The Russell Peters Notorious show came to and ended in Colombo last night. It was a big, entertaining show and had a palpable buzz to it. It was also a lot more vulgar and sexual than a lot of Colombo society would have expected, and those were the less funny parts.
Russell Peters went from his true and funny observations on various cultures (including Sri Lanka) to becoming a highly successful touring act. Bigger than I thought actually, he’s the third highest earning comic in the world according to Forbes, earning $21 million USD. This is ahead of comics like Louis CK.
His Colombo night sold out in a few days and, if they sold, say 3,000 tickets at an average of Rs. 5,000 each, netted 15 million at least. I’ve heard reports of almost double that.
Russell Peters is undoubtably a big-name comic now and he has a polished and entertaining show. Everything from the opening DJ (DJ Spinbad) to the opening act (J. Chris Newberg) was really quality, if they pushed local sensibilities a bit. Newberg had everyone singing along to his song ‘I Don’t F___ Care’, which was interesting.
When Mr. Peters came on, however, that was what the crowd was waiting for. And it was a good crowd the convention center was packed – wall to wall – and Anything.lk (in their sub-brand Shout) did a good job of organizing. There was a good buzz to the place and people we dressed up like it was a proper social occasion. The YAMU team of course arrived soaking wet, but nevermind.
Both his and Newberg’s sets were very funny in their observations, but both almost felt like they ran out of material half way through and just started grilling the crowd. Peters had some really funny takes on Arabs (that the Middle East is full of Indians and you can only spot the Arabs as the ones doing nothing) and a few interesting local Sri Lankan observations. In contrast, however, to the cultural observations that made him famous, his humor this time was very sexual.
He described getting a handjob (wrist-job, more accurately) from a Thai massage parlor, commented at length on masturbation and closed with a bit on anal sex. Which was sorta funny, but not as much as his observational humor. It also must have been a bit of a shock for the older crowd there, of which there was a lot.
One bit that was hilarious was that the VIPs in the front row got grilled mercilessly. Normally I find audience-directed humor uncomfortable, but it was actually funny seeing VIPs get made fun of, like a court jester that was on the next flight.
That said, I think Mr. Peters relied a bit too much on audience stuff and crude sexual humor. I have literally never heard anything so crude in any public forum in Sri Lanka, which is good I guess, but it still wasn’t as funny as the observational stuff, nor was it at all family friendly. Peters is a fundamentally Canadian comic (his family having left India in 1965) who’s still found his success through appealing to an international audience that other comics neglect. His latest show, however, seems to focus more on American style sexual humor than the observations that slightly more conservative Asian audiences like.
Still think it was a good event for Colombo. Really big, really exciting and – aside from his mic failing for five minutes (seriously, there’s only one piece of equipment here) – well organized. Russell Peters is now one of the biggest comics in the world and seeing him was a fun if slightly uncomfortable night for Colombo.