The Phenomenon That Is Russell Peters
Russell Peters is not just a comedian. He’s a phenomenon, and that’s a hard word to type more than once! I’ve often referred to him as The Messiah of Comedy, because he has such a diverse audience and makes people of all backgrounds laugh together, and at each other. And he can imitate every accent in the world, but nothing is funnier than when he does the Indian accent. With the requisite head movements!
The show opens with a two minute film where Russell magically morphs into about 100 characters within the two minutes. It was made by his cousin Shaelin. (I hope I spelled that right!)
Russell is just too hip. He comes out on a stage fit for a rock star. And he’s just so calm and relaxed. Like he’s in his living room. Not one, but two DJ booths, with two hot DJ’s on the ones and twos. DJ Spinbad in one, and DJ Starting From Scratch in the other. It was great to see those guys again.
So the audience comes in to hot music, and doesn’t just have to sit there waiting for the show to start, twiddling their thumbs. (Coincidentally, there’s a brand new course on thumb twiddling at The Learning Annex.)
It was Russell’s 20th anniversary of performing and he was on his Green Card Tour. I was so happy to receive an e-mail from his assistant a couple of weeks back saying that Russell and Clayton (his brother and manager), would like to invite me to his show, and to the after-party at Radio City Music Hall. That’s six thousand seats!
Russell sold that out two nights in a row. Along with my tickets was an actual green card that gave you access to the after party. You had to stick it to your clothing. The guards made you put it on, I guess to avoid giving it to someone else. I fooled them by only taking the top piece of paper off the sticky side, and putting it on my jacket, and as soon as I walked through, I put the paper back on and kept the card as a souvenir.
At the after party, I asked Russell what the largest crowd was he ever played to. He said 18,000 people. In Canada. Vancouver to be exact. Four nights in a row. That’s 72,000 people who came out to see him perform.
And I get nervous in a room of 30!
South Beach Comedy Festival
In the midst of 23 degree weather in New York, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to go to Miami for a few days? Especially when you’re being flown out there as I was to cover the South Beach Comedy Festival for Punchline Magazine.
The festival featured Gabriel Iglesias, Mike Birbiglia, Kevin Hart, Brian Regan, and a couple of guys from The Daily Show, namely Rory Albanese who is not only the producer, but also a great stand-up comic, and the great John Oliver who puts on such a fantastic English accent you’d think he was actually a Brit. And he manages to keep it up through his entire act! It’s amazing.
Needless to say I had an incredible time. The success of a comedy festival is not based only on the comedians. In this case it was thanks to two people in particular, Woody Graber the P.R. person for the festival, and Aubrey Kessler the fantastic director of the festival.
Between the two of them they made sure I was totally hooked up. I was given the Spa Penthouse in a fantastic little boutique hotel called The Sanctuary. My rainfall shower was the size of a small room, and there were three flat screen TV’s in this one room. There was one near the bed, one outside the shower, and even one in the bathroom. The hotel spared no amenities, and had a fantastic restaurant called Ola, that was packed every night, so definitely check it out next time you’re in Miami.
What made it even better was that it was literally right around the corner from The Fillmore Theatre where I went to see Gabriel Iglesias, Kevin Hart, and Rory Albanese and John Oliver from The Daily Show.
It was also walking distance from the shows on Lincoln Road where Mike Birbiglia was performing. I had a fantastic time, and the manager, Max Dietermann made sure I was taken care of from the moment I checked in till the moment I left.
People often ask me if I ever write anything bad about any of the performers I see. I have a concept that guides me concerning things like that. Having performed comedy myself, I know how hard it is. You take your life in your hands stepping out on a stage trying to make people laugh. Because I have so much respect for comics, if I don’t like someone’s act I just don’t write about them. I don’t include them in what I write. It’s like they don’t exist. I’d rather not put out any negative energy to the world. There’s already enough of that.
The first night of the festival, things got kicked off with a show and party at the Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes.
Only comedians would be expected to perform over the noise of bowling. Like it’s not hard enough to make people laugh. You need to be hearing loud screaming, and pins falling in the background besides. They had roped off part of the bowling alley for the show. At one point in the show I walked over to the other side where people were trying to concentrate on bowling and realized that they were forced to try and bowl while listening to the comedy, so both sides had it rough.
I got to see two talented acts that first night that stuck out in my mind. One was Will Hatcher who I saw again at the big party at The Gansevoort Hotel, where he was hosting the red carpet, and so when he interviewed me I was able to tell him I thought he was really good.
The other act was two guys who go by the name “A Pair of Nuts,” and they definitely are. Johnny Trabanco and Yamil Piedra are the two guys, and they are a two man sketch group that are very funny, and inventive on stage.
Needless to say if you’re performing in an active bowling alley you can’t expect to have great dressing rooms, so I met with them in a utility closet where they were changing, so I could snap their photo and show people what it’s like when you’re first starting out.
Next year I hear they’ll be performing in a gas station!
Gabriel Iglesias is just so funny, and one of the nicest guys in the business. Lots of guys are funny, but they’re not that nice. He’s both. He was so concerned about the sound not being right in the first four rows that he comped the people who were sitting there, and kept stopping his show to inquire about them. He’s gracious to a fault and after the show stayed to greet every single audience member who wanted to meet him, despite the fact that the security was anxious for him to wrap it up.
He brought his boys from LA with him. Four Mexican comics, and they were all hysterical. Martin Moreno was the MC., then Alfred Robles, and then Noe Gonzales who made the astute observation that you never see a Black guy with a cat. They might have a dog, but never a cat. You’ll never hear a Black guy yelling out, “ Yo Boots!”
The same way I don’t write bad stuff about people, I can’t go backstage if someone I know had a bad set, cause I don’t seem to have the ability to lie, or to hide my feelings. If someone has a bad show, they know they had a bad show, and if I try and say “Great show” they know I’m lying, and it makes it even worse.
With Gabriel I ran backstage cause I LOVED his show and the first thing he said when he saw me was, “You got it with you?” And I knew exactly what he meant. He was referring to my big pen. That’s PEN, like the kind you write with!
Someone gave me that pen a couple of years back, and I’ve been carrying it ever since. When I first met Gabriel out in LA at the Latino Comedy Festival, I had the pen, and it made such an impression on him that he never forgot it. I also carry a medium size pen in case the big one is too big for whoever!
The next night I went to see Kevin Hart. Everyone went to see Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart is a star. Shortly before his show I got a text message from Aileen Budow from Comedy Central that she was on her way to see him too. People LOVE Kevin Hart. And the theater was PACKED!
His road manager Nate Smith, who’s a really nice, hard working guy, makes sure that everything goes down the way it’s supposed to, and because of that was the brunt of Kevin’s jokes for the last part of his set.
Opening for Kevin was his boy Na’im Lynn who travels with Kevin a lot. That’s an enviable position to be in, opening for a guy who’s on his way to the top. Na’im says he’s finally ready to settle down. All he needs to do is find two nice young ladies, …
When speaking of his favorite body parts, he says he likes “ass” all day long. He says he likes girls who’s ass is so big, “when she sits down she looks tall!” And he had a great observation. He said that any guy who comes up behind another guy, puts his hands over his eyes and says, “Guess who?” is stone gay. And if you’re the guy and you “guess who” you’re gayer than he is! Hysterical!
Kevin just has a very endearing way about him. Not only is he incredibly funny, but he’s a story teller. Not many of those. When he tells a story, it’s so expressive, he paints a verbal picture, and takes you on a ride with him, while you’re laughing the whole way. All I kept thinking through his whole show was, in about three weeks, my partner Jean Alerte and I are producing him at Westbury, and he’s gonna be AMAZING!
When I went backstage after the show, he was in his dressing room with a guy that looked just like Ludacris. And it wasn’t till after he left that I found out it actually WAS Ludacris. There was someone standing between us, and I couldn’t really see. I shoulda said, “Move bitch, get out the way! “
Comedy Central was filming Kevin constantly. Even backstage he was shooting promos for them. He was also chosen to be the host at the big festival party at The Gansevoort Hotel, where Comedy Central was filming the festivities.
Kevin had the mic, and interviewed most of the comics who performed. It seemed like he interviewed half of Miami by the time he was finished. I was dying to get on camera and plug our Westbury show, but I wasn’t able to hook it up. But everyone I spoke to about it already seemed to know, so that’s cool.
Jean and I saw Kevin again a few days later at the first of his ten sold-out shows at Carolines. I ran into Caroline and Andrew Fox walking into the party at The Gansevoort in Miami, and congratulated them on selling out Kevin’s shows so quickly.
Andrew asked me if we sold out Westbury yet, but I explained to him that Kevin had to promote his shows at Carolines first before he could do ours, and that we’d probably sell out in a week or so. Kevin has 200,000 followers on Twitter alone, and we only need 2800 people to fill Westbury! Hey Kev, start Tweeting!
CBS At The Comic Strip
So co-owner/founder of The Comic Strip Bob Wachs got on the phone to his friend CBS Pres. Les Moonves, to tell him about some talent that he and partner/co-owner and Pres. Richie Tienken are working with, and the next thing you know a CBS video team is at The Strip, along with agents from ICM.
They came to shoot the sets of Marina Franklin, Brian Scott McFadden, Ray Ellin, who was the host of the evening, Jermaine Fowler, and the great Chuck Nice, for possible CBS TV deals.
It was a packed house and every one of the performers had such a strong set. I think they were all really happy with the way things came out. Sometimes it’s better not to know who’s in the audience, so you just come out and do what you do, but in this case they all knew, and absolutely rose to the occasion.
Brian Scott McFadden recently made his first Letterman appearance and killed it. His bit on what women want in a man borders on comedic genius. Just to be able to remember it is a major accomplishment.
Marina Franklin had been chosen as one of Jay Leno’s correspondents for his late 10 P.M. show so we’ll have to see what happens with that. Ray Ellin is currently taping a series for AOL called Late Net with Ray Ellin, which I covered in a previous column, and Ray is a great host. He knows how to ask the right questions and make his guests feel comfortable enough to elicit the kind of answers that make for a good show.
I think Bob looks at Jermaine as the next Eddie Murphy who Bob and Richie co-managed for 11 years, and you can’t say enough about Chuck Nice.
Chuck has managed to combine his real-life personality into his stage act. What I mean by that is that he is an intelligent, elegant kind of guy, who takes pride in his appearance. He can also be “street” and very cool.
He brings that mix to the stage. He can speak eloquently on a subject, in explaining his comedic premise to the audience, and then launch into a very hip take on what he just expounded upon. It’s what every comedian strives for, a unique comedy stage persona, and he goes back and forth effortlessly between the two Chucks.
We first met years ago, when he was the co-host of Leslie Gold’s Radio Chick Show, and I was a guest. Chuck and I just clicked, and I’ve seen him evolve into a really great talent. He’s a perfect example of what stage time can do for a performer.
I always look forward to seeing him perform, and also to just seeing him ’cause he always has a smile and an upbeat mood to share with those around him.
At the same time that the CBS crew was there, the crew from Letterbox Pictures, led by Brent Sterling-Nemetz was there as well, filming the proceedings to be part of the documentary film being done for the 35th anniversary of The Strip coming up next year. Chris Rock is exec. producing, and Richie, Bob and myself are producers of the film.
I hadn’t seen Tony Woods in too long, but I didn’t think it was long enough that I wouldn’t recognize him.
He was headlining at Gotham and just before the show this guy came over to say hello. He was all thugged out and “hard” looking, and it took me a minute to realize the guy I was talking to was Tony Woods. That and the fact that Jason Steinberg, his longtime manager was standing nearby.
The man has different looks. The next night, when I saw him on Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape one year anniversary show, he looked like a Harvard graduate in a nice argyle sweater.
No matter what he looks like, the man is funny. Very funny. On his headlining show, Karen Bergreen was the MC. Her children drive her crazy by repeating the same question over, and over again. “Why don’t you love me mommy, why don’t you love me.” Her husband says, “ Now you know what it’s like to have a wife!”
One of my faves Ted Alexandro went next, and I think he spoke for all of us when he said, he wants to learn to speak real Chinese, cause he’s so tired of speaking fake Chinese.
Commenting on the fact that Obama is half Black and half White, he said, “Maybe someday we’ll have a woman President. Or maybe half a woman.”
I’ve often thought that Joey Gay’s performing voice was so loud that he didn’t need to use a mic. I guess he thought the same thing cause he did his whole set sans mic. Most guys you wouldn’t hear at all. Joey was still too loud! He makes up for it by being very funny.
Tony Woods has always been a crowd pleaser, but he’s not only funny, he’s also so clever, and he does a great African accent. I’ve said it many times, but audiences LOVE when someone does a good accent. It’s funny the way people mangle our language. Like a comedic anthropologist, Tony humorously examines all the different types of Black people.
Re: Aborigines, who he saw on his tour through Australia, he says he never saw a Black guy like that, … “even in Baltimore. It was like a horse meeting a zebra for the first time.”
He described a boomerang as an Australian murder weapon that comes back to you when you try and throw it away. That would never work as a murder weapon in this country. He said, “No Black guy wants to throw away a murder weapon and have it come back.” The visual of a guy trying to throw away a gun, and having it come back was absolutely hysterical.
Tony never seems to run out of material. He did his hour seamlessly, not like some guys who suddenly ask the audience, “So what do you want to talk about now?” The only reason he ever stopped was because he had another show to do.
I saw Tony again the next night at Anthony Anderson and Royale Watkin’s amazing Mixtape Show. I am now a loyal fan, and will try and make it every month. This was their one year anniversary and they KILLED IT!!! It was filmed for the Internet on Ustream.com.
Anthony opened the show, and introduced the hysterical Rodney Perry, an LA based comic I had seen before. Then Mark Viera stepped up, and also brought the house down, as I had also seen him do previously.
I was glad to see Carmen Lynch up there who was commenting on how when you break up with someone suddenly everything you see reminds you of that person. She said she was dating a Black guy, and when they broke up, not more than a week later there were Black people everywhere.
Tony Woods was on that show also, and did a bunch of things he hadn’t done the night before. The man is a never-ending source of material.
Besides a rap battle, there was even a dance off and Anthony Anderson showed himself to be an amazing dancer. He even did a complete body flip on stage. The man is so agile, he moves like he used to be a stripper. He recently lost 30 pounds and looks great, but despite the fact that he’s still a big guy, he’s got moves that would make Randy Jackson’s Best Dance Crew. For real!
Comedy Matters Shorts
I’m In The Press
It was a good start to the year for me and Comedy Matters press-wise.
Within a period of a week, I had a story in Crème Magazine about me being one of the producers of the documentary film on The Comic Strip, that Chris Rock is exec. producing, had the classic 4-in-one photo of me, Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding a photo of me, Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding a photo of me, Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding still a fourth photo of me, Belzer and Paul Shaffer in an article by Mandy Stadtmiller in the NY Post, and in light of the terrible events involving Artie Lange, was featured in a big story on ABC.com on the dark side of comedy, (known to anyone in the biz) , and was quoted throughout.
I know we all send Artie our love and prayers for his speedy recovery to good health.
Mark Anthony Ramirez at Iguana
Mark Anthony Ramirez is a comic we should see more of. He launched a new comedy show with Sean Lynch at The Iguana café on West 54th Street on Tuesday evenings at 8 P.M. I attended the opening at which Lynch was the MC.
Great comics like Carole Montgomery, Joe DeRosa, who does a masterful bit on how people go crazy by living in New York, and Jamie Kilstein performed, but guest star Janeane Garofalo had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.
Fortunately for everyone, the great Colin Quinn stepped in and did his usual amazing, genius take on every ridiculous thing you ever saw and experienced in your life, but didn’t have the wherewithal to comedically dissect.
Colin is a master of language, whether it’s examining the people who ask you a question and answer it for you, “ How you doin’, … good?” And even if you say something like, “my girlfriend just broke up with me,” they insist on ignoring that by saying, “Yeh, but you’re doing good right?”
Or guys who have to act out physically on YOU, what they did to someone else, while regaling you with the story. This is fine until the story involves throwing the guy against a car and beating the crap out of him, and you have to remind them that you are only an actor in their fantasy, and don’t deserve to be beaten.
Gabrielle Bernstein Adds More “ING” To Your Life
Gabrielle Bernstein is a very successful motivational speaker whose new book, “Add More – ing To Your Life” is called “A Hip Guide To Happiness.” (addmoreing.com) I went to her book party, and just had to show you a photo of the dress she was wearing. It definitely belongs in Comedy Matters!
Fundraiser for Haiti
My partner Jean Alerte and myself are producing “Kevin Hart Live” on Feb. 20th at the Capital One Bank Theatre in Westbury, Long Island, starring the hilarious Kevin Hart who sells out every show he does.
My partner Jean is Haitian, and literally three days before the quake, I brought him to meet my longtime friend Unik Ernest, the nightlife impresario who is also Haitian, so that we could align ourselves with a charity to receive part of the proceeds from our show.
I knew they would get along, and Unik is the founder of Edeyo (edeyo.org), which means “ Help Them” in Haitian Creole. It’s a Haitian charity that dedicates itself to helping educate Haiti’s poorest children. They recently built a school for 200 kids. We decided to make our charity Edeyo.
Three days later, the tragedy occurred, and we already had everything in place. On Monday, Jan. 25th we held a fundraiser for Haiti at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club, and raised about $6,000. plus lots of food, bedding and supplies for the Haitian people.
I myself donated about ten bags of clothing to Haiti, and three days later I got them back with a note that said, “Thank you anyway. We’re desperate, but not THAT desperate!”
Wil Sylvince attended the fundraiser. Our show on the 20th also features TV/film star Tony Rock, and Wil will be the MC. Check it all out at kevinhartlive.com.
Anyway, until next time, remember, … COMEDY MATTERS!!!