An Interview Sarah Millican
Comedy award winner Sarah Millican has had a remarkable year, emerging as one of Britain’s best and most-loved stand-ups, and her mammoth ‘Chatterbox’ tour has just been extended to allow for bigger venues after the early dates sold out.
Her two previous shows ‘Sarah Millican – Typical Woman’ and debut show ‘Sarah Millican’s Not Nice’ received high praise from the critics, with The Independent saying ‘one of the most consistent and accomplished performances I have ever seen at the fringe. Millican is very much her own woman. She’s over ready for even bigger and better things’. In Chatterbox Sarah offers advice for life including non-fattening stress relief, the alternative to marriage and the acceptable face of adultery.
She spoke to Matt Callard shortly after the new dates were announced – and the day after she’d revealed on Twitter that, in a nightmare scenario, her boyfriend had driven off with her make-up bag…
SO SARAH, HAVE YOU GOT YOUR MAKE-UP BAG BACK?
(laughs) Yes, I have! Me and my boyfriend had a date the other night and I put my make-up in the car because I’m that kind of classy lady and the next day he got up early and left – which is quite unusual. And later I was just pottering around the house and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll put my make-up on now,’ and then realised that I didn’t have any.
I had to drive to Boots and buy the basics. The ladies at Boots thought it was hilarious but I couldn’t perform in front of 400 people without my make-up on! I just couldn’t do that! It was genuinely one of the most nerve grinding experiences I’ve ever had, the thought that I’d have to talk to people without anything on my face. When you’re a kid and you’ve got rosy cheeks everyone says, ‘Ah, look at his rosy cheeks,’ but not when you’re an adult! Not when it would be just me and my big shiny 35-year-old face.
YOUR TOUR IS MASSIVE! ARE YOU ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH NOW?
I’m in the middle of it but I don’t think it’s healthy to be counting – like, that’s 37 down! We’ve added extra dates for 2011 and the ones later on in the tour are much bigger venues – 600 to 1,000 seaters. It’s exciting because the original dates sold out so we had to put the new ones in.
THESE ARE THE BIGGEST DATES YOU’VE EVER DONE THEN?
It’s the most amount of people I’ve entertained and it’s the most pressure. When you’re on the circuit doing the comedy clubs most people in the audience have come for a night out and there might only be a handful of people who’ve seen you before. Most of the people will have just come to see some general comedy.
“The audience can come up with some amazing funnies”
But when people come specifically to see you they must have seen something or heard something that you do that they like, which means a lot more pressure because it’s only you for an hour and a half. I did a 20 minute set the other day and it felt really weird because I’m so used to doing an hour and a half now, where you can spend a lot of time with people and get really into things.
AND HOW’S IT GOING?
Comics always say you get paid for the travel because the travel is always quite heavy going but the actual time on stage with the audience has so far been lovely.
IS IT A SET ROUTINE OR IS THERE TIME FOR A BIT OF AUDIENCE INTERACTION?
It’s quite rigid because you write the show – I’m not just getting up and going, ‘I’m gonna be funny for an hour and a half!’ Sometimes people think there’s less skill if it’s pre-prepared but that’s not true, although there are two or three points where I talk to the audience and I love those because those are the bits that are different every night. I ask the audience whether they’ve ever broken anything during sex and some people will say beds or clocks or something. But one girl said she’d broke a man’s spirit. The audience can come up with some amazing funnies and I love it when people can become part of the show.
“I just look mumsy!”
YOUR DELIVERY IS QUITE SOFT, YET YOU GO ON TO TACKLE SOME PRETTY HEAVY SUBJECTS. DO YOU THINK YOUR MATERIAL HAS MORE IMPACT BY BEING DELIVERED IN THIS WAY?
Yes, I think you’re right. Like, ‘Oh, she’s got a furry top on; she’ll never talk about rape.’ I never started out with that in mind. I never thought, ‘Right, I’m gonna talk about rude things but try and look mumsy.’ If only it was pre-planned! I just look mumsy! I’ve got that homely look about me and then I go and talk filth! So it came together quite naturally. But I think it does have more impact. It might surprise people who come and see me a bit because, if they’ve seen me on tele, you can’t be too rude on tele so it might surprise them with how rude I can actually be!
YOU SEEM ALMOST UNIVERSALLY LIKED. IT’S HARD TO FIND SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T LIKE YOU. WHY IS THAT, DO YOU THINK?
It’s weird because when I was doing my first tour I had no idea what type of people would come and see me – but I had young lads from 17 to women in their 50s and I think that’s amazing! I’d never have thought that I appeal to that wide a cross section of people.
“Women comedians never get to see each other except at parties”
I think it’s because I talk about normal things. I talk about my life experiences and my opinion on things and I think they’re quite similar to a lot of people. People identify with me because I’m just normal. I got up on stage at 29 having been spectacularly dumped and talked about divorce and I was thinking, ‘Oh, this’ll never work,’ but it went really well! Comedy’s meant to be a young man’s game but it’s not – it can be a middle aged woman’s game as well.
IT’S INTERESTING THAT YOU SAY THAT. THEY SAY COMEDY IS A HARDER GAME FOR WOMEN.
I don’t think it is. Every now and then a promoter will only book one woman – but there aren’t that many women on the circuit, that’s why. If there’s only ten women on the circuit they’re not gonna put them all on one night, they’re gonna spread them out. If you’re funny, you’ll get on. I hope I get booked because I do a good job, not because of my gender. It can be used as an excuse but I think people read far too much into it.
I THINK PANEL SHOWS GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT IT’S A MAN’S WORLD WITH THE ODD TOKEN WOMAN.
She’s not ‘token’ in that she’s there because she’s a woman. They just spread the women out, for wont of a better phrase. They’re gonna split us up! Women comedians never get to see each other except at parties.
“People just need a good laugh”
THEY’RE GOOD ADVERTS FOR COMEDIANS AREN’T THEY, THE PANEL SHOWS?
Comedy on the tele is one of the reasons why so many people have been touring recently. I think it’s just to do with the current state of the country. People just need a good laugh.
I think panel shows are a really good way for people to see who they like. They might see and like Frankie Boyle because he’s dark and witty, so they might go see him on tour. The fan base can build quite easily from the shows and they are fun to do but they’re not easy. Something like Mock The Week can take two and a half hours to record. By the end of it the audience are flagging. But you’ve still got to try and be sharp for the whole time. Then people at home go: ‘That was a nice half hour programme!’
“I have my Wonder Woman knickers on and I’ll be ready!”
ARE THEY AS COMPETITIVE AS THEY APPEAR?
I don’t find them too competitive. It depends who you’re on with rather than the programme. Most of the time when I’ve been on they’ve been lovely, such gentlemen. Particularly Andy Parsons – he’s adorable and would regularly make my life much easier on there. When I did Have I Got News For You it was a bit daunting because it’s been going for hundreds of years. They told me, ‘When you hear the theme music, don’t panic!’ That’s when you go, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually on it!’ That was quite scary because it has such a reputation and is at the higher end of panel shows.
AND I’VE HEARD A RUMOUR THAT YOU’LL BE DOING MORE TV – IS A SITCOM IN THE PIPELINE?
I am writing an episode of a sitcom for which I’ve been commissioned. That’s not in the pipeline. I’m just writing it because I think we might be able to do something with it. So I’m just writing it on spec. Then you hand it over and hope someone likes it. I’m also in the very early stages of working on a tele programme that people are showing interest in. Hopefully we’ll know something soon. It’s terrifying and exciting and I’m looking forward to it. I have my Wonder Woman knickers on and I’ll be ready!