Published Apr 28, 2016Standup comedian Russell Peters has performed over 250 shows across 25 countries as part of his Almost Famous tour, but when it came time to film it as a special for Netflix, he came home to Toronto for a two-night stand at Massey Hall.
Opener Gregg Rogell offered up some dark comedy, observational material and veered from political to politically incorrect. If the audience seemed thrown, he was quick to reassure us: "Don't worry, I'm not sexist, I'm just an asshole."
Rogell's set was followed by an animated video about Peters' life, which showed his parents falling in love in Calcutta, immigrating to Canada, and a series of highlights that ended with this Toronto stop.
Peters' crowd interactions made his performance feel fresh, as he improvised with the audience, and then sharing personal details like his dream of being a breakdancer. Although he used a couple obvious racial stereotypes during crowd work without bothering to deconstruct them, his acknowledgement that he was being offensive and that it wouldn't fly in any other job appeased the audience quickly.
The performance combined racial, cultural, and political material with dick jokes and sexual humour. The audience of over 2,000 positively reacted together when Peters made a particularly clever point (like the media keeping Americans in a panic), nailed combining an accent with an act-out, or did an impression of his father. When it comes to these things, Peters is hilarious.
Almost Famous struck a good balance between Peters' earlier material (in which he discussed his childhood, deconstructed racial stereotypes, and showcased his proficiency with accents), and his later material about travelling the world and parenting his daughter. While the audience at Massey Hall walked away looking very satisfied last night, it will be interesting to see how the live performance will translate to his Netflix special in the future. In the meantime, Peters is well on his way to famous — hold the "almost."