Paris vs. New York Humour. 6 Questions to the French Comedian Who Made It In Both
December 18, 2014
Have you ever heard of the Comte de Bouderbala (the Count of Rags)? By this name, probably not. But here in France, this comedian is kind of a big deal. So why should you, our thousands of foreigners readers, be interested? Because if you’ve spent any time in New York’s most famous comedy clubs, there’s a good chance you’ve already burst out laughing to one of his many jokes, as in the US, the Comte de Bouderbala is known by his real name: Sami.
Our team had the immense privilege to interview Sami between his 2 nightly shows at Theatre Le République. A fun conversation only interrupted by the squeaking cork of a fine bottle of Caribbean rum shared between us. Here is what Count Sami told us:
PARISIANIST: So tell us, what brought you from France to the USA?
SAMI: In my early 20s I was already a pro basketball player in Saint Denis, north of Paris. I loved it there, but my career as a French basketball player was not really what I’d hope it would be. So I decided to study business in the USA. I was accepted as an exchange student at the UCONN (University of Connecticut), and out of pure luck, I got hooked up (via my hairdresser!) with the person in charge of the sports department. Before I knew it, I was part of the winning UCONN basketball team. We even played in Madison Square Garden with Larry Bird watching! Dream come true.
PARISIANIST: So you were killing it as a basketball player. But how did the comedy gig get going?
SAMI: Like many athletes, an injury that took me out of the game. So I decided to pick back up one of my other passions: stand up. I went back to Paris, worked on my jokes and got a couple of gigs. But again, after an unpleasant experience, I flew to New York, and got in the NYC comedy scene. And who better to ask for advice from than…Chris Rock. Who I randomly ran into on the street while he was waiting for his car. He gave me the names and contacts of the best comedy clubs in town. Immediately I wrote new material and even translated some of my French skits. A few days later, I was on stage.
PARISIANIST: For you, what’s the difference between French and American Stand Up?
SAMI: Unlike what most people think, stand-up comedy is actually a French tradition. But today New York is the capital of comedy. The crowd in New York is a tough one, and if you don’t make them laugh, you will be booed. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Only the finest comedians get to perform on a regular basis. Competition is fierce in the US and you really need to work, work and work some more to stay on top, especially when you are a “Frenchie” like me!
PARISIANIST: How is French humour different from American humour?
SAMI: French and American humour is quite different. France has a very long history and a lot of jokes find their roots in that. America, on the other hand, is a young nation and the humour is mostly oriented towards what’s happening in the instant. Certain taboos like religion or race are acceptable things to joke about in comedy clubs in the US (not on national TV or radios though), but are frowned upon in France, even in the confines of comedy. In that sense, there is a lot more freedom in the US than there is in France.
PARISIANIST: When friends from the USA come to visit you in Paris, where do you tell them to go?
SAMI: Unlike in the US, many of the best parties in Paris are private parties. Having said that, I’m not a big party animal. My top recommendations for friends who are in town would be the Crazy Horse Caberet, Le Coq cocktail bar, Chez Francis restaurant and La Pulperia, (Argentinian restaurant). Most of which are close to where I perform at Theatre Le Republique (which Sami also owns). And, of course, I recommend seeing my show, now prolonged until the end of January 2015!
PARISIANIST: What can people coming to watch the Comte De Bouderbala expect and what’s in-store for us in the future?
SAMI: The show is 1h15 of laughter mostly based on cultural differences, including those between France and the US. It is completely in French so a good level of French is best to get the most out of the experience. In terms of the future, I have started writing for my next French show, as well as a few things for the New York comedy clubs. I am actually planning to spend a few months in New York in 2015, and I can’t wait! I’ll keep everyone posted on those shows via my website http://www.lecomtedebouderbala.com/
We thank Sami for his time and warm welcome, along with all his team. Check out his Parisian show right now by making reservations online here.