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Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 2: Sugar Sammy (Sam Khullar)

No national/international comedian has been a greater friend to What's So Funny? than Sugar Sammy. Tonight marks his fourth appearance on the show. The first was recorded in his room at a dinghy New West hotel; his third and fourth spots were done live in our studio; and this one was recorded last month at the bar of the Pan Pacific Hotel. While munching on mixed nuts and sipping drinks, we talked about Indian women, taking stereotype roles in Hollywood, his opinion of Peter Sellers playing one of his people in the film The Party, Harry Doupe's Statelessness of the Industry shots at him, Quebec politics, his throwback tastes in music and women, and we find out which Vancouver comic is one of his favourites.

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I took a trip in the wayback machine last night going to 1960s Las Vegas. It felt like it anyway. Actually, it was just Coquitlam and the Red Robinson Show Theatre. The evening started with Vancouver-based crooner Kenny Colman and a 14-piece big band. Kenny is one of the great singers, and great hard-luck stories, of Canadian show business. He's had his breaks over the years, doing early Tonight Shows with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin Shows. He's recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. People like Lou Rawls, Redd Foxx, Johnny Mandel, David Foster and none other than Frank Sinatra have all sung his praises. Yet he's largely unknown. When he came along in the early 1960s, rock was taking over. Now you've got young bucks like Michael Bublé co-opting the style that comes naturally to Kenny – and making way more than guys did in Colman's generation. While his chops aren't what they used to be, they're still pretty good. The guy can swing. And the band swung like a mo-fo, too.

He was a perfect lead-in for Don Rickles. The 83-year-old is a show business legend and while he moves a little slower and a little more hunched over, he's still in full voice. His jokes have never made complete sense and they still don't. You laugh at the attitude more than anything. And his references haven't progressed, so you get mentions of Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, lots of talk of buck-toothed Japanese soldiers and Jimmy Cagney singing I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy. Yes, that's right, hockey puck, the man sings. He employs the same big band and uses it throughout his act, often singing unironically. Despite what you'd imagine, only about 20% of the show is unscripted insults directed at the crowd, if that. But it is what it is. You can't judge it by today's standards. You've just got to get in the right frame of mind, sit back and enjoy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess the little India part of Vancouver along Main does get overshadowed by Surrey. A friend took me to a buffet place called All India sweets like 10 years ago and since a hobo wandered in to pester people during the meal I tried to put it out of my mind. Anyway now I'm working at the Loblaws truckyard on Marine so the place is pretty high profile for me. Got any good restaurant recommendations, maybe tandoori? It's cool that Sammy's judging the Canada writes competition for CBC. My pitch for a Zombie Hitler movie probably won't get very far but maybe things will go better next year, it's only a first effort after all.

Jude