Last week we performed something of a cultural experiment here at zsroe.com. In paying homage to David Fincher’s 1999 film, Fight Club, I asked, “who of our many cultural icons most deserves a (metaphorical) slap in the face, or punch in the kisser, or a walloping roundhouse kick to the old noggin?”
And not just anybody would do; what we were looking for were the cultural criminals who most deserved a karate chop for their crime. For the sake of brevity, however, I decided to limit myself to one candidate per week for a total of three weeks.
Last time, I suggested that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was most deserving of the slap for never responding to popular Canadian novelist Yann Martel. Martel’s What Is Stephen Harper Reading project received national coverage; so too did Harper’s refusal to respond. And for that cultural infraction, we more than gave our right honourable Prime Minister his much-deserved comeuppance. Well, we tried, anyway.
But now it’s time to move on from sissy slaps, and put some power in our attack, and dish out our one-two punch.
PUNCHED: Russell Peters
I hate to say it—I really do. I think Canadian comedian Russell Peters is great at what he does. He has a strong stand-up act, and one that’s made him one of the highest paid comedians working today. Sure, he owes a lot of his popularity to his performance on Comedy Now! being uploaded to YouTube and then going viral, but his comic power is what made the video go viral in the first place. And so it pains me to say that our dear Bramtonite Russell Peters is the cultural icon whom I believe most deserves a punch in the kisser.
But let’s get one thing straight. I’m sure there are a good number of people who’d like to wallop Mr. Peters upside the head for the things he says in his act. Though not especially incendiary, Peters’ act does rely heavily on cultural stereotypes—he doesn’t perpetuate them, but he does make use of them. Believe it or not, however, Peters isn’t getting punched for the things he says. Rather, it’s for what he supports…or, supported, I guess.
No, it wasn’t elder abuse, or the slave trade, or puppy prostitution. It was worse.
It was Charlie Sheen.
When Sheen brought his “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option Show” to Toronto, he invited Peters to co-host the event. And Peters accepted. Trouble is, Sheen’s recent shenanigans (from his Access Hollywood interview to his endless “Winning” fits) and his exploitation of those shenanigans have made him the apotheosis of bad comedy. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been funny, but that his comedy has been pulled from the dregs of mental instability, and then spun over and over again to the delight of an audience hoping to see Sheen completely unwind. Sure, it’s sometimes hilarious, but it’s also inescapably pathetic.
And so when Peters agreed to co-host the event, the world of comedy took a significant step backwards. Charlie Sheen isn’t funny; he’s barking mad. And to support such madness leaves everyone else the worse for wear.
Shame on you, Russell Peters. I like you, and I’d pay to see you, but for this you deserve (and thereby receive) a punch in the mouth.
Check back next week for the third and final candidate (Hint: he’s Dutch and likes centipedes).
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.