Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican

Writer and comic Sarah performed her first stand-up gig in September 2004, and the following year was runner-up in both the Funny Women and So You Think You're Funny awards, as well as the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2006.

She was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2006 Chortle Awards and won the best newcomer if.comedy award at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe with her debut show, Sarah Millican's Not Nice. The same show was nominated for the Barry Award - the top prize at the Melbourne Comedy Festival - the following April.

In 2010, she became the first female to win the Best Headliner at the Chortle awards

Her first play Spent was staged at The Customs House in South Shields in September 2005.

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'Last night someone said they took ketamine and everybody cheered...'

Sarah Millican on touring, Taskmaster, and 'safety potatoes'

Sarah Millican’s latest stand-up show  Bobby Dazzler, will be available to stream tomorrow, as she prepares for her next tour in the autumn. Here she talks introducing the term to a global audience, the difference between heckling and audience interaction – and the concept of ‘safety potatoes’

How did you get into stand-up?

I got divorced. I’ve got friends who got divorced and they did not do stand-up – good to know it's not obligatory, but I think you have to do something. Some people drink and some people sleep around, and I was like, ‘I'm going to tell some strangers how sad I am. But in a funny way.’

I did a workshop for people who'd written but never performed and we had to do a performance as part of it. So I read a monologue aloud at Gateshead’s Caedmon Hall; it was about my divorce, and at times it was really funny, and at times it was really sad. And afterwards I felt like I'd done it, I ticked it off the list.

Then about six months went by, and I rang Kate Fox, the woman who was running the course, and said, ‘I think I want to try stand-up comedy.’ And she went, ‘I know.’ She'd just been waiting for six months for me to call.

Then I just started doing it. That's the thing, when people ask, ‘how do you start?’ You just have to start. You just have to write some jokes, get on the stage and try them out.

How has the term Bobby Dazzler  translated across the world?

Nobody knows what it means! But it's such a great term. And I knew it wouldn't work in certain places, but felt like they should learn it and they should start using it. I think of ‘bobby dazzler’ as the best compliment you can have, like, ‘Ooh, doesn’t she look a bobby dazzler!’

But I really enjoy that when I bring out the support act – tonight it was Sally-Anne Hayward – there’s this genuine quizzical noise in the room, because a lot of them think ‘Bobby Dazzler’ is my support act. I don't know why, because it's projected onto the back curtain: Sarah Millican: Bobby Dazzler. And it's the same size as my name. I don't know why they think I would have a support act that had their name on the back curtain – I'm not that nice a person.

But everyone gets a badge. So they have ‘Bobby Dazzler’ badges and I like to think that they can connect with other Millicanaires by spotting badges. And that they’ll start calling each other ‘bobby dazzler’. It's a nice thing to introduce!

What’s the show about?

I wanted to set it in time, because I wrote it during the pandemic. So there’s a section about the things that you did in ‘a moment of madness’, because we all did slightly barmy things in order to get through it, because it was hard, it was weird, everybody was scared and thrown by it.

And some of the things that people have done are amazing. I mean, somebody last night said she took ketamine and everybody cheered because, y’know, whatever it takes.

I've always been very happy to say, I don't know about that. Tell me about that. So, somebody else bought an anvil and I was like, I don't really know anvils, apart from Wile E Coyote – that's my only reference. So you learn a little bit. Now I know it’s 250 quid for an anvil.

Everybody's got a story of something mad that they did because it was a weird time, and I like having that in the show so that when anybody watches it in years to come, they're like, ‘Oh, I remember…’.

You’re a big fan of audience interaction, but that’s very different from heckling…

Oh, very different. Heckling is not allowed – answering the question when I ask it is allowed.

I've never been one for talking to the front row. Some people do that and it works absolutely brilliantly for them. I don't want anybody in the front row to feel like they can't sit there and enjoy the show or they can't go for a wee.

But I will talk to somebody if they shout out, because then they've opened the door and we can have a nice conversation. Although sometimes they shout out and they don't realise there’s going to be secondary questions. The ketamine lady didn't have an awful lot else to say. I mean, there's a good chance she was just off her tits.

There’s some excellent info on the best way to eat a kiwi fruit in Bobby Dazzler. Do you have any other eating tips?

I get safety potatoes in restaurants. We went to a restaurant the other day – I'm on tour, so it's all restaurants – and we ordered pasta. Everything on the menu had cheese on, and I don't like cheese, so I had to work out what was going to be the least offensive cheese.

And there was a pasta dish that had ricotta, and I thought, there's a good chance that's either just a nice creamy sauce or there’s lumps of it I can put to one side.

So I ordered safety potatoes and the women I was with were like, ‘Why are you getting potatoes?’  I mean, it's a stupid question. Who asks that? Why do I spend time with people who ask why you’re getting potatoes? And I said, ‘Well, if it's horrible I've got potatoes.’ And I did the same today and I got a doggy bag because it was such a ridiculous pile of potatoes and I’m not having somebody throw potatoes away on my watch.

How do you keep your energy up on such long tours?

Chocolate and safety potatoes.

No, I try to look after myself. I'm not very good at it, but I try. The show itself I love – honestly, when like tonight, there’s 1,200 people and they're so excited, that's all the energy you need. But the travelling is hectic. And I now don't trust airlines because they've lost our cases a few times, so I have to carry everything I might need for a show in my hand luggage as well as in the cases.

I once had to find fat lady clothes in Sweden. When I did the show, I shouted, ‘Where are your fat shops?’And they all shouted just one shop – the shop I’d found. There's only one fat lady shop in all of Sweden.

Was Taskmaster as fun as it looked?

I think it might have even been more fun, actually, especially when you're doing the tasks on your own.

When I was with other people, I'd be sort of nervous and not trust myself that I was doing the right thing, because I’d be thinking, what's everybody else doing? But when you're on your own, you just have to trust yourself, because you have no idea if it's gone badly or well.

There are very few things in life you don't know until much later, in a room with an audience, whether you were shit or not.

The task I really enjoyed was the hitting the balloons with the frying pan, because when else is that going to come up? If I was invited around to a children's birthday party, I don't think I would be allowed to run around with a frying pan bursting all the balloons. Maybe it has to be my birthday party. Maybe I should just not invite people. Just have loads of balloons. Who needs friends when you’ve got balloons?

Your next tour starts in September, called Late Bloomer. Talk us through that.

I wanted a title that people understood straight away, because I don't think I'd realised how international I actually am!

It's good if you've got some jokes off the back of it, which I have now with Bobby Dazzler, but it's nice if people can glance and go, I understand what that means, rather than, why is she a double act with a very flamboyant man?

So, Late Bloomer: somebody I used to go to school with sent me a photograph of me aged 12 or 13, and I'd never seen it before. And I cannot figure out – I'm hoping to figure out – how the girl in the photograph became me today. Because it's a school trip abroad, but I'm still wearing a blazer, a ‘fashion blazer’. And I've got a brooch on.

All the other girls have got ponytails and perms and big earrings and jumpers. And I look like I'm about to do the wages. That's what I look like. I look like I'm the accountant at the school.

I was so introverted. I don't know how that person has become a person who stands on the stage essentially talking about her fanny for an hour and a half. I don't know how that happened.

• Bobby Dazzler, Sarah Millican’s sixth standup special, is available to stream from  in the UK from tomorrow, followed by  Australia, New Zealand and Singapore on March 10; the USA on April 14; and everwhere else on May 12.

» Sarah ​Millican tour dates and tickets.

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Published: 9 Feb 2023

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