TORONTO — When it comes to Christmas, Canada’s comedy giant Russell Peters is a traditionalist at heart.
The standup superstar throws together an old-fashioned TV variety special this week featuring plenty of carols, mirth by the fire, wishes for Santa, and unabashedly cheesy skits involving his mother, Maureen, and baby girl, Crystianna.
“This is a real family affair, (including) Momma and baby. Did you see my daughter? How cute is she?” Peters gushed recently from the Toronto set, admitting he’s taking every opportunity to show off his nearly year-old offspring.
“Even if she never wants to be in show business ever again at least I got footage to show her and go, ’Who didn’t want to be in show business then?”’
Besides baby schmaltz, A Russell Peters Christmas features famous friends Michael Buble, Pamela Anderson, Jon Lovitz, Scott Thompson, Faizon Love and The Love Boat’s Ted Lange, as well as a bevy of lingerie models to help ring in the season.
Thompson says the mix of stand-up, sketch comedy, stop-motion animation and musical performances harkens back to holiday specials of yore.
“I think if a white guy did it, it would be like, ‘Wow, this is too much of a throwback.’ But with him it seems kind of hip,” Thompson says of the show’s Indo-Canadian host, who peppers the special with trademark jokes about race and culture.
“And I think people will go, ‘Oh my God, so he’s a Christian. I wasn’t sure.”’
Anderson says she offers up a pretty convincing take on the Virgin Mary for a nativity scene, in which Peters plays “Joe” and Thompson, Lovitz and Love portray “Wisemen” named Abe, Mel and Jermaine.
“I love all this Christmassy stuff,” says the former Baywatch bombshell, gesturing to a TV studio decked out with snow drifts, pine trees and lights.
“Everyone says I kind of overdo it for Christmas, I overdo all the holidays so my house kind of looks similar to this — much smaller, but lots of lights and lots of twinkling things.”
A real blast from the past comes from an appearance by Lange — a cultural touchstone for a select generation that grew up watching him play Isaac the bartender on The Love Boat” in the late ’70s and ’80s.