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After killing it in France, Sugar Sammy wants to conquer the U.S.
by Bill Brownstein
2018-11-16

After winning funny bones and minds in France, Sugar Sammy is set to cross the Atlantic and take on the U.S. market.

It’s been tough times in France this past week. After U.S. President Trump came under attack for skipping a visit to a French cemetery of American soldiers last weekend, the Donald shot back in a Twitter attack taking on French President Macron for his views on nationalism and even threatening to impose high tariffs on French wine. Trump ended one Twitter barrage with: “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”

To which, a voice in the French wilderness responded on Twitter: “Don’t worry, I’m on it.”

And that voice belonged not to a Frenchman, but to our hometown super-wit Sugar Sammy.

Why not leave that job to Sammy? After two years of playing sold-out concerts there and establishing himself as a judge on the hit reality talent show La France a un Incroyable Talent (the French version of America’s Got Talent), he has certainly helped to make France funny again. And how’s this for irony: “Le plus drôle des Français est québécois,” GQ France trumpeted.

“The French seem to love it when I get down and dirty taking shots both at Trump and at them,” Sammy says in a phone interview from Paris. “They have a long history of sharp political and social comedy, so I’ve had a blast doing that.”

But the French will have to learn to live without him for a spell. Sucre, as he has also become known in France, will be taking temporary leave to cross the pond in 2019 to try to make America funny again. He is embarking on a 32-show, six-city tour of the U.S., including stops in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The tour, running from Jan. 30 to March 16, will also take him to Toronto, but, alas, not back here.

The multilingual Sammy (in addition to French and English, he can also crack wise in Hindi and Punjabi) may be a household word in these parts as well as in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East, but the U.S. market has been elusive to him, largely because he is under the radar there. But thanks to a recent feature on him in the New York Times, that could soon change.

“I want to make sure that I will stay in touch with the anglophone market, particularly in the U.S. and in the U.K,” he says. “I really want to build more momentum in the U.S. I did a few tours there between 2009 and 2011. I’m ready for more now.”

Sammy pledges he won’t be holding back in the U.S., especially in Washington, D.C.

“I’ll be sure to get under the skin of Trump supporters by reminding them that Jesus was black. And a woman, who wasn’t born that way.”

Yeah, that should do it.

Well and good, but what about Sammy returning to his hometown? We can always use the laughs.

“Don’t worry. I’m keeping track of events. I want to make Montreal great again, but that might take a municipal election,” he cracks. “I’ll be back for another stand, but not before 2021. I just want to make sure that the second show will be even better than the first one.”

The first one he is referring is, of course, his smash bilingual show, You’re Gonna Rire, and its French-only version En Français SVP!, which racked up an unprecedented 421 sold-out shows. He performed You’re Gonna Rire for the last time in an outdoor show at the 2016 Just for Laughs festival in front of a record-breaking crowd of more than 115,000.

“To be honest, I’d love to come back home. I definitely miss Montreal, but you can’t get anywhere with those roads,” he muses. “I’m always stuck inside my house when I’m there. I’ll return when I can get from N.D.G. to the Olympia theatre … without having to book the trip through a travel agent.”

Sammy will be returning to France next April for more concerts. There are also plans for a summer tour of the Middle East. And the likelihood is strong, thanks to the popularity of La France a un Incroyable Talent — which has been drawing TV audiences in excess of 4 million viewers per episode — that he will be back as a judge next year. (Sammy took over the judging spot formerly held by JFL founder/ex-owner Gilbert Rozon, who had been removed from the show after allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him surfaced last year.)

“It took me going to France to be finally recognized as a Quebecer. And in Quebec, they tell me to return to my country, even though Quebec’s where I was born.”

Ah, but that’s the stuff of which Sugar Sammy’s comedy is made.