The Mindspace Podcast #19: Comedian Sugar Sammy on the Art of Laughter

welcome to the Mindspace podcast I’m
Joe Flanders thanks for tuning in the mind space podcast is my personal
in-depth exploration of the science and practice of well being I’m sharing this
journey with you because I believe we can all lead happier more meaningful
lives by getting the facts in training our minds join me as I learn and share
the most inspiring insights about human flourishing from leading experts because
we could all use a little more of mind space my guest today is sugar Sammy
sure Sammy is one of the hottest comedians on the international circuit
right now he’s performed over 1,700 shows in 32 countries in English French
Hindi and Punjabi he grew up and started his career in Montreal craftily poking
fun at the cultural and linguistic tensions in Quebec in recent years he’s
broken through the rest of Canada the US and now France where he was recently
named the new King of Comedy his comedy blends cool charisma sharp
wit and an immense cultural sensitivity to deliver laughs in an impressive
diversity of environments as you’ll hear Sam is also surprisingly humble
down-to-earth and well adjusted especially for a comedian and it was a
real pleasure to speak to him about how he writes and performs his comedy his
life as a celebrity how he approaches social media and how he sustains his own
well-being if you’d like to stay up to date with all the latest news about the
mindspace podcast please sign up for our mailing list at mine space well being
calm slash newsletter and if you’d like to support the podcast please consider
rating it on whatever platform you use to get your podcasts and without any
further delay here is my conversation with comedian sugar Sammy first of all welcome to the podcast
it’s really cool that you’re here actually appreciate you taking the time
extra thick it immuno yeah could have brought in some real legit people I
thought this was a good idea I’m happy I’m a happy I’m on your radar oh it’s
it’s it’s really a privilege to have you so you grew up in Montreal right that’s
right and a lot has been said about your origins and coat dinesh yes we just tell
people about coat dinesh you know this neighborhood in Montreal and how it
influenced you as a person and as a comedian well I think every person or
kamini especially is influenced by their childhood and where they grew up and how
they grew up for me it was totally I mean it’s where my parents settled
because that’s where a lot of immigrants settled when they came to Montreal they
would come to called dinesh central neighborhood in in Montreal you know not
too far from downtown but you know some of the cheapest rent some of the
cheapest retail outlets I mean even now if you go to classical Dinesh there’s a
plug classical Dinesh or some people thought it didn’t exist anymore but if
you want 1985 prices in 2019 go to Plaza Cote Dinesh your t-shirts for like 58
cents like the dollar stores gonna close because everybody else is beating those
dollar store prices but I you know I think that neighborhood influenced me
because I grew up around so many cultures so many people weren’t just you
know bilingual but trilingual at least most of my friends were at least
trialing will they’d speak English French and another language so you know
I think building bridges was something that I was taught very early on and it
wasn’t something I was taught you know proactively in any way it was just you
know that’s how I you know survival you know so I grew up in a neighborhood that
lent itself to that that encouraged that I grew up in a school
went to schools that that would encourage that kind of that kind of
behavior and for me I think it definitely helped me help my comedy
travel well you know so I was very it was very easy for me to adapt and to
write a show for a different culture different country because I came from
that neighborhood that allowed me to do it on a daily basis from the age of like
three years old you know so when I hear you talk about that I think okay yes so
he grew up in a multicultural neighborhood and you speak four
languages for yeah so English French Punjabi and Hindi that’s right and
you’re fluent in all four that’s right and you do comedy you can do comedy and
all four that’s right yeah and not just in the four languages but in the places
where these languages are spoken as the norm yes
which is we’ll get into that but incredibly fascinating to me it was so
when I you know hear you talk with that I think okay yes so multicultural
neighborhood but not everybody kid growing up in cotton age is like an
internationally renowned comedian right so there’s more to your success than
just the sort of cultural background yeah well number one parents from coda
never encouraged their kids to be comedians didn’t feel like a viable
option it felt like if you went into that the whole family would be bankrupt
so I was the only crazy one from Cody Nash and I think a lot of it is also I
think the will you know to to to get to learn from different people I mean for
me I don’t think I could have been friends with all these all the friends
that I’ve had growing up I don’t think I could have been friends with them had I
not said to myself well I want to get to know them okay why can’t my friend who’s
Jewish play hockey with us on Friday like why and then he’d explained to me
and then I’d understand and it was no longer a question instead of going you
guys are weird you know which is the behavior of a lot of people and he’s
seated come back typically these days where it’s like the fear of the other
you know what it’s like ah well if they’re not like us well then I don’t
really want to get to know them and I don’t need to be friends with them and I
don’t need to do business with them can you imagine
an economy working this way without wanting to do business abroad and you
know you know exporting any other their fine products exporting any of their
culture out there and you know just just the thought of that to me is like well
how many missed opportunities in every sphere so for I think for me one of the
reasons that it worked internationally is because I was always very passionate
about really writing a show that spoke to people but not just in a way with
like oh that’s interesting this guy from a bar brought from abroad it’s like hey
I want them to say wow that’s interesting that this guy has gotten to
know us this way and how does he know us this well how did he and so that’s
that’s what I get in France now because I built a whole show just for friends
and it’s basically a roast of France you know cultural roast of France and then
the the way I did it was I spent time there and I actually immersed myself in
the culture and very quickly identified what makes us different but what makes
them interesting you know because I’ve know a lot of people who’ve come from
Quebec who’ve gone to France and the reason why they didn’t make it in France
because they took their Quebec show and they transported word for word to France
and they said oh this should work and they didn’t because the style was
different the language was different the culture was different and it was almost
like watching someone you know in let’s hear you Canadian you’re and you’re
listening to someone talk about you know the laws and the and their and the
cultural traditions of museu and you’re like fine it’s interesting but am I
gonna go see this comedian over someone who can really you know who’s really
adapted their comedy to me who’s talking to me you know they’re talking to me and
not talking about themselves they’re talking about me so you’re actually
taking the time to say hey look I’m making this show about you guys I’m not
making about myself and that’s I think the the mistake a lot of comedians make
they’re like no I want to I want this to be about me and
I’m like no I want them this to be about the crowd I want this to be about the
audience and so companies will make that mistake too they’ll bring a product
that’s foreign to a new country and their marketing will and the product
will completely will just be exactly the way it was back home and it’ll clash
with the not with the new context completely right but the successful
companies are the ones who go okay well this is us this is them now how do we
make this work abroad how do we speak to them so I did see that headline I think
in the French magazine something like the funniest Frenchman is québécois
right right so it took me leaving Quebec to be labeled a Quebec the other thing
that that I see when I you know that’s the end of your video clips in your
website there are people giving their testimonials about your show and more
than once the audience will say it’s precise there’s something like you’re
very sharp I don’t mean that in the aggressive sense but it’s like it’s very
InFocus it’s not like generally hitting the mark like you’re really hitting the
mark with these cultural references right and that’s that’s unusual to be
able to do that in more than one context yeah so how do you do that and you did
mention sort of this openness curiosity about the other yeah but you seem to
dial it up in a way that most people can’t right well I think it’s homework a
lot of it is really doing the homework and taking the time and being patient
and having that luxury of saying okay well I’m just gonna go there right test
out material every day see what works and what doesn’t it’s almost like you
got to master your subject you know and it’s like you’re writing a thesis about
them and so you have to really do your research and then cut out the fat and
get to you know the heart of the heart of what you know your subject matter and
I think that’s what’s that’s what resonates it’s like when you’re really
able to say okay I understand now because I did all this research it’s
like a vacuum right you take everything in and then you know once you
get all that information you got to take you know that you got to take what you
need and you got to take the precise stuff so like sometimes I’ll just test
it on on people from that country I’ll say what do you think about this and
sometimes they’ll say well oh well a lot of people have said that already so I’m
like ah I don’t want to touch it you know and then I’ll you know and then
something and then I’ll say what do you think about this you know the next thing
and they’ll say oh this yeah this is so true and no one’s ever said that though
before we know you know it’s like sometimes things we take for granted
someone else is able to identify about us you know and you know if someone came
in a comedian from abroad and started talking about the construction run
she’ll be like well we’ve heard it a million times alright so what’s your
take on it okay fine but if they were able to identify something that we’ve
taken for granted for years and then was able to like pinpoint it precisely we’d
be like oh this guy really did his research you know or if they were able
to really get the gist of what’s going on with like bill 21 which is you know a
bill to have been religious symbols in certain contexts you know you’d be there
okay how do you know this you know what I’ve been here for like you know three
weeks been reading up on it and watching your news and talking to people on the
ground you need all of that you know you need the the you need the information
from you know some sort of news outlet or you know or the internet or whatever
but then you also need to be on the ground and ask people and talk to them
and really get what’s what’s at the heart of it you know but you grew up
here and you have you know friends and family and years of cultural reference
but you pop up in France who do you – do you test these things with so I I guess
you do like small sets in small clubs right but you got to be chatting with
people and and doing it informally how do you who do you talk to in France yeah
I mean you know you start making friends pretty quickly and then you just go you
know then you start asking questions like yeah wait as I wasn’t strike it’s a
little stripes hey um if you guys are always on strike and on vacation when
does it work it so then they start laughing they’re like
man how’d you notice that I was like well yeah I’m like you guys don’t you
notice there’s all of the protests there’s always a strike and they’re like
yeah and I’m like and you guys do take like three months of vacation I’ve never
seen that like how does this work like how economically how does it you know so
I think just having a foreigner ask these questions it’s funny to them you
know this foreigner piece is interesting too because I feel like to get into your
kind of persona for a second you’re always working the outsider bit yeah
so you’re the Quebec one in France you’re like the brown guy in Montreal or
you’re the Anglo in Montreal or then the you’re the bilingual or whatever you
always have this outsider perspective yeah and which I guess is that a common
thing in comedy many people comics are typically a bit removed they have this
bird’s-eye view of things right or is this something that you cultivate
specifically I think most comics you know most successful comics have been
people who never quite fit in yeah we’re always you know working from you know a
marginal point of view whether it was in high school whether it was you know
there’s all there’s there was always that I think I always felt that way
wherever I went I mean except except in cote de neri and still in cote de Nez
where I feel like I’m at home you know I went to see Jeff at Mary
innopolis and I felt like that kid who went from public school who’s in like
this private school setting with all these rich kids and it was tough to fit
in the first you know the first the first semester my grades weren’t going
well I didn’t make many friends the first semester then slowly I started
kind of navigating I think for me it’s always whenever I come somewhere I show
up somewhere whether it be you know high school or
cégep or university or a new country you know some people tend to jump into
friendships and alliances very quickly and then they realize oh I’m
the wrong friends I made the wrong alliances you know you even noticed that
for a semester of university like oh okay wait a second this guy befriended
very quickly it’s kind of crazy access data women so what I tend to do is I
tend to kind of stay quiet and stay in the background for the longest time and
then slowly make my moves you know and that’s in every context because you want
to kind of you want to evaluate everything first you want to get all the
information and then say okay now let’s start making some choices you know and I
think that’s a healthy way to approach things it’s also very lonely way to
approach things yeah and I feel like for me in in whichever context I’ve been
working in as a comedian I’ve never felt part of the click of other comedians you
know I’ve always been like even within the comedian’s I felt like the outsider
so within the comedy circle so within the Quebec culture I mean I have very
little you know very few friends very few you know friends it’s comics you
know and I’m you know and then I start making them but the friends I do have
are very close friends so I write I’m very picky and choosey that way but it
also allows me to like make fun of everyone and not be like I can’t make
fun of this person because and I’m friends with them so it’s it kind of and
sometimes what happens is that I’ve noticed this in many contexts comedians
who grow up in certain circles tend to start sounding alike and having the same
points of views because they start filtering each other they’re like well
you’re not gonna say you like Trump are you we can’t hang out with this guy now
okay wait a second you’re not gonna say that you know bill 21 is it’s okay I
tend to appreciate comedy also when it comes from when there are different
perspectives like I enjoy when can like I’ll there’ll be a gala and they’ll be
like six comedians and they’re all very different and they have different points
of view and different things that they different political political
allegiances even though they’re on the same show I find that interesting I find
that fun and you tend to see that a lot less these days they
you did in the 70s and 80s everyone sort of left-leaning now in comedy and
everybody you know everybody sticking to that discourse because it’s safer
because there’s not that social media backlash right so I find that you’re
losing that kind of you’re losing that diversity of opinion in the arts that’s
interesting I I do want to spend some time on social media because it’s very
interesting time to be a comedian on social media right back to this thing
about feeling an outsider feeling at home if I think about your history of
the last few years you did over a hundred shows at the Olympia and it was
groundbreaking because it was the first bilingual show and Montreal and even
Canada embraced you in a way you didn’t feel part of the city or like that this
was your Ground Zero your like your starting point and this is your home
base mm-hmm well I think the reason why this show was successful here is that a
lot of people feel like the outsider here oh wow it’s so interesting right I
think in Montreal and in Quebec it’s very interesting I think that everybody
feels like the minority everybody feels like the outsider right so the Anglos
feel like they’re the minority within Quebec and well technically we are we
are right however the québécois feel like they’re the minority within North
America Yeah right linguistically and culturally and and their language and
culture are under threat under threat right whether an island in this
anglo-american exactly and then you know Canadians feel like well you know we’re
always gonna be second place to the US which is right there so there’s so many
contexts within which you know someone from Montreal will feel like an outsider
right and so I felt like one of the reasons this show connected is because
what I was going through a lot of other people were going through but nobody
told this story on TV nobody’s told this story in a pop culture context have
before you know this this story of someone who you know feels like a
minority within a minority within a minority you know so it was I think
that’s why it resonated because you know other people felt the same thing and
would you say it’s a different vibe in Toronto or Vancouver I mean it
definitely is yeah I feel like when I go to Toronto I was just in Toronto for a
layover okay and just seeing the diversity in Toronto was great however
the difference in Toronto is it’s not an issue it’s normal mm-hmm it’s like there
is no oh wow this is interesting like what are you talking about that we’ve
been like the way you’ve been this is how we’ve been for the last thirty years
this is normal to us there’s no issue like you’ll turn on the TV I’ll turn on
Canadian television where everybody’s based in Toronto and the news anchor
will be brown or Asian or and it’s not an issue no one says no one says anymore
how interesting great they’ve been so diverse on CTV and on CBC lately and
you’re like this is just normal now no one’s talking about that whereas in
Quebec you know the fact that the galaxies which took place which was the
big awards show and they did like this photo of all the nominees who were on
stage there was a press conference and there was not one person of color it was
just a sea of white and then you know people thought to themselves well why
what do you why is this happening and and then you know the response was well
there are no good ethnic actors out there or the you know it’s the the
public who that votes so there you know ethnic comedians aren’t as popular as
the white ones it was like it’s a deeper SOI that’s a symptom of a deeper issue
and the deeper issue is that no one’s telling these stories no one that story
isn’t on TV so you’re not getting the ethnic writer producer director telling
that story that having that point of view on TV
I left three years ago here like I left Quebec three years ago and there’s a
space that I took up here that no one had taken up and since I left no one has
taken a vow I’ve left three years ago and and I had a TV show successful TV
show three seasons of it here which I co-wrote and co-starred and I had my
live show we sold three hundred seventy two thousand tickets it’s the
best-selling first one-man show in the history of Quebec no one has put it on
TV yet I’ve released it on DVD on iTunes that no one’s put bought the rights for
it to be on on TV because if I have feelings it’s uncut this would be too
much trouble it’ll cause way more controversy because it’s fine in a
theatre context but on TV millions people watching this guys say these
things forget it and then and then no one’s taking up that space it’s a very
lonely space to take up because it comes with a lot of backlash and it comes with
a lot of you know people looking at you from in the industry as like who that
guy that dangerous guy was talking about these things you know face you know I’m
seeing fraternizing with him too much if I post a photo of me going to his show
even now even now and even in the cultural media of Quebec which is very
big and thriving flourishing like there isn’t that openness well there isn’t
because if you look at the again you look at the get out this the nominees
reflect that you know we’re still discussing bill 21 you know bill 21
where you know religious freedom is under scrutiny right now
you know you try explaining that across Canada and they’re like no that’s you’re
lying that’s not happen it’s impossible yeah
and then people forget people think this is new there’s a charter of values four
years ago it’s pretty much the same discussion just disguised as something
else right so I think the reason why again the outsider point of view or
Brooks’s because a lot of people here do feel like the outsider and I think
that’s the case in a lot of in a lot of places I mean I go to France and and you
know I think people feel that as well the the the difference in France is is
that the majority doesn’t get mad at my comedy they actually go well he’s right
he’s right we know we know we actually acknowledge that you know we have been
racist historically we kind of still are sometimes yes you know my start my show
in in France and I go you know I love being here in France you guys are my
favorite Arab country yeah you know and right away that gets a laughing is such
a loaded statement and there’s so much that comes with it it’s very simple
sentence but so much in it right and it resonates with them because they’re like
yeah geez no one’s ever said that before in our country they took someone from
the outside to say it and we understand why that’s funny
you know what jumps out at you when you show up in the US because you’ve you’ve
done a bunch of stuff there as well right
well there’s so much I mean my next to have my my next my next show my have my
us-based show that I’ve been building really does focus is on the difference
between Canadians and Americans we’re neighbors were so close
you know geographically and culturally we have some similarities we consume
similar things but we’re so different when you peel everything away and then
when I point those things out I think the Americans get a kick out of it and
even America is divided and I talked about how divided it is you know it’s
like like crazy you know flag bearing nutjobs on the right and then you know
the crybabies on the left you know it’s divided but not in good ways you know
nobody’s in that center anymore it’s like everything’s either a a big threat
to the country or on the other side completely offensive and hurtful you
know and you’re like okay how is this country functioning cuz it’s like you
know everybody used to be kind of the center left or Center right but
everybody’s gone either really far to the left or really far to the right and
nobody’s right about this and then so I kind of identify that and they they’re
like oh wow okay this guy from the outside and actually talking
about those two things and I’m one of those I’ll critique both sides so I
don’t just go critique the right and the Trump supporters well since a lot of the
left needs to like you know man up a little okay let’s listen I want to jump
on that for a second because like many comedians you could be really mean right
and particularly I was watching some of like The Improv stuff that you do
because you have a lot of that on the website right and like like straight up
insulting people that simple it’s not that there’s 30 wants is in complexity
of course of course but so if you’re not insulting someone you’re insulting his
girlfriend right loving like they’re there it’s obviously done in good fun
right and you’re laughing in there laughing it’s all good but um what’s
going on in these contexts like what is so fun about you it’s like and you do
have an edge right I know you as a very nice guy and so there’s a there’s a
stage persona that I think your your kind of you know cultivating and you you
know I don’t know one of the I think when I saw you you you’ve got the
leather jacket and like you’re you play a bit of a badass right and people love
it people like to be taken down by the badass right what’s that about um well
listen I think some of my favorite comedians have been comedians who’ve you
know a worn a leather jacket and even some of my favorite artists are artists
who’ve worn leather jackets so it’s kind of for me that that’s kind of a no match
to all of those artists that I’ve always admired you know I you know we were
talking about I think before we start recording the 80s and how I love the 80s
so you know a lot of the 80s was influenced from a lot of the 60s so you
know the leather jacket you think of Elvis you think of you know Michael
Jackson Prince George Michael some of the biggest eighty stars were leather
jackets so for me it was like the leather jacket was not negotiable okay I
had to get a leather jacket but and number two I think people
like to see especially with comedy with artists I think they like to see
something where they know there’s an element of danger
mmm you know and they also it’s and then there’s a part of it that’s magic they
want to see how does this man get out of this dangerous situation
how will the laughs happen mm-hmm because we know we trust that it will
it’s like a magician you trust that they will be able to get out I mean I you
know – it’s gonna deliver a WoW yeah when the Wow’s gonna come when’s it
gonna come and that’s what people pay for cuz otherwise you know you’re just
an asshole doing a mean TED talk Wow is getting the laugh in the context of that
confrontation of that confrontation but it’s not even a confrontation a lot of
it is just you know sometimes when when when I do roasts someone it’s not
someone who didn’t deserve it you know they I never and it’s always I’m very
good at dosing and IV this is one thing you get with with experiences you get to
learn well how much is appropriate how far can I go and when I roast someone it
when it goes really far it go only goes as far as they’ve deserved it meaning if
they were disruptive mm-hmm for 45 minutes and they would never let you get
to the punchline and they wanted to make the show about them
the audience is hoping that you’re gonna rip into them and they’re gonna be
they’re gonna back this you know because they’ve seen this person be belligerent
and misbehave so I’m able to to kind of get it and if someone just makes a
mistake by saying something that’s inaccurate when I ask a question well
then it’ll be gentle it’ll be a gentler thing you know so you kind of you you
know it’s a there’s an art and a science to it you got a you got to feel the
audience and you got to feel out what the other person can take you know you
know early on in my career I’ve obviously made the mistake of going too
far or not going far enough where someone was being belligerent and you
ignore them and then the audience goes well this guy should have handled it
yeah you know why isn’t he handling this is me a professional and then you kind
of lose that credibility you have to command the room with some
degree of dominance or the crowd won’t be with you oh yeah yeah that’s what
they’re there for ya know that’s your stage that’s your
audience you have to not only hold them but you have to be able to drive them
for that hour hour and a half whatever it is and if you lose them and I’ve seen
comedians lose them like you know early on and you still see guys go to comedy
clubs and they’ll start doing crowd work and they’ll lose the audience very
quickly and you could identify the mistakes that they’ve made yeah so it
comes with experience trial and error so I gotta say early on it you know I I
wasn’t always great at it so those edgier moments where there’s a
little bit more aggression playful aggression the hook there is the danger
aspect it’s like wow he’s really pushing the limit with this audience member
mm-hm and it’s like escalating and how does he pull it off and and like resolve
it with a joke mm-hmm right well same thing with material I mean I think a lot
of the stuff I’m working in now is is very edgy right so it’s always
like okay we’re going into this topic we’re going into the zone and then you
can see the audience getting a little bit uncomfortable like how is he gonna
get out of this my girlfriend’s next to me she’s not gonna like this I’m gonna
have to pretend I don’t like it I’m gonna have to apologize because of what
this guy’s saying and then you surprise them with a great punchline and then
you’re able to get out of it and I kind of like that you know you like you
you’re like okay you you know you dig a hole for yourself and then you see how
you get out of it you know and I think that’s why people enjoy that kind of
comedy they enjoy going to a theme park the roller coaster ride you know it
feels dangerous but you trust that the technology and the science and
everything behind it is gonna get you out of there safe well that’s what again
what I find so interesting about these takedown moments because it totally
depends on the trust mm-hmm and I’m guessing you’re building that trust as
the evening goes on all right yeah but you don’t want to lose that and and
you’re you know you’ve been doing it for a long time so you do you know what
indicators to read and you know how to push the limit without going too far
in this kind of thing yeah and I mean with with improv with like crowd work
it’s way more dangerous than obviously written by real right
but with written material it’s the same thing you kind of have to know how to
pace your material meaning like I’ll have a set list and I won’t go into the
most dangerous stuff right away right right it’s like a date you know you go
on a date person you’re on a date with you want them you slowly go into small
talk talk about work talk about you know whatever and then then you test your
boundaries where you can go and it slowly build to a point where okay I’ve
crossed this line and this was okay we are going to talk about Aziz Ansari in a
second here but but I think you know a show with a comedy show is kind of like
that is like a date for an hour and a half and then you want them leaving
going wow I want to see him again yeah you know I wonder if again the outsider
status affords you more flexibility there if you were like like I don’t know
this is a dumb like 80s reference but if you were like the captain of the
football team a white guy that everybody loved and you
were just a dick I don’t know if I should say that you were designing if
you were just mean it would you would come across differently I heard for
example Ricky Gervais stalk recently about he sees himself as like in the
lineage of the court jester and the court jesters role is to speak truth to
power but to do it from the roll from within the context of the commoners
right so he’s always cutting himself down in a way and the joke is often on
him and that that gives him a few degrees of freedom to to push the limits
with people right what do you make of that theory yeah I mean I don’t know if
it’s Who I am I think if I was a white guy I’d be able to kind of get away with
what I do anyway there was plant there are plenty of white comedians who I love
and who cross the line and what these you know points of view who I’m like wow
how does he get away with you and some of my favorites historically
that don rickles yeah you know you look at Rickles Rickles would rip on
everything go so far in terms of race sexual orientation just everything you
know like Don Rickles I mean Archie Bunker all in the family you look at
that character on TV the sky had so many flaws but one of the most likeable
characters and beloved characters in the history of television one of my favorite
comedians working today bill burr you know he’s angry at everything but makes
me laugh so much I think you know the the the way to succeed in being able to
pull those things off is always making sure that you’re precise and how you how
you pace your material and how you write your material so a lot of is in the
writing but a lot of is in the pacing too so if I have something very
dangerous you know I’ll make sure that I have my next bit will be one of those
surefire works a hundred percent of the time bits meaning that I’ll make them
forget you you know you make them forget what just happened you know you make
them you soften it but something that’s gonna work no matter what you know and
sometimes I’ll do it if it’s really dangerous I’ll put a bit like that
before and after you know so you sandwich that bit yeah so I think you’re
able to do it because people don’t just remember one joke right you know um you
know when they leave a show they’ll remember the general vibe of it I mean
my a new show I tell the audience straight up now I go look in my show
there’s gonna be a 90/10 rule you’ll love not ninety percent of it ten
percent of it will face you off and that ten percent will be different for
everybody now if I listen to everyone mmm I wouldn’t have a show you know what
do you what would you rather have you have a hundred percent of an okay show
or ninety percent of a great show ten percent kind of hurt but ninety
percent was great I was like you know when you try to please everyone you
please nobody right you know what do you do we need to come if you try to please
everybody well I guess you become Prime Minister of Canada but
so I pretty much tell them that sure I say look this is what’s gonna happen
so they kind of know and they like it you know like I want I want this I don’t
see this on TV anymore everybody’s always apologizing before they say
something you know so it’s interesting because that speaks to kind of the angle
I was curious about when I asked you why do people show up for these takedowns
and or why do people show up for something that 10% they’re gonna be like
really pissed off about and the kind of touchy-feely thing I had in my mind is
like people just love to laugh mm-hmm and they love to laugh with other people
so I’m just curious about your sense of like why comedy is so important to
people I felt they’ll put up with being
offended or being taken down or whatever because there’s something very deeply
healing or important or cathartic or something yeah well there it is
therapeutic I mean I love laughing you know a lot of comedians you know you
seem like I don’t really love laughing that’s not show comedians do love
laughing as well I’m like I know for me it’s one of those feelings that you
can’t control that’s one of the best feelings that you
can get and I think people seek that today to you know exercise they sleeping
well and I think a good dose of comedy you know
nothing feels better I know you know I have a fan base that likes coming out to
my shows because they feel like it will be like a roller coaster ride you know
but they’ll come out happier than they left so I guess I guess that’s what it
is I couldn’t give you more I mean I’m sure there’s scientific data it kind of
will explain it a little bit better but I think for me you know it’s that human
connection that you can get with someone from laughing I think you know even look
at it when you’re having dinner with friends
how much fun is it when it’s not all about just you know sharing feelings and
and and and and talking about working and talking about the mundane but you
also get great laughs out of it but I mean if you combine both if you touch
people on a deep and then you’re able to give them laughs
that’s great as well I know we’re throwing shadow on sharing feelings but
I think the combination of it is great you know for me I I think the older I
get the I think the more prolific I’m getting in terms of my writing and and I
think my writing is getting more diverse more complex and I also I’m growing as a
person so it gets deeper you know I’m talking about you know being a man in my
40s now you know I never thought it as a comedian when I’d watch comedians that I
loved I never thought that would be something that would appeal to me but
you know I’m starting talking I’m starting talking about the differences
of you know how I was when I was in my 20s and and what life is like now you
know that eight hours of sleep man it’s it’s very important to me it’s like it
when I was in my twenties it didn’t matter and I talked to and and the thing
is now it’s like I feel like that guy was getting a little bit older and I
talked to Millennials like that and I you Millennials feelings back in my day
so let’s talk about that for a second you do have a bit of a crazy life at
least your work life is crazy but unlike the sort of stereotypical comedian your
personal life is not a train wreck you’re pretty low-key guy I just kind of
curious to hear about that first of all how do you kind of stay level-headed in
terms of the celebrity aspect and just the day-to-day grind of working a lot
you know being in demand and traveling and having to just sustain your energies
yeah well I think if I really really get to
the heart of it it’s got to be the fact that I love what I do
you know I never did it for the celebrity I never did it for the fame
the money I never went to seek all of that I really did it because I loved
writing jokes and I love performing on stage I love
putting those things together and I’ve always just wanted to do that so when
when I think when there’s no real crazy void you know I have a family life
that’s amazing you know I’ve loving parents and you
know two siblings that I love a girlfriend we have been with for six
years and it’s like going so well with her so it’s like all those things are
sort of you know to me the priority if I can just make sure that that keeps going
well and I keep coming up with material and I keep being able to do what I do
that’s all I need I don’t need to go out there and spend
my money and show it off I mean I mean it’s never been about that you know it’s
never been about that like for me the little the simple things I never I think
one of the things that keeps me sane and doesn’t keep me going crazy as I never
spend beyond my means and I’ve never been that cliche of you know those
celebrities who just go crazy and and then they’re left with nothing but a
whole lot I just want to challenge you there you say like you’ve always spent
within your means but you could spend within your means and have the full
range of celebrity consumer goods right because you make a lot of money now
right so meaning you spend your humble with your needs yeah I mean I just I
feel like once the basics for taking care of it I mean you don’t really need
more than that you know I mean like I’m not going to the club and buying
champagne and vodka for everybody and you know having like that ten thousand
dollar bill like you know one of our treats my girlfriend I mom is like hey
let’s go for a morning walk and pick up coffee and we’re like that old couple
that just likes going for a walk yeah you know so I enjoy those those moments
you know I think for the same thing with my family just going to visit them and
making sure that I spend time with them I think my the biggest luxury that I see
being at the level that I am is having time
to be with the people I love and not just running around taking care of the
necessities I think time and and the older I get the
more I realize that that’s the biggest commodity that you can have is time you
know it’s I think it’s a bit of a cliche to say it but it’s so true you know
spending that time with everybody you know you’re never gonna get that back
you’re never gonna be able to get that back you know and you realize that the
older you get and so I try to just do that and honestly it also feeds my
material has got to be selfish of you know now having a girlfriend like I told
her I said this is the only time where we’re me telling you that you’re my muse
is not a compliment like an artist telling his girlfriend the choices we
use in every other context music you know painters will say yes sculptors
will say but if a comedian says that you’re in big trouble so you know I’ve
been coming up with a lot of material and embracing the changes in my life you
know I’m embracing being a little bit older and embracing you know having
nieces and nephews wanting kids of my own you know and and you know there’s
and I’ve been writing about the difference in your 40s and your 20s
things that you paid attention to that you didn’t pay attention to it you
thought you were too much of a big-shot to pay attention to in your 20s and your
forties you start paying attention commercials with buzzwords like fiber so
you know I think for me I think that’s the biggest luxury so chatting with
other public figures one of the trappings of the lifestyle is how
rewarding like for your brain literally like saying a punch line that you wrote
that you thought about and then 1500 people laughing out of control because
it’s just that you just nailed it and people love you for having it that’s
it’s a great feeling right yeah and it’s the kind of thing that somebody could
get addicted to right and the same could be said for putting that perfect awesome
beautiful picture of my vacation on Instagram
you’re just getting a few likes or like this is what our brain kind of feeds on
this is social reinforcement but you’re able to do that without it kind of
hijacking your brain and making you less slave to it yeah how do you explain that
um I mean the social media thing I think is is definitely not something I’m
addicted to but being up there on stage and telling jokes
I mean I’m think I’m beyond that trapping like I really I do love going
up there and making 1,500 people laughs right writing that new bit so but the
rest of your life is in balance the rest of my life is imbalanced but I think
that’s definitely I wouldn’t say a an addiction but listen if you know I was
on vacation for two weeks and I can’t wait to get back up on stage you know
like it I I do have that need to and I wrote so much when I was when my brain
was not thinking about comedy that’s when I write so much I told my so my
girlfriend we were on vacation I said okay no work on vacation no work but as
soon as I said no work the inspiration would come and you can’t neglect it so
you know I’d be at the hotel restaurant and I’d asked the waiter can I please
have paper and pen because I’d leave the phone in the room I didn’t want to have
the phone with me on vacation you know I’d always leave it in the room so that
I wasn’t looking at my phone mm-hm you know while I was trying to get away
from all that I saw at scraps of paper everywhere and honestly I think Joe I
think I wrote so much gold in the last two weeks
I can’t wait to get up there this weekend and just make sure that I was
right about it as well so it’s just stuff that was coming to me from just
hanging out seeing these being changing my context up that always happens
whenever I change up my context and I changed my routine up loads a new
material just comes to me in a way you’re very lucky and are not that’s
luck you you cultivate this kind of balance in your life but you are to some
extent in the public image right and with social media this is
more of an issue than it was 20 years ago but comedians are not having an easy
time these days and you mentioned earlier that there’s this kind of like
boring little center left niche that all the comedians are occupying necks they
don’t get into much trouble in social media and there are some comedians that
have gotten into serious trouble right they I think Aziz Ansari just came out
with his sort of comeback Netflix show and the louis c.k thing was a major
nightmare for a lot of people are you does it concern you the fact that your
stuff is edgy are you concerned about offending people is it a difficult time
to be a comedian well what’s your your take on what’s happening well there’s
two ways of looking at it I think it is a more difficult time to be a comedian
but it’s also a better time to be comedian because historically the guys
were edgier hmm always got you know broke through in a different way like
they built their own new almost own own new model old own new industry you know
they were always like the Eddie Murphy’s the Richard Pryor’s you look at these
guys they were always seen as these trailblazers so it’s become easier to be
edgy now hmm so it’s kind of an advantage because you could create
controversies pretty quickly so I’m like okay I guess I’m edgy now you know ah
good all right that’s number one you get
talked about way more but there is that social media backlash so a lot of times
people are like oh I don’t want to be in the middle of that because it is a lot
to take and I’ve been in the middle of that a few times have you had some kind
of social media blowback so many controversies I mean when I especially
when I did my Quebec show yeah I mean the whole thing I don’t mean the SOT the
crazy sovereign I mean real controversies from real people but no so
whenever you know I take a jab at Ponemah Hawaa or I took a jab
the oq LF the language police here huge backlash crazy amounts of of email and
media stories and and people jumping on the bandwagon and then it just kind of
you know snowballs snowballs and it becomes a thing on its own the the thing
that you have to have when that happens and that’s why i’m preparing for my next
show you is you have to have a very strong team mmm you know that doesn’t
panic while that’s happening so I’m putting a crisis management team
together full time for when my next show comes out because I feel like you know
if you just stay away from social media well you you know all that doesn’t
really happen and I think it doesn’t affect you as much I think it the key is
to really stay grounded while it’s happening stay focused and then you know
answer in your own comedic tone when it’s time to do it it is funny because
it’s hard for me to separate like the Pauline Mara and like a me-too scandal
right like these are on opposite ends of the distribution right that might be my
my prejudice is what I’ll hang out here but yeah I think the thing with with
Aziz Ansari and louis c.k is that the controversies don’t stem from something
they’ve done on stage right if some stems from something they’ve done in
real life right but they’re under scrutiny because of what they do on
stage right well the thing is i mean my personal life has been very clean no yes
so i think it kind of gives me the license to do to be as edgy as i want on
stage because you know no one’s gonna ever be able to compare and say well
look at that he is he is a jerk right it’s like i find some of my favorite
comedians are the ones who are like like pretty um you know unapologetic on stage
but like the nicest guys in real life and i met a few of those and I always
feel like those guys those artists are the best because you know they say you
know that’s my work they’re able to separate their work in the real life
that’s my work and this is what my work is my
work is edgy it’s different it’s like watching a great action film like and
then you see the guy who wrote it and directed and like well that’s not how he
is realize not going around blowing up buildings and you know this guy doesn’t
carry weapons with him everywhere he goes so it’s like you have to kind of
and for myself I separate that as well like you know I do put my personal life
in my work but obviously you know the thing with comedy is for it to be funny
there’s got to be a part of it that’s fictionalized as well you know so like
the punchlines are you know you know misdirected jokes that you know people
don’t see coming so that’s it’s it’s always got to be that you know I like I
take the piss out of my girlfriend now and and her family but you know
obviously it’s not funny to see a guy on stage talking about how much he’s in
love with his lady and how it’s great it’s funnier when you’re you know you’re
critiquing your your family so but so that’s an interesting one because with
the girlfriend we you talked before about you know building the the sort of
Arc to your set and placing the right jokes for each one so to build the trust
and build the momentum of the show so obviously there’s a huge amount of trust
with your girlfriend and her family right but you so that’s an easy one in a
way but I’m wondering like when you’re you know you have this new material that
you’re that you want to work up now and stuff does it change the way like the
the scrutiny and the social media and just PC culture and I don’t want to be
super critical and easy culture I there’s some merits to it and it’s it’s
obviously a subtle issue and there are two sides and but are you more afraid to
go places now than you were because of this scrutiny around like political
scrutiny around your position on sensitive issues no I think I’m less
scared now less scary yeah yeah I think as you know I think also because I’ve
been working in France yes a lot to offend them they love it doing
masochistic with it so I’ve gotten this appetite to write in this way uh-huh
you know and in this way where you know it shocks them but they love it you know
and I feel like I’m not gonna now scale back by coming to North America coming
back to North America with my new show so you know I’m writing with that same
fire in that same appetite that I had in Europe and and I you know went want my
audience is an artist you are you know you want to be better than your your
previous show so I want to evolve in a way where they know it’s me but I still
surprise them you know and that’s the tough balance it’s like you know every
artist has that with their second album or their second single it’s like ooh the
first one we love that first one the second one better be good right but you
also want to give them something different you know what people saying
well I was kind of the same thing as the first one you know and I think for me
it’s also I like challenging mm-hmm what’s going on I like going against the
grain I like going against the current and it’s it’s good because again it’s a
lonely place but it’s also your own lane you know it’s you got your own lane to
yourself because it’s very hard a lot of people don’t want to get in in that in
that lane it’s a hard space to occupy it comes with a lot of you said scrutiny
and risk for backlash and risks and you know that one tweet you know that
someone will say well I find this guy you know this and this and this and then
so you think you can push the boundaries of what’s culturally accepted hmm more
safely if your personal life is clean I mean I just feel like I do that I don’t
know in general I mean you know I’m hoping most comedians have a pretty
clean personal life but as you can see right uh you know with Bill Cosby and
and all these much as Bill Cosby yeah he’s the only ones been convicted you
know so so uh yeah I mean I don’t worry about it because I you know I don’t have
anything to worry about but I don’t know what the other guys were thinking you
know I mean I’m sure when the me to movement having everybody started going
through the rolodex and you know going through
their phone working me like they did I what they’re you know they kind of just
reliving their past 20 years and seeing if there’s anything to worry about but I
mean for me I think my I’ve always strived to make my personal life so you
know peaceful and and and I think that’s why the one thing that that I always
seek if there’s anything that I strive to have it’s that is keeping that
balance at home and and and and nothing more and I think for me you know I think
if I did have a crazy personal life where they were career
with is criminal activity involved yeah I probably wouldn’t be doing this kind
of comedy on stage actually if you put it that way
mmm-hmm if I analyze it that way okay if I had this crazy personal life would I
be doing I don’t even I don’t know I don’t think so
it’s you know cuz then yeah yeah well I mentioned this earlier and I could be
wrong but I do have the sense that you get away with pushing the boundaries
because you’re a nice guy yeah I mean yeah because most of the time on stage
I’m just having fun yeah and you know I meet every fan after the show so I said
I stick around meet everybody and you know my only goal is to make everybody
laugh you know and if they get something out of it great and then and then you
know when I go home and just a regular guy you know a regular guy when I go
home you know and I think even my opening act was like we toured Quebec
for like four years and he was like this is this is actually the most boring tour
and comeback history because we’d go we’d finish the show we’d go back to the
hotel room and when I was myself the security guy my
security guy my technical director and my my opening act and we just go to my
hotel room play poker and have and bring like a big bowl of veggies and like I’d
have tea because I didn’t drink and then he was like man officially voted the
most important but it’s because I actually do it for I never did it to
pick up girls I never did it to have the lavish homes and cars and I just did it
because I love doing it and I just want to keep having the luxury of just doing
this and nothing else and not have to take any other job and and even any
other kind of job in TV or film or in you know that I don’t want to do so I
always I’m you know I was a very patient with my career too because I didn’t blow
all my money away and I just pick and choose the things I really want to do
that I’m really passionate about because I always feel like if I am truly
passionate about it it will succeed you know and that’s
where my passion goes man this is people are gonna listen to the single this guy
is boring yeah maybe yeah probably all he talked about was eight hours of sleep
and tea yeah so maybe one last question if you don’t mind I know we’re we’re
getting on past an hour here so what advice would you have for someone that
wants to be successful in a career could be you know in show business but also
doesn’t want to go crazy I think you got to work on yourself before you get to
that level so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons
really ground yourself in your in your real life you know and do it for the
right reasons especially in this business if you’re doing it for the fame
and the money this could be a long long road because the percentage of people
who actually make a living doing this is so minut you have to be very patient I mean this
is my 23rd year of doing comedy and for the first time I didn’t make any money
but you got to love the process and there are no shortcuts people always
want the shortcut for everything everything working out
diet exercise give me the give me there’s a shortcut how do I you know
it’s the what’s gonna save you is building it long-term and building it
for real and building a real foundation in your life and in your work so work
hard be consistent and always make sure you’re giving your best cuz it’ll lead
to great things you know you are boring yeah how do
people work on themselves you’re saying getting in for the right reasons
yeah get in for the right reasons because if you got it you can only get
into this business if you love it and I mean love it when it’s hard
mhm you know like not love it when it’s great cuz everybody’s gonna love it when
it’s great you gotta love it when it’s hard you got to stick to it when it’s
tough that’s the ones who usually end up making it is the ones who stick with it
when it’s tough and work on themselves and evolve every day meaning they get
better at every aspect of not only their work but their lives every day they
improve they look at improving themselves every day you know if you’re
not growing or then you know then you’re getting worse because all these other
people who are your competitors because in comedy it doesn’t lie your
competitors will surpass you the guys who keep working at it
who who get off stage and go okay what did I do wrong
how can I improve this and how can I make my next set better okay I figured
it out this is where I went wrong and even get outside advice you know ask
other comics why don’t this work what do you know ask someone you trust I mean I
think that’s that’s always essential is working on it because I’ve
seen guys in this business who’ve been doing the same set for years but not
getting the laughs and keep coming back with the same set and not improving it
or barely improving and I’m like what are you doing this for and a lot of it’s
different reasons either you know I’m doing it because I want to be an actor
and this might be the way in and or sometimes it’s just for that feeling of
belonging to the other group of comedians so you just kind of show up
you do your set get off and you talk shit about everybody else and you’re in
the back of the room and it’s like hey we have that sense of belonging it’s you
know this is lonely when you’re at the top it’s kind of like the guys who do
make it like end up touring leaving and and and and they’re not part of the
group anymore because they’re off to other things well some guys for some
reason want to hang on to the group you know and don’t want to don’t wanna leave
so there’s that sense as well and you you know when I come back and I you know
because you still jump onto these open mics and you jump on to different shows
to try to test your material I do that all the time when I’m back home and
you’ll see guys been working for years we’re doing the same thing and then in
the back of the room talking shit about that new kids surpassing them instead of
you know going to the club writing doing their material improving on it every day
going back home I mean I was always the guy had come to the show I’d do my show
and then you know I’d hang out with the fans say hello to them go back home and
start working on the material again you know like you have to have that sort of
work ethic and obsession with it as well mm-hmm I think hmm so we’re well past an
hour here and it’s actually really interesting I appreciate all everything
you said I’m I don’t want to use up your voice too much you got a lot a lot of
work to do with that voice of yours so before I let you go tell us what’s
coming up for you you’re heading off to France you’re back and forth you got all
kinds of stuff so tell us what you’re up to and how people can learn about what
you’re doing okay have some secret shows in Montreal so
all of the Montreal listeners make sure you sign up to my website share your
Samy calm and you seek your shows all over the city these very cool intimate
underground shows 100 people where I’m really testing a material for my next
show lots of fun these are the moles are the most fun that I have then I’m going
in France for inquire petals this is my second season I’m judging the French
which is great to get paid for something you love doing anyways and this is the
French version of America’s Got Talent that’s right and you’re the Simon Cowell
character it’s just incredible right so again I’m playing that role so and then
cross-canada tour everything but Quebec so from September 1st to October 12th
coast to coast and then touring France in the fall yeah well and I’ll info it
sugar Sammy calm awesome thank you so much for doing this thank you and good
luck with the with all those all those exciting activities all right take care thanks for listening to the mindspace
podcast I hope it was inspiring if you feel the world could use a little more
mind space please consider supporting the podcast the best way to do that is
to leave a review on the Apple podcast app or wherever you listen or share your
favorite episode on social media thanks and be well you

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