An Interview with Sugar Sammy: the Importance of Bilingualism and the Best of Montreal

The city of Montreal has had a massive impact on stand-up comedian Samir Khullar, better known as Sugar Sammy. What might surprise you, though, is what exactly Sammy is referring to when he speaks of his beloved Montreal. He’s not talking about English Montreal and he’s not talking about French Montreal — Sugar Sammy has been born, bred and inspired in the middle of the Venn diagram where English and French meet. It is this Montreal that inspires his craft and it is this Montreal that, in Sammy’s mind, is the future of our city.

Sugar Sammy Interview 8Sugar Sammy Interview 6Sammy was born and raised in Côte-des-Neiges, one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods in all of Quebec. “It was a hard-working, lower middle-class neighbourhood,” he says. “Everybody around me was at least bilingual. That was the first Montreal I ever knew, so it’s kind of a culture shock whenever I go to areas of the city that are all Anglophone or all Francophone.” Sammy also firmly believes that bilingual meld he grew up in is the way of the future for our city. “You need to know French if you’re going to live here, but you need to know English if you want to interact with a lot of what’s going on in our country outside of Quebec,” he says.

Sugar Sammy Interview 2This firm belief in a bilingual Montreal comes out not only in Sammy’s views, but in his craft as well. His comedy show, You’re Gonna Rire contains elements of English, French, and patented Montreal Franglais. According to Sammy, though, the multilingual element of his shows is not intended to make Montreal aspire to something greater, it’s intended to hold a mirror up to our city and help it realize that these elements of greatness have been with us all along.

“When I first announced that I was going to do a bilingual show, I was told that it would never work. I was told that I was corrupting the social fabric of our province”, he says. “But guess what? It did work! And I think that’s because I’m showing people what’s existed in Montreal for almost its entire history. Being bilingual is such a part of what it is to be a Montrealer and it’s only going to become more relevant as time goes on.”

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“Being bilingual is such a part of what it is to be a Montrealer.”

Given how successful You’re Gonna Rire has been so far (Sammy was the top selling Canadian touring act of any kind last year), it seems that the future of our city lies not in the language policies of one political party or another. Rather, it lies in learning how to take a joke. Sugar Sammy’s jokes, to be precise.

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Sugar Sammy’s Best of Montreal

Where does funny live in Montreal?

Sugar Sammy: On the highways, in the courthouse and on Saint-Laurent between Sherbrooke and Pins.

What’s your favourite Montreal street?

Sugar Sammy: It used to be Saint-Laurent but for reasons I just mentioned it’s now Monkland.

What are your favourite restaurants in Montreal right now?

Sugar Sammy: Biiru near the Quartier de Spectacles and Grillade Da Silva near the Olympia Theatre.

What’s your favourite venue in Montreal to perform at?

Sugar Sammy: Olympia Theatre! That place is magical.

What’s your favourite venue in Montreal to see shows at?

Sugar Sammy: Olympia for comedy and Metropolis for music. I saw Prince, Jamiroquai and Chromeo at Metropolis. Those were the best three concerts I’ve ever seen.

What’s your favourite band to come out of Montreal right now?

Sugar Sammy: Busty and the Bass! Those guys are awesome! Give them as much publicity as you can!

If you were able to have an unlimited supply of three items from your local dep for free, what would they be?

Sugar Sammy: Do I have to take health consequences into account?

The Main: Of course not.

Sugar Sammy: Well, in that case, I’d have to go with a pint of Häagen Daz’s Cookies n Cream, a two-litre bottle of Coke and a box of chocolate chip cookies.

Photos by Sonia Primerano.