An interview with Montreal’s Samir Khullar, whose tour is timed with the federal election campaign.
Sugar Sammy says he didn’t plan it this way, but his current comedy tour sure lines up well with the current federal election campaign.
The Montreal-based teller of jokes is on a Canadian tour that includes a show at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Recent performances had Sammy riffing on those old “brown face” photos of the Liberal party leader.
“Trudeau had a brown face and a turban so he might lose the election for the same reasons as Jagmeet Singh,” Sammy tweeted.
“I’m not outraged that Trudeau did a brownface,” he posted to his Facebook page. “I’m outraged at the level of brown that he went to.”
In an interview with the Now-Leader, Sammy said it’s just good timing for him to get political on Canadian stages.
“How can you not, right?” he said in a phone call Thursday (Sept. 26). “I didn’t do it on purpose, but having the tour on at the same time as the election campaign, there’s no way I can’t talk about it on stage. I almost feel like I have a side campaign going on, you know, by always weighing in on what the candidates are saying and doing, especially the (party) leaders.”
Sammy, who once called himself “a good Punjabi boy” born Samir Khullar, said he doesn’t worry about alienating anybody in the audience with his political jokes.
“The thing is, and I tell audiences this, I’m still undecided,” he said. ”I weigh in on every candidate and make fun of all them, and I think that’s kind of our job as comedians, to not necessarily bring social change. And I think some comedians make that mistake of being a social-justice warrior on stage.”
He added: “I think most people are kind of torn between two parties, and I’m fiscally right of centre and socially left of centre. So it’s like no party has the perfect solution for me, and so I have to do my research and dig in deeper, like everyone should. So really, people see all this political stuff in the news and it’s sort of a break when someone makes fun of it, like I do.”
No stranger to Surrey, the multilingual Sammy has been a frequent performer at the city’s Bell theatre over the past decade, most recently in 2017 as host of a Just For Laughs tour.
To date, the man they call Sugar has performed more than 1,700 shows in 32 countries during a career that began when he was a student at McGill University.
Last spring, Sammy did a run of shows in Paris, France, at the Alhambra theatre. It’s where he lives for a couple months a year as he works to expand his comedy career beyond Canada.
In France, Sammy won the “Best Comedian” award in the Le Parisienmagazine’s countdown of 2018’s hottest performing arts and television stars, and was a judge on La France a un Incroyable Talent (the French version of America’s Got Talent), a popular TV show there.
”I used to come to Vancouver and Surrey a lot more, but because my work has taken me to France so often and also back in Quebec, I don’t have a chance to come here as often,” Sammy said. “So right now I’m kind of rebuilding my relationship with audiences here, in a way.”
Performing in Canada is quite different than in France, Sammy said.
“It’s a different there, and every time I go it’s an adjustment initially,” he explained. “When I come back here to tour and perform, and I have to re-Canadianize my brain a little bit – but it’s fine, I love it, and I think it makes me a better writer, a stronger writer, to travel around the world, adapt to different cultures and make people laugh.
“In France, they’re so demanding – just the toughest audiences I’ve ever seen in my life,” Sammy continued. “And because they’re so demanding, it forces me to bring my ‘A’ game every single night, so being there helped bring my writing to the next level, overall.”