Sold-out comedy show confronts racial divide

Vincent Bradshaw

As pictures of men were projected onto a screen in Ryan Family Auditorium, three female students took turns criticizing them. One man, a Persian, had too small a nose; another, a Muslim, only prayed six times day.

This parody was the opening act in comedian Russell Peters’ sold-out performance Saturday night, which confronted stereotypes and kept audience members laughing.

Comedians Dan Nainan and Kumail Nanjiani opened for Peters, who headlined the show hosted by the South Asian Students Alliance, Muslim Cultural Students Association and Persian American Representatives of Students.

“Tonight’s show is about bringing three different groups together to show we can work on a project that’s entertaining for the Northwestern community,” said Malika Bilal, McSA co-president and a Medill junior.

The comedians spent most of their routines making fun of the cultural divides between different races. Nanjiani tackled issues such as arranged marriage, and Nainan made fun of how some Indians tend to reverse the verb and the noun in their sentences.

“PMS: What Were You Thinking?” a short film in which Persian, Muslim and South Asian students live together, was shown as a parody of Bollywood films.

But the biggest laughs of the evening were for Peters, whose topics included Muslims and Sept. 11, 2001. He also made fun of how some Indian immigrants shorten their names to be more manageable in the United States.

“When I get onstage, I talk about reality,” Peters said after the show.

Tickets for Peters’ show sold out a day after going on sale, according to SASA president Suchit Dash, a McCormick sophomore. Ryan Family Auditorium seats 600.

Weinberg senior Kirk Kao said he enjoyed Peters’ “real” approach to comedy.

“Even though it was racial, it was taken with a sense of humor,” Kao said.

Like many audience members, Kao saw part of Peters’ comedy routine when it circulated on the Internet. SASA, PARS, and McSA decided to invite Peters after they saw his performance online, Dash said.

“He made a big name for himself on (America Online Instant Messenger), so we really wanted to bring him out,” he said.

Peters closed the show with his catch phrase, “Somebody’s going to get a hurt real bad.”

Audience members who had heard the line on the Internet cheered and applauded.

Peters originally was scheduled to perform with comedian and “Life on a Stick” star Maz Jobrani last quarter. Peters was forced to cancel because of visa and scheduling problems, Dash said.

Reach Vincent Bradshaw at [email protected]