License article

Minority rapport

Anglo-Indian Canadian stand-up comic Russell Peters packs stadiums around the world. His likeable persona allows him to get away with material that in a lesser comedian's hands might come across as racist.

But that engaging delivery - leavened with lashings of ''F--- you'', which translates whether performing in his adopted city of Las Vegas, in China, India, Jordan or Australia - is occasionally interrupted by attention deficit disorder, which can throw his concentration on stage.

The disorder plagued him throughout his school years, but middle age has at least brought the relief of losing the hyperactivity component of the condition.

''I get distracted when people pull out cameras, it throws me off. I see something shiny in the audience and I feel I'm not being true to myself if I don't address what I see. I just deal with it as it happens.''

The 42-year-old puts his success down to finding an affinity with outsiders. ''I try to write globally, in a way that is easier for me to go anywhere and do these jokes, as opposed to having to say, 'Let me explain this to you real quick,''' he says. ''I'm doing it from the perspective of somebody that's not from this country. I'm saying, 'The people over there [in another country] do this. If you've been there, you'll know what I'm talking about; if you haven't, you will eventually.'''

Conveniently, we live in a global society given the internet is ''making everything an equal-footed playground'', which allows comedy to travel these days, Peters says. He still tests new comedy out in small clubs ''where nobody knows you and doesn't care about you''.


That's hard to imagine today. He began performing in 1989 and for 16 years, before the arenas, tiny audiences were the norm. Then, in 2005, someone at a gig posted a Peters performance on YouTube, which went viral.

''With or without that, I'd still be doing comedy, whether it was for 15,000 people or 15 people,'' he says. ''It's what I love to do and all I know how to do.''

Today, a Peters routine on, say, how immigrant parents are more likely to beat their children has attracted 17.5 million views and counting.

(His late father was strict, but father and son were close.)

''I think I just connect with people. I basically speak to the invisible minorities out there,'' he says. ''We were living in a time where everything was black and white. There were black and white comics and they did their thing and everyone else in between was … being ignored.

''I came in and talked about everyone that was not being talked about and shining a light on them in the way they enjoyed the light being shined on them. I think I speak for the people who had no face before, you know?''

Peters was born and raised in Toronto and grew up Catholic. His mother was an Elvis fan - Peters loved Elvis's movies even though he concedes each had the same plot - and that influence continued through to his 2010 wedding to Monica Diaz at a Las Vegas chapel, where an Elvis impersonator was in attendance. The couple are now divorced but have a daughter, Crystianna, 2, who lives with her mother.

Peters is these days agnostic - he is no fan of organised religion because ''you get older and realise this was all created by humans'' - but he lives his life by basic tenets such as ''don't try to screw people over and try not to kill anybody'', he says, laughing.


March 15, 8pm, Allphones Arena, corner of Olympic Boulevard and Edwin Flack Avenue, Sydney Olympic Park.

TICKETS ticketek.com.au, 13 28 49, $89.90-$129.90.

TRAVEL A short walk from trains, ferries and buses to Sydney Olympic Park; pre-booked Allphones Arena car parking; taxis to the door.

STARS Russell Peters.