Sammy Khullar, better known as Sugar Sammy, has performed shows throughout the world, but this weekend the award-winning Canadian comedian will bring his U.S. tour to Off the Hook Comedy Club in North Naples.
Sugar Sammy last toured the U.S. in 2011. Since then, his career has taken off, especially in Canada and France. He's performed more than 1,500 shows in 29 countries and works in four different languages: English, French, Hindi and Punjabi.
He made his debut in France last Fall and in March launched a new show written specifically for French audiences. He has also won multiple Quebec Olivier awards for his comedy and in 2013 was the first artist chosen by Comedy Central India to tour the country.
Sugar Sammy has also ventured into television sitcoms with a Canadian show called "Ces gars là," which he starred in, created and co-wrote.
His Naples performances are part of a spring and summer U.S. tour that includes stops in San Jose, Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Austin and New York
Ahead of his Off the Hook performances, Sugar Sammy shares his international approach to comedy and the comedians that influenced him.
Q: Why do you call yourself Sugar Sammy?
It’s the name I got when I was at McGill University. I used to throw parties off campus to help pay for my tuition, fees and expenses. I used to let all of the popular girls in school into the parties for free and never let them pay for drinks, knowing full well that when the popular girls love a party everyone else follows! The ladies started calling me Sugar Sammy around school. I was like the Van Wilder of my campus. I like the name now because it also reminds me of some of America’s boxers: Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard. There are lots of parallels between boxing and comedy!
Q: You’ve performed shows in 29 countries. What’s the major difference between performing abroad and performing in the U.S.?
The U.S. is the birthplace of stand-up comedy and has a very rich stand-up history. The audiences are used to controversial topics and a variety of opinions and points of view. That being said, thanks to YouTube and Netflix, foreign audiences are getting savvy to stand-up as well! It’s becoming easier and easier to have audiences understand where you’re coming from on an international level!
Q: You speak four different languages. How does speaking in one language over another change your comedy, such as when you perform in French versus English?
The adjustments are more cultural than linguistic. I still keep my stand-up structure and my style on stage but I write about different topics depending on the country I’m in. It’s key to see what an audience’s cultural reference point is and to build a bridge between your point of view and their sensibilities.
Q: What comedians influenced you as you developed your shows and why?
Eddie Murphy is the reason that I’m doing comedy today. When I watched his first special “Delirious” as a kid, I was hooked and knew that this was gonna be my vocation. I really love Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Bill Burr, Ricky Gervais, Sasha Baron Cohen to name a few. I tend to gravitate towards comedians that push buttons and ruffle feathers.
Q: You’ve done stand-up and TV. What’s next for you?
For me, stand-up will always be my first love and the core of my career. I’d love to continue doing TV, films, writing books etc. but never at the expense of stand-up. My dream has always been to have a long career and to have the luxury to pick and chose where and when I want to work.