I knew loads of people were going to watch Russell Peters Notorious show at the Asia World Expo, but I didn’t expect it to be a wall-to-wall’ Desi Fest. There were so many Indians there, we could have started a trade expo right on the spot if we wanted. If you live in Hong Kong, are of Indian origin, have watched at least one of Russell’s videos on YouTube and could get your hands on a ticket, you were there. A friend noted that the Airport Express commute to Asia World Expo looked like boarding a Mumbai local. If anyone came to Hong Kong for the first time and decided to take the Airport Express into the city that evening, they would be very confused indeed!
The show started with Ruben Paul, the opening act. Raised in California, he was quick to quell any stereotypes of black people. He mentioned how everyone tries to “out poor” each other in the neighbourhood to get street credit – and how he himself couldn’t because he was from an affording family. He joked about the Octopus card (he kept calling it Octopussy for the sake of humour, but it was rather annoying) and how Hong Kongers love to party… at 7-11’s. Ruben did what he could to set the mood for what was going to follow, what we were all there for.
RUSSELL PETERS, read the sign at the centre of the stage with a caricature of him as James Bond holding his finger out (somebody is gonna get a hurt – style), and then there was a thunderous noise of cheers and claps from the crowd. Out came Russell Peters, looking more like a caricature of himself (make-up?). He quickly started his routine, talking about the sheer volume of Indians in Hong Kong, and how he has never been ashamed of being Indian until he went to Kowloon and got touted by Indian men trying to sell him suits and watches.
There were the usual jabs at cultural stereotypes, as is his trademark, but he was the funniest when he picked on individuals in the crowd. There was Sogo, a black 38-year-old man from Ivory Coast who was picked on for his name and the fact that there was no point in him getting a tattoo. There is a ‘colour cut-off line’ for tattoo’s and him getting a tattoo would be like ‘sky writing in the night’. One Indian guy from Mumbai, named Alok got called out by Russell Peters several times during the show. Russell quickly found out that his wife and kids are in Mumbai while he’s in Hong Kong and was not wearing his wedding ring. However, the funniest part was where a 16-year-old Indian kid was called out and told about the ‘joys of masturbating’. Russell went on to tell this poor kid who was sitting with his father, that his father probably masturbates as well. The camera zoomed on to the kids face and there was a stone cold look of hate+ embarrassment+’I don’t know what he’s talking about’. There were jokes about the Arabs, French, South Africans, Americans, Chinese but mostly Indians – and we loved it. There was continuous laughter throughout the performance. Collective jaws were hurt from laughing so hard.
There were many who were sceptical about Russell’s ability to be funny after so many years and the fact that his whole routine revolves around poking fun at stereotypes, but five minutes into the gig, no one cared and everyone was laughing. The theme of the show was the same as all his other performances, but he did not repeat one single joke from the YouTube video’s of his from years back, everything he said was fresh. Between when he first became huge and now, Russell has been married to a Latino woman, had a child and subsequently been divorced. And like any good comedian, he used all his experience in his routine, which made him more human. There was one brief moment during the show where he got a little emotional about having to be on the road and missing his 2-year-old daughter. It was brief, but gave a glimpse of his real personality.