As demonstrated at the 2008 Awards, Juno host Russell Peters has a few musical chops.
When introducing Michael Bublé for a performance by Guys With Ties, Peters hunched over a turntable and cut up the crooner’s name.
“That Bublé sample sucked — I couldn’t do anything interesting with it,” said Peters. “Mark Strong’s voice was too deep, so I couldn’t cut it up. You need a high-pitched noise, like ‘Bublé, Bublé’, and I didn’t get that, so it was no good.”
Self-criticism aside, a Youtube clip of the Toronto-born comedian at legendary scratch DJ Q-Bert’s house proves this year’s host has skills.
Now living in L.A., Peters still follows the Canadian scene, singling out Shad’s album The Old Prince as Juno-nomination worthy. When preparing for the Junos, he draws on hip-hop, as well as on awards show hosts like Chris Rock and Billy Crystal who recognize they aren’t the event’s main focus. He feels more relaxed compared to last year: He knows what to expect, and Vancouver is “a far more forgiving city than Calgary”.
“The Juno committee lets me do what I want to do — there are no guidelines, which is great, since if I didn’t have that freedom, it would be really annoying,” he said. “At this year’s opening, I’ve got something else (hip-hop related) up my sleeve. I can’t say what it is, but it’s safe to assume it will be something to do with one of the four elements (of hip-hop).” From freestyle call-and-response routines with audiences to remixing old jokes, Peters pulls from the same techniques he uses when chopping up beats to prepare comedy routines.
At the Junos, he’ll mix scripted material with his own reactions. But while he employs some of the tricks used by hip-hop artists, Peters said comedians and musicians are very different performers. Comedians, he explained, don’t have the benefit of a back-up band or a politely appreciative audience: If a comedian bombs, people rarely clap.
“Rapping and hip-hop is all about timing and rhythm, and comedy’s like that too … What I do is all hip-hop — I mix in jokes and add my own flair to telling them,” he said. “With musicians, if the audience is not grooving to them, they can still keep playing and do their song, and people still clap at the end.
“They are very different people — musicians can be way more sensitive, and more ego-driven in a way.”