Sebastien Bourgault staying focussed
One of Montreal’s Top Comedians playing West Island
By: Stuart Nulman – mtltimes.ca
For Montreal comedian SebastienBourgault, comedy is not just a way to make a living, it’s a lifelong passion.
“I have been passionate about comedy and I am still passionate about it. Being a comedian is the only job where in order to succeed, you have to try it out in front of a group of people. And I know that every time I do stand-up comedy, I can do well enough to kill with a crowd,” he said during a recent phone interview.
And that burning passion for comedy is well exhibited with his wild-eyed, frenetic stage presence – and his loud, machine gun-style delivery – that’s typical for Bourgault every time he takes the stage at a comedy club or community/fundraising event in Montreal (where he racks up an impressive 300 performances a year).
And what makes the story of SebastienBourgault’s journey into the world of comedy so impressive is that the 41-year-old comic began performing regularly in his second language of English just four years ago.
Since he was a boy, Bourgault enjoyed telling jokes, first with his father while they read issues of Reader’s Digest together, and then in front of his entire family. By the time he was 17, Bourgault took up theatre in college, where he did a five-minute performance in front of an audience that was not made up of family members, and did quite well. In 2003, he decided to begin his comedy career, but gave up on it the following year because he realized that doing stand-up comedy full time wasn’t paying the rent. However, he found a steady paycheque by appearing in over 300 commercials on French-language television over a space of three years. Financial security aside, Bourgault didn’t have that sense of professional satisfaction from all that commercial work that performing comedy did for him. “I wasn’t happy. I missed that feeling of adrenaline that I got by telling jokes in front of a live audience and making them laugh,” he said.
So in 2008, Bourgault decided to focus on his dream and pursue a full-time career as a professional stand-up comedian. As a result of this career change, he quickly became a well-established French-language comic in Quebec, and appeared in 12 Juste pour rire galas (which were broadcast on TV as “Le Grand Rire”), as well as at 50 outdoor shows during several Juste pour rire festivals.
However, when he began to perform sets at the old Comedy Zone club on Rene-Levesque Boulevard (which held shows in both French and English), Bourgault felt the pull of the world of English language stand-up comedy, and felt the desire to perform in English. “When I started at the Comedy Zone, I was so impressed by being in a real stand-up comedy club, because in the Francophone comedy scene, there is no such thing as a comedy club,” he said. “I always felt it was my destiny to do stand-up in English, but I was scared, because I thought it would be impossible to learn a new language.”
However, Bourgault dove head first into his quest to learn – and perform – in English. He took an intensive 10-week English course, and to gain practical experience speaking English, as well as learn about the Anglophone culture in Montreal, he worked for three months as a waiter at a Chez Cora restaurant in Kirkland.
“I was also motivated by Sugar Sammy and his string of successful bilingual shows (at the Olympia Theatre), because he worked so hard breaking that language barrier in the local comedy scene, and helped a lot of francophone comics like myself to have the confidence to tell French-related jokes to Anglophone audiences,” he added.
And this hard won determination to break into the English language comedy world has seemed to pay off for Bourgault. He has performed numerous times at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City and the legendary Comedy Store in L.A., headlined at Yuk Yuks in Ottawa, and hopes to embark on a cross-Canada tour. But before he tries his English-language comedy chops from Halifax to Vancouver, Bourgault will perform in his very first full-length solo show entirely in English called “SebastienBourgault: Focus” next Saturday night (September 12) at the Firm Lounge, located at 2362 Hymus Boulevard in Dorval, starting at 8 p.m.; Tony Riccio will serve as emcee for the evening.
“I called my show ‘Focus’ because these days, it is so easy to be so unfocussed on anything. After learning and immersing myself in the English-speaking world, I began to focus more on my second language. I now watch more English TV, read more English publications and write more of my material in English,” he said. “I have always wanted to do a 90-minute solo comedy show in English, where I can just say what I have to say in front of a large group of people, and where I can push the limits with them. And of course, it’s up to those people to decide if they like it or not, which I find quite amazing.”
Tickets for “SebastienBourgault: Focus” are $25 each, and can be purchased by calling 514-706-6696.