Sugar Sammy throws caution to the wind in his bilingual sequel

par Bill Brownstein

While much of You’re Gonna Rire 2 is scripted, a good portion isn’t.

It’s a grittier, much harder-hitting Sugar Sammy. But if you were tickled by his first bilingual spectacle, his follow-up, You’re Gonna Rire 2, will induce uncontrolled body spasms, and, guaranteed, you will “rire” like you haven’t for far too long a time. 

It’s been seven years since Sugar Sammy wrapped his ground-breaking, first You’re Gonna Rire, the best-selling debut one-man show in Quebec history.  

Thankfully, Sugar Sammy is back and just in the nick of time for audiences more in need of mirth than ever. He has kicked off the Montreal portion of the You’re Gonna Rire 2 tour at — nice touch — Le Centre Pierre-Péladeau and, no surprise, tickets for his 40 shows until the end of September here have long been sold out. 

(Ten performances have just been added to the Montreal run in October and November, for which tickets are available, for now. Shows in Quebec City, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Magog and Sherbrooke are mostly gone, before his tour hits Moncton, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg — where tickets had recently gone on sale.)

Sugar Sammy takes no prisoners this time. In his quest to bridge the two solitudes — and a few others — and to keep patrons convulsing, he is in attack mode non-stop for 90 minutes, firing off shots at a machine-gun-like clip.  

But he gets away with it, because he does it most democratically, verbally assaulting all equally and doing it with a child-like, sparkling smile cemented to his mug, making his shtick so hard to resist. 

While much of his act is scripted, a good portion isn’t.  

Sugar Sammy crafts his scripted material with masterful precision, culminating with frequently unexpected punchlines. To drop them here would spoil the surprise for fans set to see the show, so I won’t. But trust me, there are some biting satirical gems unloaded. 

The part relating to his raucous interaction with audience members is an art form unto itself, classic improv taken to another level. Every night is a challenge, because he never knows the background of those he targets/taunts. It’s something akin to walking a tightrope. It can be tricky. It could get hostile, but miraculously, it almost never does.  

It’s this banter with the audience that is often the most anticipated aspect of his act. It’s almost reminiscent of the late Don Rickles, who also got away with merciless pot-shots at crowds and celebs like Frank Sinatra — not normally inclined to turn the other cheek when mocked in front of an audience. 

The difference, though, is that Sugar Sammy is also making social, political and cultural commentary. He may show signs of agitation, but his delivery is never angry. 

He takes pride — hilariously so — in being the ultimate outsider, who sees the world from the margins. He takes on governments and legislation — hello, Bills 21 and 96 — and institutions and all comers, and cares not a whit what consequences might come his way.  

He has decided that it no longer pays to play it safe on stage. He feels that comedy has been held hostage far too long. And if he upsets the powers-that-be in the entertainment or business worlds, he counsels them to cancel him. 

“So, no supermarket commercials or lame sitcoms for me in Quebec? No big deal, I’ll go to France or to Alberta, or just get out of this business altogether,” a grinning Sugar Sammy relayed to the audience at the show I caught. 

“I have been warned by many other comics to watch out, to avoid crossing the line. But, really, isn’t that the whole point?”

It is.