A fearless comic with a talent for provoking both laughter and outrage, Sammy, born Samir Khullar, is a 42-year-old son of Indian immigrants. He is also a child of Bill 101, the polarizing Quebec law behind the sign infraction, which requires immigrants to send their children to French schools. As a result, he glides effortlessly between English and French in his shows, and has made Quebec’s tortured identity politics his main preoccupation.
.. “In Quebec the ultimate taboo is identity,”
.. diving into his favorite subject: those who want Quebec to separate from the rest of Canada.
“Are there any separatists here?” he asked in perfectly accented Québécois French. “Come on, don’t be shy.”
.. He switched to English for a joke on President Trump’s security strategy on the Mexican border. “We don’t have a lot of Latinos in Canada,” he said. “It’s too cold. We don’t need a wall. We have winter.”
.. When he first came up with the idea of doing a bilingual act, “You’re Gonna Rire” (“You’re Gonna Laugh”) in 2012, comedy producers told him he was crazy: The Anglophones wouldn’t understand the jokes in French, and the English humor would be lost on the Francophones.
So he produced it himself, and the show became an overnight sensation. It transformed Mr. Khullar, a virtuoso improvisor whose looks have been likened to Elvis, into a household name in Quebec, garnering him coveted comedy awards and making him a millionaire.
.. He was variously labeled a dangerous “Francophobe,” a federalist “fanatic,” and a political activist masquerading as a comedian.
.. GQ enthused that “the funniest person in France is Québécois.”
.. He recently opened a show in Paris, where he is living for a time, with the line, “I’m happy to be in France. You guys are my favorite Arab country.”
.. Mr. Khullar occupied a unique place by bridging Quebec’s cultural divide. “He’s a good barometer of a society that has come of age and can now laugh at itself,” she said.
.. Mr. Khullar embodies a new generation in Quebec less burdened by the language and culture wars of the past, added Marc Cassivi, a columnist for La Presse, a leading French-language newspaper, who wrote a book about bilingualism in Quebec.
“It is doubtful that Sugar Sammy would’ve survived as a comedian in Quebec of the 1970s, and would’ve left on the first train to Toronto,” Mr. Cassivi said.
.. Immersed in French in school, Mr. Khullar and his younger brother spoke Punjabi and Hindi at home, and learned English on the street and by watching “The Dukes of Hazzard.” At his high school, where he was anointed the class clown at age 15, his best friends were Jewish-Moroccan, Haitian, Guatemalan and Chinese — a comedic focus group of sorts that he credits for his ability now to cross borders and make people laugh.
.. His decision to become a comedian was clinched when he first saw Eddie Murphy’s 1983 stand-up comedy television special “Delirious” as a teenager and was attracted by his raw, unbridled humor. “Here you had this guy in bright red leather owning the stage with the charisma of a rock star,” he said. “I wanted to be that guy.”
.. His political awakening as a comic came in 1995 during a referendum that asked Quebecers whether the province should become an independent country. After the “no” camp won with a bare 50.6 percent of the vote, Quebec Premier Jacques Parizeau, a leader on the “yes” side, blamed the result on, among other things, “the ethnic vote.”
.. The comments stung Mr. Khullar, who was 19. “Here I was a teenager who was doing everything to be part of Quebec society and I was being told that I was responsible for the failure of Quebec’s dream of statehood,” he recalled. “I realized that I would always be the ‘other’ in Quebec, no matter what language I spoke.”
Instead of stewing, he used his sense of alienation as fuel for his comedy.
.. He became co-creator in 2014 of a successful French television sitcom called “Ces gars-là,” (“Those Guys”) in the spirit Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and began crisscrossing the globe.
.. Determined that his comedy have the whiff of authenticity, he obsessively prepares for his shows abroad by observing people on the subway, doing his laundry at public laundromats and eating at restaurants.
The president is a stand-up comedian.
“He goes out, he practices his jokes, he works on his material,” Noah told Seth Meyers on Wednesday’s Late Night, pointing to Trump floating the idea of pardoning Joe Arpaio to his rally crowd in Phoenix. “You can see him trying it out … [when] the crowd cheers, he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m working on that bit.’”
Noah says that Trump’s catchphrases go through the same kinds of life and death cycles that comedians’s do. “Build the wall!” used to be a crowd-killer, Noah says, but now Trump’s crowds want “new jokes” to latch onto and print on T-shirts. Maybe Trump’s recent deal with Democrats isn’t quite what they had in mind, but as Noah points out, it at least makes for some surprising new material.
Near the outset, Rock recalls attending a high-school orientation session for one of his daughters that promoted the kind of touchy-feely wish-based thinking that infects education these days. Noting that the kids were told, “You can be anything you want to be,” he thought, “Why are you lying to these children? Maybe four of then can be anything they want to be. But the other 2,000 better learn how to weld.” He imagines a more truth-based approach to pedagogy: “You can be anything you’re good at, as long as they’re hiring. And even then it helps to know somebody.”
.. A zero-tolerance policy for bullies? Please. When he heard about that, “Right then I wanted to take my daughter right out the school. . . . School is supposed to prepare you for life. Life has a**holes and you should learn how to deal with them as soon as possible.”
.. Rock has previously been guarded about his 2016 divorce, from his wife Malaak Compton-Rock, which was caused by his own admitted infidelity. He speaks at length about his regrets here, making a plea to put commitment first and forget about the self-actualization: “I’m talking from hell, you don’t want this s***. You got somebody you love, hold tight. That’s right, hold f***ing tight. Commit.” Being a voracious consumer of pornography didn’t help him bond with his wife either. “I was addicted to porn,” he says. “I was 15 minutes late everywhere.” When he speaks about the destructiveness of porn he sounds like Ross Douthat. “When you watch too much porn, you know what happens? You become like sexually autistic.” You develop problems relating to real people. You can no longer handle eye contact or verbal cues. “You get desensitized,” he says. “When you start watching porn, it’s like any porn’ll do. It’s like, ‘Ahh, they’re naked. Whoo-hoo!’” After far too much of this, only gratification of an extremely specific fetish would bring satisfaction.
.. I’ve never heard a woman in my life say, ‘You know, after he got laid off, we got so much closer.
With sanctimony having replaced humor, the only thing left to laugh at is the farce of politics itself.
.. watching on YouTube the comedian Bill Maher talk about Donald Trump’s marriage. If you don’t share Mr. Maher’s politics, you are likely to find him an odious, even loathsome character, for he doesn’t really exist outside politics. His standard tone is mockery, his modus operandi to lacerate his targets with obscenities, flash a nervous smile, and then bask in applause from his audience.
.. Yet to have taken what I think of as the Trumpian option in their comedy has rendered these comedians charmless while strikingly limiting their audiences to those who share their politics.
.. I asked a great many people to name five persons in public life they thought charming. No one could do it.
.. That the late-night talk-show hosts are ready to give up a large share of the audience to indulge their politics is something new in American comedy.
.. when Bob Hope found himself, because of his support for the Vietnam War, aligned with Richard Nixon, many of his most steadfast fans deserted him.
.. Enough people must share the views of these hosts to keep the careers of Maher, Colbert, Kimmel & Co. afloat, which is to say to keep their ratings high enough to be commercially viable. Yet these insufficiently funny comedians, with their crude political humor, do little more than add to the sad divisiveness that is rending the country. Something, surely, has been lost if one can no longer turn to comedy as a relief from the general woes of life and the greater farce that has for some years now been playing out in our everyday politics.