Russell Peters might not be a name known to everyone (we say that because at least half of the people we spoke to prior to his return had to Google him when his Dubai show was announced), so it’s fitting that the name of his world tour is “Almost Famous”. Fellow comic Chris Rock even once called him the “most famous person nobody’s ever heard of”. But despite a lack of recognition, the 45-year-old is still, almost wildly, successful. He’s featured on Forbes’ list of the top ten highest-earning stand-ups in the USA since 2009, and has filled arenas such as Madison Square Garden and the Sydney Opera House. So when tickets to his Dubai dates sold out in advance of the gig, those lucky enough to secure one must have known they were on to something good.
We nabbed a seat at Peters’ second show at the Dubai World Trade Centre, which he himself declared “the better night”. (Peters had a cough and wasn’t feeling well during the opening show.) Things got off to a shaky start, however. Tickets stated that the show would begin at 8pm sharp, but even the warm-up act only graced the stage at 8.50pm. Thankfully, Peters’ official tour DJ, Spinbad, was on hand to hype up the crowd, playing a mix of ’80s hip-hop and party anthems, and soon all was forgiven.
New York comic Gregg Rogell eased the audience in with a relatively tame slot – in comparison to Peters’ toe-curlingly blunt delivery – which was funny nonetheless, before the Canadian took to the stage for the main event.
For anyone not familiar with Peters – which seemed to be only a small percentage of the crowd – a comical, animated cartoon video was shown detailing the stand-up’s life and beginnings in comedy. From his parents moving from India to Canada, to his birth and childhood, teenage years and love of break-dancing and hip-hop, to his career as a DJ to being “almost famous” and a professional comedian, the video was a great intro and teaser for what was to come.
The man himself immediately settled into the stage and began the main portion of his act, which involved making jokes at the expense of audience members sitting directly in front of him. No race, nationality or culture was left unscathed, whether a group of young Emirati males, a family of Indian doctors or Egyptian men and their female friends, as he fired off observational quips about their hair, children’s names and jobs, leaving the crowd in stitches.
High points throughout the night came mainly when Peters improvised with the audience, proving his confidence and ease on stage. At times, his encouragement of the audience to help him set up his gags felt too obvious. Jokes about how the Russian language sounds like someone talking backwards or how many Indian parents want their kids to be doctors, are all observations he’s made before.
His pre-rehearsed material was mainly brought to life when an audience member fit the desired profile. Most of Peters humour is geared towards the Asian community – a majority of the crowd – while other material focused on his parenting skills and relationships. A detailed skit about his and his other half’s bathroom habits provoked big laughs.
While his show was entertaining, it was a little too stereotypical and the laughter dipped at times. Nonetheless, most in the room clearly enjoyed themselves. If Peters moves out of his comfort zone soon, he might just become famous.
Dhs250-995. January 19-20. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road.
The bottom line
A solid, successful performance if a little stereotypical.