Anglophones in Paris are fortunate to be able to enjoy a thriving English-speaking comedy scene, with regular stand-up nights across the city. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing most of these and have even enjoyed watching certain comedians’ careers evolve over the time I’ve been here. Although as the Paris comedy scene has grown, particularly over the last 12 months, there are still a few, select shows on my bucket list I have yet to see.
In various half-hearted attempts to fit in here, I have also had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting through some French stand-ups, most of the time just waiting for the show to end! Don’t get me wrong, this is no reflection of the comedians’ skills, but rather an indictment of my own inability to fully understand or appreciate their particular humour. While I usually settle into my seat with every intention of trying to follow and enjoy their show, my limited French, combined with my own particular sense of humour, has often meant that jokes which have the audience in hysterics, are wasted on me!
Imagine my delight then, on receiving a message from my wife telling me that we were going to see another comedy show. Instinctively, I assumed it would be the show I’d been talking about for the past couple of months, but I decided to play along with the intrigue, “Great! Who are we seeing?” It would appear that I possess a dying skill of being able to respond to messages instantly, whereas my wife, despite being the instigator of a conversation, always takes an eternity to reply… Or maybe in this particular instance she was just working out how to break the news. Five minutes later her response arrived: “SUGAR SAMMY!!😊😊🙌”.
“Who the hell is Sugar Sammy?” I asked myself. I needed a quick, straightforward answer. What kind of night had I been signed up to? This wasn’t a question for my wife! Instead I turned to straight- talking Google, who gave an instant reply: “A 42 year-old comedian, writer and producer from Montreal with Indian origins, currently performing a French show in Paris, who describes himself as the unknown judge on ‘La France a Un Incroyable Talent’.
A French-speaking show in Paris! Flashback to 3 months earlier, when I left the theatre understanding about 25% of a French comedy show, most of which I didn’t find remotely funny. That was a Parisian comedian! How the hell was I going to keep up with this French-speaking Canadian’s accent?
So, how did it go?
In a nutshell, it was one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in a long time! Granted, I missed a few of the punchlines, but I understood 80% of what he was saying and that was enough to have me laughing throughout. His material was relatable and edgy. He opened the show by making fun of himself and his own origins and you could instantly see which direction the evening was going to take. Nationalities, cultures, sex, religion, nothing was off limits. He touched on pretty much every topic and no one was safe! While you’d be shocked to hear his material in conversation in a cafe, the setting and ambience made it all acceptable.
I’ve always admired those who can improvise, and this show was as much about improvisation and interaction with the audience as planned material. At least 20 members of the audience were involved throughout the course of the evening. A 22 year-old German girl on the front row with her mum, ironically named India, became a star in her own right. A group of Africans and Latinas provided amusing responses which Sugar Sammy twisted, to have everyone in hysterics. Even yours truly caught his eye, though I admit I got off lightly compared to others, getting just 20 seconds of banter. I suspect that the intelligent and empathetic comedian that Sugar Sammy is, knew when to delve deeper and when to move on. It has to be said, his observation and impression of a lonely British soul in Paris, surrounding himself with fellow English-speakers, was frighteningly close to reality!
Early in the show, a member of the audience replied light-heartedly ‘Laissez-moi tranquille’ when asked his name. One hour later, after 60 minutes of Sugar Sammy’s hilarious observations and irreverent humour, his guard came down and he not only shared his name, but even expounded the protection of the French language to the 200+ strong audience.
My advice to expats, if you have a decent understanding of French, is GO AND SEE THIS SHOW! It’s unlikely Sugar Sammy will be performing in English as he is currently breaking into the French comedy scene, but if he ever does an English-speaking show, book the tickets quickly as it’s clear he has an enormous fanbase among the Americans and Canadians here, and now at least one Brit!
My faith in being able to understand, relate to and laugh along with the natives has been restored. Thank you Sugar Sammy!
Visit Sugar Sammy’s website on www.sugarsammy.com
Video highlights are regularly uploaded on his Facebook page and YouTube Channel
Tickets can be purchased directly through the theatre website, or via Billetreduc (A word of caution, although tickets are cheaper with the latter option they seem to allocate seating on a lottery basis, comfort and stage visibility are not guaranteed!)