‘I am one for instant gratification’ ~ Russell Peters

Legendary stand-up comic, Russell Peters talks about the challenges of playing a lovable jerk in ‘Speedy Singhs’

Do you think stand-up comedians are often typecast in films? You think you have the potential for a core action or may be a sci-fi film?
Well, I was in a sci-fi film (Souce Code). But yes, I have to be realistic about some things. Like, I can’t do core action roles. I mean look at what happened when Seth Rogen tried to be ‘The Green Hornet’. I have to accept certain things about myself.

So, you refuse to be a romantic hero or opt for roles other than comic ones?
I take the opportunity that is given to me. If there is a situation that lets me excel, I would go for it. I mean I auditioned for my role in 'Speedy Singhs', right? There could be any other comedian who could have done this role, if he got through the auditions. But yes, you have to play the arena otherwise you don't show any versatility and then you just go 'puff'.

What does one need to consider when developing comic material for celluloid? 
In films, everything has to be bigger. Subtlety gets lost sometimes in films. So you have to pay attention to certain things I do, to take notice of it. Everything has to be more pronounced or some of the things you want to convey can get lost.

What are the pros and cons of being a comic in films?
The upside is clearly that it is released to wider audience and reaches out to a lot more people. The cons are that you have to work much harder, the daily schedules are more taxing than doing a show. But what really bugs me is that I am one for instant gratification, which I get on the stage. But in films, you have to wait for almost a year or longer before it’s complete and can be viewed by people.

Your brand of humour can be violently offensive at times, so were you asked to curb your enthusiasm at times in 'Speedy Singhs'?
You got to walk the line between offensive and not-so-offensive and I am usually treading on that tight rope. But I didn’t have to curb myself. Yes, when I am on the stage, I have the liberty to say just whatever I want to. The onus is on me and I don’t give a ****. But in a film, there are corporate people who would come to me and say, “You can’t say that. We can’t be associated with a phrase like that and so on.”

You play a messed up brother-in-law in ‘Speedy Singhs’, so did you take cues from cocky relatives or friends for your character?
I generally pick up stuff from people I see around. But there’s surely an element of me in the character. I was allowed to create my character based on the script. So, I had decided to play a jerk who is a lovable jerk. So how to make a detestable person adorable was my goal. So I had to become a person who people would not like enough to want to see him. It’s a bit like deriving pleasure from pain.

Cultural differences in similar films are clichéd, so how does ‘Speedy Singhs’ give it a different twist? 

It’s not that different from the others, to be honest. But it has a lot of great moments that make you forget about the clichéd moments.

Did you experience any of these clichés when you were growing up?
I didn’t experience any of them in fact. My parents knew from when I was 3 or 4 that I wasn’t like the other kids. My mother used to actually tell me that just pass your exams, don’t fail. Aim for 50%. I was horrible in academics and couldn’t concentrate in my classes. I would like to believe that I had a mind of my own.

What are your plans for the future? Is there a logical career path for stand ups?
I have been a stand-up for 22 years, so movies or no movies, I am always going to be a stand-up. But I have a couple of releases coming up. One of them is 'New Year's Eve', which is a sequel to 'Valentine's Day' and has a huge cast including Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer etc. But my parts are mostly with Sofia Vergara and Jon Bon Jovi. I had gone to Australia to hang out with Bon Jovi and when I met him, he was so chilled out and was telling me all about his albums. And I was like, "Oh my god! Bon Jovi is talking to me!"

What kind of films do you enjoy the most? Any favourites?
I love comedies. Some of my favourites would be ‘Airplane’, ‘Midnight Run’ and may be ‘Role Models’ which released a couple of years back.