Why does Russell Peters think he should be in the Winter Olympics? Does he have a hood pass, too?

A funny story showed up in the Canadian Press this afternoon. Turns out a reporter was following Russell Peters on Twitter and decided his afternoon complaint about not being part of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was news, because, well, Peters grew up in the Canadian part of Canada and is one of the nation's most popular stand-up comedians.

What Russell Peters wrote on Twitter: "Hey Canada, I'm not bitter but… It would have been nice to have been asked to do something for the Olympics… I'm just saying."

The CP story noted that Peters earned more than $10 million last year, selling out arenas, and that he has worked with CTV before. Oh, and they also described his comedy in one sentence: "Peters is known for riffing on racial and cultural stereotypes."

Oh, right. Racial and cultural stereotypes. When I think of the Olympic spirit and bringing the world's many diverse cultures and beliefs together, I think that the best person to entertain them is a guy who points out their differences. "Hey, Spain. Why do you all sound so gay? Where's my Chinese delegation at? You people sound so funny when you talk, I don't know whether you're asking me a question or telling me your life story?" I know. I know. I'm paraphrasing. Here was Russell Peters himself on Lopez Tonight last week:

Of course, Peters is very popular. Did I mention the part where he earned millions of dollars performing for all of those people? He sold out NYC's Radio City Music Hall recently, where the Wall Street Journal asked Peters about his racially-charged act. His defense? 

“Racist is I hate you for being you. Racial is I’m talking about different races and I’m talking about them from an educated, respectful point of view,” he said. “I make it look like the person I’m talking about is the victim, but when you listen to the joke, you realize, ‘Oh wait a minute, they’re not the victim, they’re the winner of this joke.’”

See, you guys? He doesn't hate you, he just thinks what makes you different is funny, especially since he makes fun of many different nationalities, including his own. Give this guy a gold medal! "I get more people saying why don't you make fun of us?" You hear that, International Olympic Committee? Why haven't you asked Russell Peters over to Vancouver to make fun of all of the nationalities competing there? He's bringing us all together…through comedy!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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5 thoughts on “Why does Russell Peters think he should be in the Winter Olympics? Does he have a hood pass, too?

  1. Hm, Sean, normally a big fan but I think you’re off-base on this one. I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone accuse Peters of doing a racist act. If anything it’s nice to have a successful comedian who can talk about race without resorting to just a non-stop stereotype of his own ethnic group.
    If you don’t think he’s funny, that’s fine. And I realize there’s a certain level of success a comedian can reach where we all feel obligated to turn on them. But racist? I don’t see it.

  2. Hey other Sean M!
    I want to preface this by saying I’m not the one who called him racist. That was the Wall Street Journal. And yes, I may not be a big fan of Russell Peters, but that’s mostly because anytime I’ve seen his specials, it just seems to be a series of racial and cultural stereotypes, which he justifies at the end by poking fun at his own Indian heritage. I’m also not a big fan of insult comedy. Plenty of people are, however. I do maintain, however, that I think it’s absurd that he thinks his brand of humor fits with what the Olympics claim they’re all about. Which is why I posted something in the first place.
    Also, I must also say that I know that Russell Peters has helped other comedians I know and like by putting them on his cable TV showcases and letting them open for him, so I understand he has goodness inside of him. And I haven’t met him personally. So he may win me over yet. Just not yet, yet.

  3. I think it depends on what specific bits you’re talking about of Peters. Some bits like the ones with the accents are a bit racist and dated and the joke at the end of the WSJ video about Jamaicans having kids out of wedlock is also a bit racist since that’s pretty much a joke that relies solely on a stereotype to get a laugh. I mean, the people laughing at the accent stuff are ultimately laughing because they have a picture of some foreigner/FOB in their mind when they hear it. But the bit about Spanish accents and the lisp isn’t really racist per se more of an observation, could be construed as a bit homophobic though. I will agree that he’s probably not the best fit for the Olympics.

  4. i think russell is not racist but a very good observer of cultures…his brand of comedy is not “insult comedy”..
    i dont think it is bad for someone to point out our differences…Most of the time we try to cover up the differences and unite but this unity is on the surface only …a superficial unity or just a show of unity…do wwe want the olympics to promote this superficial oneness.
    i live in india..my colleagues come from all parts of india..we all are best of friends because we openly accept our different accents, cultures and lifestyle and not try to cover them up

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