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Bullying was no laughing matter for Russell Peters


Only two comedians in America have so many fans they regularly sell out arenas. They are Chris Rock and Russell Peters, who lives in Henderson, and whose mom lives by the soon-to-open SLS hotel.

“She’s pretty excited about (the SLS) grand opening,” Peters said to me the other day. “My mom’s 73. I don’t know what she’s hoping for. I hope she’s not going to one of those day parties.”

Peters will perform Saturday night in the Palms’ Pearl. This is fans’ chance to see him debut material he will deliver on an international arena tour starting in September, and then film for his next special.

I asked what it would take to film that next special in Vegas.

“The problem is, it’s hit and miss in Vegas with (crowds). The last time I played the Palms, it was one of the best shows of the year. Maybe it’s the venue,” he said. “It’s a really great venue.

“So hopefully, we can repeat that again. If that’s the case, maybe I’ll bring it back and shoot it in Vegas.”

Peters gave a fascinating interview this week to comedian Aisha Tyler on her excellent podcast, “Girl on Guy.”

Tyler got him to talk comfortably about his degenerate groupie stories (which I can’t print here), his favorite porn niche and his tough childhood with bullies.

His bully stories are heartbreaking.

Peters, 43, is an Anglo-Indian who was raised in Toronto by his dad (a meat inspector) and mom (who worked at Kmart).

In grade school, in the 1970s, white boys called him race-based names and punched him in the face.

“At that age, you just kind of figure, maybe that’s what people do. It wasn’t in me to do that to people,” he said to Tyler.

In high school, he got beat up “all the time” by white boys who called him slurs and spit on him for his heritage. He befriended black students, “the only ones who didn’t pick on me.”

Finally, he took up boxing for nine years, which came in handy.

“One time, this guy kicked me in the chest with steel-toe boots,” Peters told Tyler. “I never realized you could hit people back until I started boxing.”

Another gut-wrenching story.

“There was this one girl I used to like when I was in 10th grade,” Peters told Tyler. “I’d walk her home from school. We would hold hands. Every now and then, we would kiss.

“And then one day, somebody said to her, ‘What are you doing with a (expletive racial slur)?’ And she never spoke to me again. Acted like we never knew each other.”

A few years later, that girl, who lost a finger in an accident, showed up at a Peters’ performance, and the girl’s friend yelled up at Peters onstage, “This girl says she used to date you in high school.”

Peters, still hurt, said from the stage, “Ain’t that the (expletive) who lost her finger?” Then he said, “I don’t remember you.”

Peters told Tyler how all this changed him.

“When you deal with a lot of disappointment at a young age, it really warps the way you look at things. When I see a happy couple, I get all weird, because I’ve had so many (bad) relationships.”

Peters said he has punched men who have said racist things to him over the years.

I don’t know Peters personally, but he’s always been a sweetheart in interviews with me.

Tyler said in her podcast she knows him to be funny and honest.

“He has built an extraordinary business that is profitable and devastating all by himself,” Taylor said, “a global business that is unrivaled by anybody except Chris Rock.”

As for his career path? As a kid, Peters worked at KFC and Wendy’s, and he DJ’d weddings. He worked his way up from amateur comedy night to selling out Madison Square Garden, and now he’s a judge on “Last Comic Standing.” He told Tyler his goal is simple:

“I just want people to like me. I don’t want people to look at me and go, ‘What an (expletive).’ ”

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.