YouTube, and at least on one level that he and I can connect, and so it helps. We watched at Christmas one of your specials on YouTube or your clips - sorry, we didn't buy it, it was free - and even his 65-year-old mother was cracking up at it. So it was a nice little family get-together around the computer at Christmas.

Mr. PETERS: Let me ask you a question. When did her family decide to accept you?

DERRICK: You know, I don't know if her dad ever did. He passed away a year and a half ago, but her mother, I think, really did during that process. I was kind of lucky in that she was already married before she married me. She'd married a white guy before.

Mr. PETERS: Oh, okay, you were in.

DERRICK: So I figured by the time I came around, they were used to being disappointed.

Mr. PETERS: Oh, good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Because in my new act, I actually talk about how Indians have this fear of black people for no reason.

DERRICK: Well, she did tell me, she said, you know, you might not want to bring up the fact that you're black right away. Like I can kind of pass either way. So don't mention that right off the bat. She told me it's there, it's definitely there.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, they'll know. If somebody is standing beside you at the urinal, they'll know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DERRICK: But now her mother calls me her second son or her third child, so I'm in good.

Mr. PETERS: Well, there you go, and now you can have little beige babies.

DERRICK: Yeah, they'll be beige no matter what.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, there's no way around this one.

CONAN: Derrick, good luck with that.

DERRICK: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's get another question from the microphone here in Studio 4A.

Mr. PETERS: Yes, girl who painted her toes every other color she could find.

Unidentified Woman #3: My Chinese family is fairly unimpressed that I turned out to be a journalist, and I was wondering, what does your family think about you being a comedian?

Mr. PETERS: Well, my family - again, this is the difference between an Anglo-Indian and a proper Indian. Proper Indians are a little more studious and have way more ambition. Anglo-Indians in general pride themselves on not doing very much. I'm sure you know some Anglo-Indians in your life, right? And you know. She's not denying it. She's like, yes, it's true, they are lazy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: We're - you know, my family was - my dad worked in a chicken plant. Like he inspected dead chickens for a living, and my mom worked in K-Mart in the cafeteria. So we weren't exactly the overachieving Indian family to begin with, and the fact that I was like an idiot in school - I'm not making this up. My mom would literally beg me to get 50 percent. She was like, son, just pass. That's all. Just get 50. I don't care, pass. I'm like, ah, I don't know, I guess.

CONAN: Did you ever get punished for bad grades?

Mr. PETERS: Yeah, but I think after a certain point they're like, he's an idiot. They really did. I'm sure at some point my parents thought, we've got a retard on our hands. And I boxed too when I was a kid. So I could always blame it on that. Ma, I got punched in the head. I can't remember anything.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to - excuse me, I hit the wrong button. Let's go to Manpreet(ph), do I have that right, in Grand Rapids?

Mr. PETERS: Yup. Yes. You bet.

MANPREET (Caller): You got it. You got it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Go ahead. You're on the air.

MANPREET: First of all, Mr. Russell Peters, I'm a big fan. I'm actually also a brown guy and...

Mr. PETERS: I figured with a name like Manpreet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: And you're a Punjabi guy, no less.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MANPREET: Exactly. My question was, you know, from some of the older Indian community, would you say they view negatively or positively through some of your material?

Mr. PETERS: What - say that again? What...


CONAN: He's asking about older Indians. Do they view you positively or negatively?

Mr. PETERS: Do they view me positively?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. PETERS: I don't know. I'm not an old Indian guy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I - I mean, I am but I hide it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: I - you know, I don't know. I think it's - depending on what their deal is. It's one of those things where some are proud and some are embarrassed, you know?


Mr. PETERS: And I think that's a personal preference thing. And that's what comedy in general are like. Some people like it and some people don't.


CONAN: We've got this email form Sakura(ph). I'm an Asian American interested in comedy. I'm curious to know which ethnic group you find the easiest to poke fun at. And related to that, is there any ethnic group you absolutely won't make fun of or is everybody open to attack?

Mr. PETERS: Everybody is open to attack. I will not touch religion. That's the only thing I don't talk about. Because people are crazy with religion nowadays, and I'm not a really religious guy, you know? And I - I was actually, a few months ago, I was dating a born-again Christian. And that was interesting because before her - I'm not trying - can you say - I dated a porn star before her.

CONAN: Uh-huh.

Mr. PETERS: And then - and so, you know, the contrast from, you know, way too much sex to zero is great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: But then, I started - it's - like, she was like a genuine born-again - like, she was really into Jesus. And - I'm like, that's cool. I'm into you. You be into Jesus and me. Can you...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: But I was honestly getting jealous of Jesus.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: And she was like, I will never love anyone as much as I love Jesus. I'm like, you know, I'm right here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: And she's like, I'm going to go to the mall. I go, will Jesus be at the mall? You know, and then...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Then I show up at the mall and there's a guy named Jesus parking cars. Are you Jesus? And then, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You do a lot of, fair to say, blue material.

Mr. PETERS: Would you say so?

CONAN: I think so.

Mr. PETERS: I have a foul mouth on me except for here because I love you and I would never...

CONAN: Never, ever do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: No. Of course, not here. Do you find that you do that because you like it? Do you do it because audiences expect it? Why?

Mr. PETERS: I don't know. I just - I think the more comfortable I am, the more I speak like how I speak. And sometimes, you know, sometimes you get - I don't really go up and go - like, when I go dirty on stage, I don't actually do it because I have said, I'm going to be dirty tonight. It's kind of like that's the way the wind blew me that - whoa, sorry, when I say, wind blew me, I mean...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: …kind of tossed me in that direction. And by tossed me, I mean kind of…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Jeez, I'm so nervous when I can't swear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We will be back with more double entendres in just a moment.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR news.

(Soundbite of applause)

Our guest is Russell Peters. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Tom(ph). Tom with us from Nashville.

TOM (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead.

TOM: Hey, Russell…

Mr. PETERS: Hi, Tom.

TOM: I want to say I think you're really witty and talented, but at the same time I think it's unfortunate that in your routine you kind of make light of the practice of beating children.


TOM: Even saying, white folks, you need to beat your kids.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah. That's okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: What's wrong with that? I got beat, Tom. There's nothing I can do about it. See, I grew up in a culture where beating your kid is okay. And by beating your kid, I don't mean pull out an iron and burn the kid. I'm not talking good times and penny. I'm talking...

TOM: I understand.

Mr. PETERS: …you know, like when I say I got beat, you know, comedy is about exaggeration. I mean, I think - I honestly think if you beat your kids, you should only have to beat them two or three times in their life and they'll get the idea. If you have to continually beat your kid, that's a problem. And that's your kid's problem, mostly, because he didn't learn the first couple of times.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: When I talk about my dad beat me, dude, my dad beat me, honestly, maybe two or three times in my life, but I don't forget them. And he was - if you do it the right way once, all he has to do is give you the same look he gave you the first time and you remember what that felt like and you go, yeah, I didn't like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Is anything off limits?

Mr. PETERS: Religion. Just religion for me.

CONAN: Just religion.

Mr. PETERS: Yeah.

CONAN: All right. Well, we hope this next question from the audience is not off limits. Go ahead.

Mr. PETERS: This guy got beat too, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Is that right?

Unidentified Man: Obviously, that means I'm Indian. But I actually watch "Russell Peters Live" in North Carolina. And college students, they're very receptive to that kind of humor. My question is, do you ever have audiences where you actually offended someone and had them react negatively in a live audience? And how do you deal with that situation?

Mr. PETERS: Well, I mean, if they get offended, I don't think they should have been in my show in the first place. You know, I react, however. You know, I had one guy get up and swear at me and call me a racist. And then I looked at him and he was a white guy. I'm like, wait a minute. I'm confused.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: What are you offended about? And I was in the middle of doing Chinese jokes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: It's not like I was like, hey, white people this, white people that. I don't ever do that. I always make sure that everybody gets hit exactly - it may not be the same way but it's with the same velocity. You know, you - you can't, you can't go easier on someone and harder on the next person. You've got to - I mean, the only people I go a little bit harder on is my own people. And that's because they're my people and you're always a little harder on the ones closest to you, you know?

CONAN: Well, we have another question at the mic from one of your own people, I think a girl from Canada.

Mr. PETERS: Oh - that, no. It's the brown guy. He came back. He's like…

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Quickly. We just have a little time left.

Mr. PETERS: It's a pretty girl from Canada. Are you from Canada?

Unidentified Woman #4: My parents are.

Mr. PETERS: Oh. Why did you guys deny us all of a sudden?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Woman #4: Right. Well, actually, you just answered my question. But I was wondering how did you grow up with people's reactions to you? Like in school, would people ever react badly to you if you ever have like a ethnic moment?

Mr. PETERS: An ethnic moment?

Unidentified Woman #4: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: That's going to be the name of my book, "My Ethnic Moment."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Well - see, growing up was very different for me. When I was growing up, it was - I was - I grew up around the black kids. So the racial jokes would fly back and forth all day because when you hang around black guys, that's all you do is snap on each other all day.

And I would get - they would always hit me with the 7-11 jokes and the curry smuggler. That was their big one, curry smuggler.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: Hey, curry smuggler. And I would make lip jokes and you have no - you-don't-know-your-dad jokes and stuff like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PETERS: And, and that's honestly how I grew up. So that's - it was just between me and the black guys all the time. And then, if the Filipinos came in the fray, they'd get it, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Russell Peters, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. PETERS: Thank you, Neal Conan.

CONAN: Russell Peters is currently touring North America and Canada. His latest DVD is titled, "Red, White and Brown." He was with us here in Studio 4A.

Coming up, from "Evil Dead" to "My Name is Bruce," the king of the B movie, Bruce Campbell, joins us. These days, he steals many of the scenes in USA's "Burn Notice." He'll take your calls next. Stay with us.

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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