Russell Peters on Comedy in the Age of Cancel Culture, Political Correctness


CTV W5’s interview with Russell Peters was one of several we conducted with members of the comedy industry to tell a wide-ranging and nuanced story about how political correctness has transformed the world of stand-up comedy. To the complete documentary regard “laugh attack” Saturday at 7 p.m. on CTV. To watch Sandie Rinaldo’s in-depth interview with Russell Peters, read to the end of the story exclusively online.

Russell Peters has gone from a challenging childhood where he was the target of bullying to one of the biggest names in comedy, known for his sharp, observational humor about ethnicity, race and cultural stereotypes.

Rolling Stone magazine lists the 52-year-old Indo-Canadian who grew up in Brampton, Ontario. as one of the top 50 comics of all time. He was also one of the highest paid in the world, according to Forbes Magazine; and in 2007 he became the first comedian to sell out the Air Canada Centre.

Pretty impressive.

When CTV W5 decided to explore how political correctness, “cancel,” and “woke culture” were affecting the comedy scene, it decided, in the face of backlash, to take high-profile comics like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais on their transgender jokes and the infamous slap was inflicted after actor Will Smith insulted a comment about his wife by Chris Rock at the Oscars – Peters, the man with a reputation for not pulling a punch, became our first choice for an interview.

We wanted to know if he keeps his scathing, uncompromising sense of humor in check.

W5 walked back and forth with Peters’ people. There were scheduling conflicts on both sides. It took weeks of negotiations and finally we got a date and time for an interview at Peter’s home in California; although it was almost canceled at the last minute because the comic was juggling tour and downtime.

The W5 team arrived at Peter’s sprawling 8,000 square foot home in LA’s San Bernardino Valley. We settled downstairs in a room crammed with Peter’s memorabilia, next to an open double steel and wood staircase that leads up against a glass wall to the upper floor.

Several of his comedy buddies sat outside on the covered patio next to an azure pool.

Peter’s wife Ali, whom he married in February 2022, gave us a warm welcome. While waiting for her husband to show up, she sat casually on the stairs and chatted about the architecture of the house.

We also spoke about the community where residents had a front row seat to the infamous high-speed car chase of OJ Simpson in June 1994, which was watched live on television and ended in his arrest.

The rumble of a sports car pulling into the driveway signaled the arrival of the man of the hour, who entered the home and drove past us to chat with friends and family.

It wasn’t until he recognized us that Peters’ laser-focused humor and charm kicked into high gear. He looked forward to chatting with a group of Canadians about all things Canada; excited to make me laugh.

The interview was quintessential Peters, engaging, energetic and uncompromising. “We are freethinkers. The moment you try to put our brains in their place, you ruin the game.”

He went on to emphasize this one important point: if people don’t like his humor, don’t come to his shows. “I have to serve the people who want to hear what I have to say.”

Russell Peters talks to CTV W5’s Sandie Rinaldo

Does he have any regrets? Not really. But he tells us, “We made gay jokes of our own free will and we didn’t just say gay, we said ‘f—–t’. And that was totally normal and totally acceptable at the time.”

“But your job is to move the envelope,” Peters added, “and then you understand that the envelope keeps moving away. So I kept chasing the envelope.”

Peters had a lot more to say about political correctness which some find entertaining, others offensive, which you can check out “Laugh Attack” on CTV W5 Saturday at 7pm

Featuring files from W5 Producer Chad Derrick


Wants to see more? Click here to see the parts of our interview with Russell Peters that were not included in our main story.

You can also watch Russell Peters @ JFL on CTV.ca and the CTV.app


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