Humor can get lost in translation. But not for Sugar Sammy , the Quebecois comedian—born Samir Khullar —who slays audiences in English, French, Hindi, and Punjabi. A sensation in Montreal, where he was born to Indian immigrants who ran a convenience store, Sammy ’s button-pushing schtick has also gained a huge following in France; he appears as a judge on , a Gallic version of America’s Got Talent, and won a Comedian of the Year nod from the daily Le Parisien last year.
Language and identity issues have shaped the comic’s life and material; onstage, he gleefully demolishes political correctness around both. “My audience likes that I go for the jugular,” he says. “Audiences like that I point out things that are obvious to all of us, but can get heated in discussion or turn into God knows what on social media.”
As an aspiring comic, Sammy’s inspiration was actually an American. “ Eddie Murphy is the reason I got into standup,” he says. “For comics of my generation, it was the only VHS you could get in every video store. It had this cool guy in a red leather suit on the cover. I love comedy when it comes from the margins of society and speaks to the mainstream.”
While the pandemic crashed his normally frantic tour schedule, lockdown has proved productive for the 44-year-old comic, who’s still commuting to Paris for his TV gig. “I’ve been getting onstage here with whatever protocols are in place in small comedy clubs and comedy nights to test material,” he says from his home in Montreal. “I’ve been writing material, developing TV projects, and putting content out there with my social media team.”
Since March, the army of Sugar Sammy followers on Facebook has doubled to 700,000, he says. A Facebook post called “Karens at a comedy show,” filmed at a Toronto comedy club last year, has racked up more than 10 million views since July.
Sammy’s first large-scale show in Montreal since lockdown takes place Jan. 21 at the city’s L’Olympia theater. In the meantime, the comic offered Penta his own five favorite funnymen.
Bill Burr . “He’s one of the most fearless comics, and his work over the last 15 years has been amazing. He goes after topics that you almost think he should get a backlash for, but he always gets away with it. His routine about Michelle Obama is a perfect example.”
Jerry Seinfeld . “He’s a great technician, with very well-crafted material. It’s rare to see this, but everything he’s done is also very soothing. You can binge-watch Seinfeld , or binge-watch Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee , without getting fed up.”
Chris Rock . “I love . It’s one of the best specials of the last few years. Chris Rock takes his time. He only releases a special every few years, but it’s always great. I love when comedians take their time. Some comics put something out every year, but it’s hit or miss. He always has great material. You can see he works on his craft, and he’s always ready when it’s up there.”
Norm MacDonald . “He’s another one who’s able to bring very dangerous and touchy subjects to the forefront and make them amazingly funny. It’s like the Bill Cosby bit he did±one of those things you can’t touch, but he did it.”
Mike Ward . “ Mike Ward is also Canadian and Quebecois. He’s one of those guys I love because he’s fearless. He’s the rare comedian who’s been in more trouble than I have in Quebec... He brings out touchy subjects, makes them funny, and gets in trouble.