For the past six years Sébastien Bourgault has made a comfortable living as a French stand-up comedian. But it’s not enough. He wants to be equally funny in English.
Bourgault is a featured performer at Ha-Larious Hudson 2, the second edition of the winter comedy festival at the Hudson Village Theatre, which begins Jan. 24.
A little more than one year ago, the francophone comedian embarked on a mission to learn to read, write and speak English well enough to pierce the anglo comedy market.
He spent three months serving English customers breakfast at a Kirkland restaurant and he took a 10-week intensive English course.
His first English show was at the Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Ottawa on Oct. 29, 2011.
“I was so nervous, I don’t remember a thing,” Bourgault said.
Since then, Bourgault has done 150 shows in English and determinedly watched hours of English-language daytime television along the way.
“I watched Oprah, Dr. Phil, The View. I cried a lot,” he said. “You have to start somewhere.”
Bourgault wants to learn from the best. He studied the 2002 Jerry Seinfeld documentary Comedian, about putting together a full-length comedy show. He read about Jim Carrey sleeping in his car behind a Los Angeles comedy club for two years, working on his material every night.
And he listened to Jay Leno’s advice.
“Jay Leno wrote that you should do comedy every night or just pack it up and do something else,” Bourgault said.
Bourgault said his French friends were initially puzzled by his push to learn English.
“I told them that English travels well,” Bourgault said. “I don’t want to only perform in Quebec and France.”
This month, the 38-year-old flew to Los Angeles to tweak his English doing 10 days of gigs on the comedy club circuit.
“You arrive 30 minutes in advance to add your name to a list, then you get three minutes of stage time,” he said. “I’m not afraid, I’m excited. One year ago I spoke a handful of English words. You’ve got to go for broke. You don’t want to live with regrets.”
The Ville d’Anjou native grew up knowing he wanted to do something onstage, but did every job under the sun “except stripping” until 2001. He did 15 comedy gigs that year and was hooked.
“I wouldn’t have minded stripping, but I was fat back then and Club 281 wouldn’t have hired me,” Bourgault said. “I don’t know why they don’t have a Club 282 for fat guys.”
Bourgault said he’s been welcomed by the English comedy scene with open arms and that the “doors have opened easily.”
In February, he plans to audition for the next edition of the English Just for Laughs Festival.
Ha-Larious Hudson 2 is at the Hudson Village Theatre, 28 Wharf Rd., Jan. 24-26.
Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.: The Fringlish Show with host Neil Janna, headlining Derek Seguin and featuring Sébastien Bourgault.
Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.: The Relationship Show with Ali Hassan and CJAD’s Chantal Desjardins, among others.
Jan. 25 at 10:30 p.m.: Dan Bingham weighs in on growing up a Scot in Quebec in the show “Adopt This.”
Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.: Gala Night with Joey Elias and Friends, including Hassan, Bourgault and Walter J. Lyng.
For comedy fest information, call 450-458-5361, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.villagetheatre.ca.