Although comedian and Loose Woman Sarah Millican performs in front of hundreds of people every day, she’d rather have a cup of tea and a sit-down than go bungee jumping.
This year marks Sarah Millican’s fourth Edinburgh run after only seven years in comedy. Comedians with twice that history would envy the career path of the 36-year-old, who came to stand-up in the aftermath of a divorce and has since garnered awards, nominations (including a shortlisting for the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award last year), critical acclaim, a DVD release in the autumn and a string of radio and TV credits.
For someone who threw herself into performing after an emotional upheaval, it’s surprising to learn that much of Millican’s latest show will be about her playing it safe. “I don’t plan a theme,” explains the loquacious and eloquent lass from South Shields. “My priority is an hour of jokes, but there seems to be an accidental thread running through this show about me being risk-averse (some people might call it boring), and I’m quite happy to shape things around it.”
Millican says that she would always be the one holding the handbags if friends went on a rollercoaster. “I know this sounds like the kind of show where I’ll be showing a picture of me doing a bungee jump at the end, but I’m not going to do that!”
The genesis of this caution seems to come from her mother mollycoddling her. “She would ask me to wave at her through her back door every twenty minutes if I was playing outside. I suppose that means that if I was abducted the furthest anyone could have taken me was Gateshead.”
While Millican might, by her own admission, draw up the safest bucket list ever, she’s no wallflower. And besides, other people would consider stand-up to be as risky as jumping out of a plane. “Maybe because risk is my job it can’t be my hobby? Perhaps if you’ve got a job that’s quite scary, then your private life is very indoorsy (no one ever says that do they; it’s always outdoorsy but never indoorsy). Do firemen like stamp-collecting in their spare time?”
Spare time is something Millican hasn’t had much of lately, thanks to all sorts of commitments. Her last show played for nearly 200 dates, including the Edinburgh run, and coincided with writing for the second season of her BBC Radio 4 series Sarah Millican’s Support Group, television appearances including Loose Women, and working on a TV pilot with SO TV, Graham Norton’s company.
“April was the most mental month. I was touring the whole time as well as writing and recording episodes of the radio show, so I would get in from a live show, write, have a couple of hours’ sleep and then be off to somewhere else the next day after a TV show recording.”
Most of the time Millican didn’t have a tour manager, so the solo nature of her work really hit home. She found herself alone after each show with only the audience tweets on her phone for company. Describing herself as “sociable and outgoing in some respects,” recording her radio show with the likes of Simon Day, Mark Heap, Tim Key, Nick Mohammed and Ruth Bratt proved a welcome contrast. “I love the collaborative aspect of it and being surrounded by funny people who can chuck in ideas and bring the funny out of you, topping each other’s jokes.”
Millican is equally complimentary about the team behind her television pilot. One of the show’s elements sees her working with the audience, something she does so well in her live outings. “Real people are the most hilarious. We had one guy tells us about how he had oiled himself up for his boyfriend but his partner slid off him, whacked himself against a wall and broke his ribs!”
During her live shows people are equally forthcoming because Millican so often strikes a chord with them. “For a comedian it’s the holy grail to articulate something that everybody has thought but nobody has said yet.”
Strong opinions are usually welcomed at a Sarah Millican event, but the comedian well knows that it works both ways, as her inclusion on ITV’s Loose Women line up illustrated. “Some people said it was beneath me and one woman even told me that she didn’t like what I was wearing”, Millican admits, adding “but if we made decisions based on what other people think we would never do anything.” That’s the kind of forthright attitude that goes down well on Loose Women, and it’s little wonder that Millican loves doing the show, going so far as to say that it’s “one of my favourite things I have ever done.”
Sparring with Loose Women or making Kelvin Mackenzie laugh a lot on The Apprentice: You’re Fired would be challenges that would take most of us way out of our comfort zones, but for the “risk-averse” Millican they are now par for the course.
Thoroughly Modern Millican,
12-28 August, 7.30pm,
From £13, Tel: 0131 623 3030