RIYADH: Canadian comedian Russell Peters performed at AlUla’s Al-Maraya Theater on Friday, days before his wedding in Los Angeles.
“I am just happy to be back, I’m literally very happy to be back. Here’s how you know I am happy to be back: I’m getting married on Sunday and I’m going to be here on Friday,” he told Arab News.
The comedian expressed his excitement about being back in the Kingdom, even if it was just before his wedding on the other side of the world.
“Even three days before my wedding, I still came to Saudi Arabia. I really missed Saudi, I had such a good time when I came before.”
He left Friday’s crowd in tears of laughter during his show from the “Act Your Age” world tour. The show is about getting older and the experiences with the new world and new generations.
“I will be 52 this year, so to call myself middle aged would mean that I am living to 104, and I definitely don’t want to live to 104. It’s about me being closer to dementia than to anything else and dealing with the new world that we are living in.”
He talked about his previous performance in the Kingdom, which was six years ago in Riyadh.
“I came here in January of 2016, and we did a show in the middle of the desert near Riyadh. It was pretty amazing. And, at that time, women were not allowed to drive, and I came back six years later, and bam, you’re driving. I was sad to not have been here in so long, so when they asked me if I wanted to come back, I immediately said yes.”
He said he was keen to come back to the region, especially the Kingdom, because of his large fan base. He has also performed in the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan.
“Some of my strongest supporters come from the Middle East; they are always there for me, so I will always be there for them.”
He explained that on this trip he would not, unfortunately, have the chance to visit the capital to see the changes that had taken place in the city as his performance was in AlUla.
“I haven’t gone to Riyadh on this trip, but the cool part is I am getting to see parts of the country that I never knew existed. This is a pretty incredible place to be in right now. We are staying in this beautiful resort and we are surrounded by these amazing mountains and rock structures.”
Al-Maraya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is covered with 9,740-mirrored panels that reflect AlUla’s historical and natural landscapes.
“I can literally sit there and just stare at it because it’s like staring into the past,” he remarked.
He said he liked to make his shows personal and individual to the country he was traveling to so that his set did not feel like a by-rote comedy video that people were watching online.
“You want it to feel special as a comic who has been doing it for 33 years. It’s just what I do, I like to add a few local references here and there.”
Peters, who was recently named as one of Rolling Stone’s top 50 best comedians, explained what his mental preparation was before each show to connect with the crowd.
“When I leave America, I have to wrap my head around the fact that I have to look at the rest of the world with the same eyes as the people I am performing in front of. I realized I made that mistake a few months ago when I first went back to the region.”
And his references and personal anecdotes cannot be the same for each country. “I was doing the act wrong,” he added. “When I have jokes about (DNA genetic testing firm) 23andMe and Ancestry.com those make a lot of sense in America. Over here, everyone knows what they are.”
He said that if he were to ask the audience if they had ever used Ancestry.com they would ask why as their family had never left the country and had no reason to use the website.
The comedian said he wanted to connect with the audience and create personal connections so that people could enjoy the show even more.
He had time to visit the Al-Jadidah Arts District of AlUla Old Town to explore its galleries and sculpture installations.
When asked if Saudi Arabia could expect future appearances from him, he gave a positively enthusiastic response.
“I definitely want to go back to Riyadh, and I have never been to Jeddah, so I would like to go there as well. I am lucky enough to be performing in AlUla now, so we will knock that out of the park and then come back and dip into Riyadh and Jeddah.”
His performance was part of AlUla’s Art Festival, which began on Feb. 13 and runs until March 31.