Sugar Sammy – It all started in 2012 as a one-show only performance by rising Montreal comedian Sugar Sammy, in which he would headline a bilingual English and French solo stand-up comedy show at the Olympia Theatre on St. Catherine Street East that would take place on February 29, which coincidentally, fell on Sammy’s birthday.
Within hours of the announcement of the show, this one-night only event rapidly experienced the snowball effect. Not only did tickets for the initial show sell out in record time, tickets for all additional shows sold out just as quickly. When Sammy officially retired the shows four years later, they played a total of 421 performances (all of them sold-out), sold a total of 372,000 tickets, and generated an astronomical $17.4 million in ticket sales. As a result, the shows’ success gave Sammy the distinction of being the best-selling artist with a debut solo show in Quebec history.
And two years after those final performances, the magic of “You’re Gonna Rire” and “En Francais SVP!” are now recaptured for posterity in two separate newly-released DVDs. They are now on sale exclusively through Amazon Canada, with downloads available through iTunes Canada and Google Play Canada; as well both formats are available on Sammy’s website at www.sugarsammy.com .
“I had no choice when it came to releasing these DVDs; it was long overdue. I wanted to celebrate that part of my career and my life and immortalize these shows that were an important marker in Quebec popular culture,” said Sammy during an interview last week at his suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, as he was about to undertake a series of VIP shows in Montreal to officially launch the DVDs. “The shows were originally supposed to be a niche project. It came from the margins of society that would appeal to Anglos and ethnics. And it became this insane success that was beyond anybody’s expectations.”
“The DVDs are for all people who have seen the shows and want to see them again, or for those who haven’t had the chance to catch the shows and wanted to see it,” he added.
The two shows that were taped for the DVDs were actually the final series of performances that culminated in the record-breaking outdoor show which took place at the Place des Festivals during the 2016 Just For Laughs festival, which was an intentional choice on Sammy’s part. “I decided to film the final two shows because I believed that by that time they were a well-oiled machine and I had managed to filter out the stuff that I didn’t want in it,” he said. “These shows certainly evolved over these four years and there were so many changes to them that by the end of its run, I kept the stuff that was important to me. It’s almost like a greatest his package.”
The content of both DVDs is almost like a combination greatest hits/complete Sugar Sammy. Besides the actual shows, the discs also include a number of special features like a show teaser from 2016, an interview with CHOM morning host Terry Dimonte, and plenty of Sammy’s own “Improv Moments” that were taken from his U.S. and French tours, as well as his Secret Shows that were held in Montreal.
“I’m one of those comedians who not only enjoys performing his own material, but also loves to freestyle, improvise and do crowd work, which leads to some amazing moments and unique moments that will never happen again,” he said. “I film every single one of my shows and sometimes, we’ll take the best of these ‘Improv Moments’, and put them online for the fans as extra content. Putting the best of these moments in the DVDs gives people a glimpse of what goes on during these Secret Shows.”
On the heels of the mega success of “You’re Gonna Rire” and “En Francais SVP!”, Sammy expanded his already busy touring schedule to include France, Switzerland and Belgium, where he was met with just as much mega success with audiences in those three countries, and plans to return there this fall. Sammy credits his comedic success across the Atlantic to one simple thing: he does his homework.
“Doing the groundwork in advance is key. You have to make sure you don’t take your audience for granted,” he said. “Before I left for France, I really took the time to do a lot of precise, meticulous research about the French and I immersed myself within that community. As a result, I worked on a new show for them, in which I just didn’t take my Quebec show and transposed it to France. I was really interested in getting to know them and understand them.”
After conquering a total of 31 countries with his brand of stand-up comedy (and in four languages, too), Sammy said that there are several more countries that he would like to bring his stand-up show to. First of all, there’s England (“I love the British’s unfiltered, dry sense of humour, and Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen are my favourite comics from there,” he admits). Then there’s the rest of Asia and a continent where he believes many North American comics have yet to penetrate: South America.
“I haven’t heard anything about stand-up comedy being performed there in English. I would love to tour there,” he said. “I am always on the lookout for new places to reach out. And as long as I get to work everyday of my life and able to be on stage, then I’m happy.”