Russell Peters: Burning Sensation

Russell Peters doesn’t smoke weed in his mansion in Etobicoke, but he doesn’t have any problems with his friends getting high. After a show in Los Angeles at the Comedy Store, all of the comics were gifted big bags of cannabis and Peters gave his to his friends.
“It already seemed like weed was legal in Canada so when they changed the laws, I was like, ‘Really? That’s against the law, why?’” says Peters, capping off his 30 years in comedy with a special that aired last month on Amazon called Deported. “The thing I don’t get about the stoner culture is why does everything need a weed leaf on it? Even if you really, really love liquor, you don’t walk around with a Ciroc bottle on your shirt. Nobody wears the colour of their beverage. Why do you always wear apple green? I’m really into Appletinis. This guy is always wearing yellow. He loves Lemon Drops. But you people, you really do love your fucking weed.” Peters' close friends include Dave Chappelle and Tiffany Haddish and he made the stoner comedy classic, Ripped. kind editor-in-chief Ben Kaplan sat down with Peters and, while neither men got high, they certainly swapped plenty of stories.
Story time with Uncle Russell, featuring San Rafael, some Glen and endless snacks
  • BK: You’re wearing a Tyson Ranch sweatshirt and I loved your appearance on Tyson’s podcast,Hotboxin' with Mike Tyson, When did you first meet Tyson?

    RP: I’m an investor in his company.

  • BK: So you don’t think cannabis stocks have hit a bubble?

    RP: I don’t know about that. Mike gave me the shares, so it was an easy investment.

  • BK: You didn’t realize pot had been illegal until last October?

    RP: Seems to me it was just a formality. Like, even in the 80s and 90s, the police would find you with weed and just throw it away. So yeah, I was shocked when it was actually legalized to find out it wasn’t legal all this time. The way people had been smoking, I could’ve sworn it was legal all this time.

  • BK: But you’re not much of a smoker.

    RP: I’ve tried it. At The Comedy Store in Hollywood, they give you free weed all the time. They have it set up and ask you if they can make you a bag, so, yeah, sure, and they make me a bag of weed and people come to my house and if they want to smoke something, go enjoy yourself. Here’s a nice little sack of weed, I took these CBD drops with THC in it to help me sleep but I took too much and got high in my sleep.

BK: How do you get high while you’re sleeping?

RP: It was like my body was high. I could feel everything, but it was more than I was expecting. I was like, let’s just lay here until this goes away.

  • BK: I’ve actually seen you smoke a blunt before. On the rapper N.O.R.E.’s show, Drink Champs, with the rapper Freddie Foxx.

    RP: Drink Champs, basically you sit down with N.O.R.E. and get drunk with him and Bumpy Knuckles, he’s one of my good friends, the rapper Freddie Fox. But Bumpy’s not a big drinker and so he asked me if I’d go on with him and I said, of course. Don’t worry about drinking and I’ll pick up the slack. I’ll drink whatever shots they bring and take them all— and I get fucking hammered. Then, N.O.R.E. is sitting there and lights a big blunt and he doesn’t know I don’t smoke, so he said, “want this?” And I said no, but then I said, “actually, give me that thing, and I hit it hard.” Everyone in the room thought I smoked because of the way I hit that thing, and I hand it back to him, and lights up another one! I’m drunk and I go, give me that thing, and this one was stronger and I hit it just as hard and you saw it, While he talks to Bumpy I start falling asleep and just nod off. I wake up and as soon as we’re done I go outside and the fresh air hits me and I puke my lungs out. I felt 100% again right after that, but goddamn, that’s not the way someone who doesn’t smoke should be on television experimenting with weed.

  • BK: You were one of the first stand-ups to take comedy into stadiums. When you did it in 2018, it was novel. Now, it feels like there’s a slew of people demanding crowds that sized.

    RP: There’s a renaissance happening. Back in the day, to fill an arena you were one in a very small few. Now it feels like every comic is doing an arena run. I’m not saying I’m the guy who opened it up, but I maintained it. I kept the dream alive and now you have Joe Rogan, Sebastian Maniscalco, Gabriel Iglesias, Chris D’Elia seems like he’s on that path.

  • BK: Seems like the hardest thing to do, to entertain a room that big full of people with words.

    RP: Making everybody in on the jokes is hard in a room with 16,000 people, but after doing this for 30 years, I have little ways to ensure that everybody is in on the joke.

  • BK: What have you learned after 30 years?

    RP: There’s no stopping. It’s all I know how to do. When I get time off, I get freaked out. What’s happening? What’s going? They’re going to forget about me. Also: it’s a legit reason to be out of the house. I have to leave. Where are you going? I’m going to work. And you can’t get mad at a guy for going to work.

  • BK: Were you recently married?

    RP: No. I recently had a kid. So that’s two kids now with two different baby mommas. I try and do what I can.

  • BK: Does being a father again change your approach to the material?

    RP: Since I write the way I feel, of course it changes the direction I take. Being onstage is like therapy: you say anything that you want to say, especially in the clubs. So I’ll say some things that will never get in my act, but once I say it, I feel better. I get it off my chest. Like, I’m not going to keep complaining about a thing after I say it out loud to a group of people—it’s good for me, I say something and it’s gone now.

  • BK: Being a dad in the age of cannabis legalization, what will you say when your little girl tells you she wants to smoke weed?

    RP: Go for it.

  • BK: This could be your big Eddie Murphy transition, from saying dirty jokes to making films like Daddy Day Care.

    RP: Eddie got to do a bunch of great movies before he did all that stuff. Actually, I have a great Eddie Murphy story if you want.

  • BK: Yes, please.

    RP: I had done a thing at The Laugh Factory and Tiffany Haddish was there, and I got some pictures of her with my mom. We’ve been friends for a long time and the next night, I’m sitting at dinner and I send the pictures to Tiff, and she says, “I’m on my way to Eddie’s house.” I go, “Murphy?” I’d only met him once for a minute. She goes, “Want to come?” I was at dinner with my girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time, and my mother, and I go: “Can I go to Eddie Murphy’s house?” She goes, “Yeah,” thank God.

  • BK: Who, your mom or your pregnant girlfriend?

    RP: Both. So she comes and scoops me and we get to Eddie Murphy’s house and walk down the stairs and the first person we see is Jamie Foxx. He gives me a hug and then I hear, “Yo, is this what you comedians do, you all get together like this and hang out?” It was Q-Tip. I look at the bar and it’s Sasha Baron Cohen, then I see Bill Hader, then Patton Oswalt, then Neil Brennan. Then Eddie Murphy is like, “Thanks for coming, Russell.” Wow, I said, “Thanks for letting me?”

  • BK: He knew who you were.

    RP: I guess so. Then I hear, “Oh shit, Russell Peters, man.” It was Chappelle walking down the stars and I’m like, what the fuck have I walked into? And Jimmy Kimmel is there, then Ali Wong, then Tig Notaro, then Jeff Ross, and I’m standing there and see this black guy coming down the stairs with blonde hair and I’m like, who is this? Sisqó? He’s like, “Russell Peters,” it was Chris Rock. Wow, what the fuck am I in right now?

  • BK: Is everyone drinking, smoking weed?

    RP: It’s funny because I went to grab a drink then I put it down. Like, I don’t want to not remember this night. And Leonardo DiCaprio was there and his girlfriend was young and she wanted to leave. He goes, “This is the best fucking party I’ve ever been to in my life and she doesn’t know who anybody is!” I go: “That sucks, dude.”

  • BK: So who’d you hang out with?

    RP: I’m standing in awe of everything happening around me and I’m in a footway with Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Neil Brennan and Jamie Foxx, standing around talking about comedy and I’m not saying anything. They’ve included me, but I’m in complete awe until I realize it’s getting later, everybody is starting to leave and I realize I’m the only person left in Eddie Murphy’s basement with like eight of his kids.

  • BK: Tiffany left you?

    RP: It’s kind of an L.A. thing to do, to just be like: I thought you’d be OK. I mean, either way, she took me to Eddie Murphy’s house, you can leave and I won’t be mad, but one of Eddie’s kids takes me to Eddie’s private living room, and it’s Dave Chappelle, Tiffany and Arsenio Hall, and Eddie pulls up the remote from his TV and starts playing YouTube videos and Tiffany is at the end of the couch nodding off. This is very elite company but I’m like, “She’s my ride home.” I don’t want to overstay my welcome at Eddie’s, but I don’t have my car here and it’s 3:45 in the morning and all I’m thinking is: “Am i going to sleep over at Eddie Murphy’s house?” I mean, what’s the protocol? Do I say: “Hey Eddie, can I get your address so I can call an Uber?’’ I don’t know the protocol for leaving this party. I was already not invited. And now I’m the last one there.

  • BK: Did you do it?

    RP: I would have but then Arsenio said, “Alright guys, I’m going to leave.” I’m like, “Hey, Ars, which way you going? Can I get ride to Ventura?” And Arsenio Hall just drives me home, so Tiffany Haddish took me to Eddie Murphy’s house and Arsenio Hall drove me home. And this was one of the best nights of my life except when Kimmell had Eddie Murphy on, he was talking about the party and named all the names and I didn’t hear my name mentioned, so it was one of the best nights of my life, but still... couldn’t someone talk about me?

  • BK: So, how did you come to know Mike Tyson?

    RP: Remember Eric B. and Rakim? Eric B. and I are good friends and Eric needed a car in Los Angeles and I said take my Bentley. He was coming over to drop it back off at my house and said he had the Cave Man with him. He pulls up and I see Mike Tyson, he calls Mike the Cave Man because he used to be in his house with the lights out. So Mike comes over, this was in 2012 and we were hanging out, and I told him I grew up with Lennox Lewis. My mom was there because she was in town and she says, “You know Mike, Lennox used to come over for lunch all the time.” He said, “I didn’t know you knew him like that.” And we just basically stayed in touch.

  • BK: Does Tyson really smoke that much?

    RP: He smokes all the time. He goes, “It’s not drugs, Russ. It’s just weed.” He’ll always offer it to me but I’m like, “I’m good.” He said in an interview he smokes $40K worth of weed in a month and even though he grows his own, that’s too much pot.

  • BK: Is your big vice booze?

    RP: I don’t drink too much anymore, but if I do anything it would be drinking. It depends on the mood. I like Cosmos because it’s all alcohol—vodka, Cointreau, something else. Just a glass of liquor that tastes really good.

  • BK: Can you take us up to date with the Indian Detective?

    RP: I’m going to film the movie in the later part of this year and we just received a revised two-page treatment. 2020 is busy for us, touring through September, and filming. It’s a real busy time.

  • BK: To our readers, you may be most famous for Ripped—which has become a stoner classic.

    RP: Oh yeah. People come up to me, Oh man, I loved Ripped. I don’t even have to say, Are you a stoner? They like that movie, I already know.

  • BK: Tell the uninitiated about it.

    RP: The story is set in 1986 and Faizon Love and I are on our way to a big rap show. We’re 16 years old and we smoke a big joint and fall asleep in the back of the van, wake up and it’s 30 years later. It’s a good movie. I like it, but the movie didn’t have an ending.

  • BK: I read that when Method Man and Redman made their weed movies, they smoked all the time onset.

    RP: I smoked fake joints all day on set and looked paranoid, because I didn’t know if I looked stoned or not. But everyone was like, “Yo Russ, you look perfect—you look paranoid.” I was paranoid that people wouldn’t think I looked high but it turned out that was the exact right look.

  • BK: I love that film.

    RP: Well, if you watch it and you’re not a stoner, you think this is the dumbest movie I’ve ever fucking seen. But stoners come up to me all the time, “Yoooooo, this is my favourite movie.”

  • BK: It’s not that bad...

    RP: It’s become a cult classic, like Half Baked. But at least Dave’s film came out in the theatres, we didn’t do that good.

  • BK: I have to backtrack to you being on set with Dave Chappelle when he filmed the stoner classic, Half Baked.

    RP: Dave and I have been friends for a real long time and when he’s shooting in Toronto, we hang out. Back then, I remember we were in his hotel room at the Sutton Place and I was dating this girl who had a hot sister and I was trying to hook her sister up with Dave. She wasn’t really into him. I’m sure now she would be, but back then she was like, “He’s really skinny.” I’m like, “He’s Dave Chappelle—he’s a brilliant comic, he’s shooting a movie.”

  • BK: He wasn’t her type.

    RP: Back then he wasn’t. I’m sure he’s probably a little more appealing now. One night, it was me, my girl, Dave and my girl’s sister and Dave had a little white Pomeranian with him named Thelonious and we’re hanging out, laughing and making jokes, the dog is barking and we hear this aggressive knocking on the door and Dave goes to open it and I lean in to see and this lady’s like, “Will you keep it down in there!” Dave says, “Sorry, miss.” And Dave closed the door and it was Esther Rolle, the mother from Good Times, Florida Evans. We were dying, “Oh shit, Miss Evans just yelled at us!”

  • BK: Chappelle must have been smoking.

    RP: He smokes, oh yeah. But I remember most about hanging out with him was that he was in a different financial bracket than I was. He said, “I think I’m going to treat myself to a car after this,” meaning after wrapping Half Baked. I was like “Damn, I wish I could make a statement like that someday.”

  • BK: You’ve had all these stoner wish-fulfillment moments wasted on you because you prefer Cosmopolitans to joints. I wish I could smoke with Dave.

    RP: Dave goes through phases: he smokes, he doesn’t smoke, he drinks, he doesn’t drink, sober, not sober.

  • BK: Which Dave do you prefer?

    RP: Not sober. He’s great sober too, but not sober Dave is fun Dave.

  • BK: People are going to pick this up in a licensed dispensary. What do you want to tell them as they pick up this magazine with their weed?

    RP: Enjoy.