Russell Peters has been a comedian for 26 years and has been featured in multiple cable specials, albums and even a best-selling autobiography. The Canadian comic has sold out arenas and stadiums around the world, garnering millions of fans in the process. However, you might not know who he is because he's never starred in his own film or TV sitcom.
Peters will bring his "Almost Famous" tour to Westbury Saturday and Sunday, his first performance on Long Island in 10 years. He's excited to return; he remembers performing gigs at Nagasaki's in Hempstead back in the day. Newsday caught up with him in between tour dates.
Do you think YouTube is helping or hurting comedy?
I'm a poster boy for who it helped. It started in early 2005 right as my career took off. The problem is you have a whole new generation of comics thinking that's the place to get famous and practice your craft, but that's not the place at all. You still have to do all the roadwork and be in front of real people. You can have 5 million followers on YouTube but that doesn't equal reality.
Does YouTube hurt you now that you are established?
The days of worrying about that are gone. YouTube is pretty diligent with removing things that don't belong there which are copyrighted. I'm still very proactive with policing my audiences, making sure nobody is recording me when I'm on stage. People still discover me, but now it's more about Netflix. It's like a legitimate YouTube.
Why did you title your new tour "Almost Famous"?
It's a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing. It's yes, you are, and no, you're not. I'll go to a meeting at a network. The security guy will recognize me, the valet guy will recognize me and then I'll get to the meeting and the corporate stiffs will be like, "I'm sorry, so what is it you do?" It's like, "Wow. You're in charge of this business?"
Do people stop you on the street for selfies?
When people want a picture or an autograph, I genuinely appreciate that. If they meet me, I'll have a conversation with them and I enjoy it. People say, "You must hate this." I reply, "No, you know what I'm going to hate? When nobody wants my picture anymore."
You talk about a lot of ethnic groups in your act. Does that get you into trouble in this politically correct world?
No, the biggest complaint I get is when I didn't talk about somebody. They'll say, "You didn't do any Latvian jokes!" I tell them, "Next time. I'll get on that."
How long did it take to find your comedy voice?
It was about 11 years before I figured it out. I was a road comic for the first 15 years. I'm a cross-cultural in-your-face comic. I can go on stage with no act at all and get by for an hour. I like to do a lot of stuff off the top of my head. Somebody likened it to jazz, which is fine with me. Do about 40 percent on the fly.
Are you actively pursuing an acting career?
Absolutely. It's the natural progression for a comic. For the type of success I've had and the length of time that I've been in this business, I should have already been a TV or movie star. But, the problem is, I'm self-made and I think that bothers the powers-that-be a lot because they can't take anything away from me.
Can you see yourself on TV?
Sure. I was in a pitch meeting with a network last week and they passed, which makes me laugh. I don't take it personally anymore. Then they make an announcement that they are bringing back "Hart to Hart." They are very afraid of change. But they are almost dinosaurs at this point.
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.
INFO $69.50, 800-745-3000, livenation.com