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Pour some sugar on me

by The Concordian January 10, 2012
Pour some sugar on me

Whether you’re looking to laugh — or rire —  internationally-acclaimed comedian Sugar Sammy’s upcoming show will guarantee you both. What originated as a single showing of “You’re Gonna Rire” at the Olympia Theatre blossomed into a 23-date run of the show—a clear indication that Franglais sells.
“Everyone in our city is bilingual to some extent,” Sammy said. Despite the city’s language conflict largely instigated by the adoption of Bill 101 in the ‘70s, he noted how similar all of Montreal’s citizens really are, whether they’re Plateau-bred or Côte Saint-Luc residents. With francophones watching English television featuring French-speaking actors in shows such as Pan Am, Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and anglophones flipping the channel on TSN in favour of French sports updates on RDS, it seems we’re not as different as we think.
Have no fear, unilingual audience members, as according to Sammy, “watching comedy is the best way to learn a new language, and way more effective than learning it in a classroom.” His upcoming show might even have you extracting a vintage Larousse dictionary from the depths of your shelves, and subconsciously absorbing a new language beats downloading the latest version of Rosetta Stone any day, I’d say.
The unusual idea to merge the two solitudes, French and English, in both the same routine and even within the same sentence, is a special treat only Montrealers will get to savour. “It’s a one-time deal,” Sammy said. “I’m never doing it again.” From references to the Habs, the referendum, our two ever-so-harmonious languages, our disastrous roads, the metro system and cabane à sucre, Sammy remains confident that everyone will feel connected to the subject matter regardless of language or age.
No portrait of Montreal is complete without a tribute to poutine, of course. “Aha!” he exclaimed when I brought up the idea, scribbling our city’s widely-adored culinary favourite on a napkin.
Born Samir Khullar, the 35-year-old Montrealer still lives at home with his Indian parents, and somehow, between driving them around to do groceries and recycling soda cans, playing ball hockey and touring the world 10 months a year, the guy still finds the time and energy to make us laugh.
“[Comedy] is who I am,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s work. I wake up every single day thinking about my next joke.” A firm believer in his craft, Sammy feels it’s easier to reach out to people through funny anecdotes than through political speeches or lectures.
This seemingly far-fetched theory has actually been tried, tested and true. “People have come up to me and been like, ‘My teacher showed us your clips to analyze in class,’ and it freaked me out,” he said. His intention is to make people laugh, as opposed to promote radical ideals, and being a part of a professor’s curriculum seems like an odd concept to him.
“I don’t want it to have too much of a political label,” he said. The show “You’re Gonna Rire”, his CD Down With the Brown and most of the other jokes up his sleeve touch on strong racial themes, but seek to entertain rather than offend. “Take Don Rickles for instance […] He rips on every single race, but it comes from a place of love and his tone suggests it’s in jest,” Sammy explained—an attestation to the fact that picking on aspects of certain cultures is not necessarily racist.
His relationship with stand-up comedy is somewhat monogamous, though when the opportunity to star in a commercial is apt, he’ll indulge in the occasional affair. Some of you might recall his Videotron commercials that aired this summer. They featured the comedian making ridiculous prank calls to sales representatives; the type of thing only a sixth grader could find entertaining, and only a sharp, fully-grown man can make marketable.
“I get a lot of offers [for commercials and ads],” the comedian admitted. He meets with companies to decide whether everyone’s visions match up. If they don’t, it’s because it won’t “bring out my talent,” he said.
Askmen.com named Sugar Sammy “Comedy’s New Rockstar,” the Hollywood Reporter called him one of the top 10 rising comedy talents on the planet, and girls have reportedly asked him to sign their lady parts. Lo and behold, his head is not the width of St-Laurent Boulevard. So what gives? “The second I get an ego, I get shot down very quickly. I learned that from a very young age.” He credits the “higher force” for keeping him in check, and reminding him not to get too comfortable.
On Dec. 22, Sugar Sammy lent his time to Haitians in need by participating in “SMILE Project Haiti,” a fundraiser that seeks to restore hope in Haiti through various projects once a month. In the spirit of the holiday season, he provided children in Haiti with solace by means of comedic relief. Big names such as Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Ne-Yo and Corneille partook in the event that week as well.
As much as this rising star tries to separate himself from the archetypal Hollywood image, arriving 20 minutes late to the café for the interview was no help. But with the combination he possesses of charm, wit and black Converse sneakers, it’s impossible to look past the fact that you wish he had sat next to you in high school and signed your yearbook as “Class Clown.”

Shows for “You’re Gonna Rire” begin on Feb. 23 at Olympia. For more information, go to www.sugarsammy.com.

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