Slick, savvy stand-up Sugar Sammy takes on the world

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You may not know about comedian Sugar Sammy just yet, but give him time. His easy and cool comedy persona wins converts wherever he goes–and he goes just about everywhere. Sammy focused on marketing and cultural studies at McGill, and while many a standup comic is barely fluent in one language, the Montreal native not only speaks but performs in four: English, French, Hindi, and Punjabi. So there's really nothing holding him back from world domination.

You can tell the personable funny man is excited about his career. "In South Africa, it's unbelievable," he tells the Straight by phone. "Billboards with my face on them on the highways, and I'm in the press every day when I'm there and have full-page ads in all the papers. It's weird. I go there and I can't walk the streets. I have a driver and a bodyguard the whole time, so it's pretty nuts."

Although he's recently returned from shows in Dubai, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Sammy is not yet a household name in his home country. But he's starting to get recognized a lot more often, thanks to the popularity on YouTube of his Comedy Now! TV special.

"It's being passed around," he says, on the phone from his parents' home in Montreal. "I've been getting e-mails from all over the world, which is fun. It's fun that we're living in this type of age."

It also makes it easier to pull one over on his less-than-modern parents.

"My dad doesn't know how the Internet works," he notes with a laugh. "So he's bragging to the neighbours the other day. He goes, 'My son is a star. On the Internet, they play him all day long!'"

Sammy starts his Canadian tour at Lafflines Comedy Club in New Westminster, from Thursday to Saturday (January 3 to 5), in support of his new CD, Down With the Brown. Born Samir Khullar, he got his current handle from a sorority at McGill that thought his come-ons were a little cheesy. "They were so bad I would laugh as they were coming out of my mouth," he recalls.

Like fellow Indo-Canadian comic Russell Peters, Sammy hits on ethnic topics. Comedians write what they know, after all. But he can't be pigeonholed. His subjects include women, pop culture, music, and anything else he experiences.

"I just want to talk about what I know," he explains. "I do the ethnic stuff a bit because of my multicultural group of friends and the environment I live in. I think the second you start thinking about producing material based on how well it's going to sell, it starts suffering in quality. You have to really tell your story when you're up there. I think that's the key."

Despite the differences, Sammy understands the inevitable comparisons with the better-known Peters.

"In the beginning, I think it bothered me a little bit because I was like, 'Man, don't you see past that? We're two Canadian Indian guys, get over it,'" he says. "[But] it's not the worst fucking comparison that's going to happen. I'd rather be compared to Russell than Carrot Top, that's for sure. I'll take it. It's a compliment."

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