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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Brit(ish) at Just For Laughs, Montreal

Note: This review is from 2019

Gig review by Steve Bennett

The Brits are proving big box-office at Just For Laughs, with the annual showcase of UK acts now in one of the Montreal festival’s biggest theatres – and selling out its 2,000-plus seats for two nights running.

As a regular around these parts, host Jimmy Carr is a big draw, known especially for his harsh lines on the annual Nasty Show and regular roast battles. So that’s what he delivered, at one point telling the crowd: ‘This joke is wrong on so many levels, and I want you to enjoy them all.’

He is a joke machine, in the quantity of his output, their precision engineering – and the lack of human empathy. Topics range from paedophilia to a brutal description of his girlfriend and her vagina. Carr is not trying to say anything profound with his comedy and hopes audiences don’t take meaning from it – he’s just manipulating words to make us laugh.

Dwarf jokes have landed him in trouble before, and here he doubles down with some more highly questionable material. But although a few of the punchlines leave an unpleasant aftertaste, the vast majority are impressive bait-and-switches that prove devastatingly effective. You have to admire the craftsmanship, if not the morals – or lack of them. 

And certainly there’s no question of potentially offensive material queering the pitch for the rest of the line-up; he primed the audience just as well as any warmer, more conversational stand-up would have done.

In fact, his tone did the groundwork for Fin Taylor,  who does not shy away from provocative material about the likes of transgender issues and the Paralympics. But he does have an agenda and is surefooted around the hot-button issues, managing to be both edgy and woke within the same joke.

He crunches down contentious issues to their nub, giving a directness that hits hard, while keeping his heart in the right place. Such uncompromisingly funny,  relevant material is why he’s always a comic worth seeking out – and the Canadian crowd lapped it up.

Jamali Maddix picked up the baton of social pertinence, kicking off his set by declaring: ‘Let’s talk about race. I LOVE talking about race.’ And he does so with a mischief and a swagger, bringing authenticity and edge to the subject.

But this charismatic 27-year-old is not just a social commentator, he’s an engaging storyteller, too. Even if his story of a fist fight on a train doesn’t have the frisson of his more politically informed material, it’s amusing and self-effacing, told with winning energy.

Energy, incidentally, is not what Flo and Joan have much of, standing virtually stock-still alongside their keyboard.  Yet they are in total command of their deadpan – when the audience start clapping along to one of their songs they shut it down with little more than a withering look.

Their opening number about some of life’s more and less vital questions is a musical way of presenting some ‘what’s the deal with…?’ type observational comedy, with some wry melodic flourishes to boot. But their faux English folk song Lady In The Woods is what sets them apart, a tune which plays with repetition, alliteration and expectation to make jokes almost entirely out of the rhythm of the piece rather than the content of lyrics. It – like them – is a delight.

After what seemed like an endless interval Mawaan Rizwan, dressed as camply and as sparkly as Elton John’s Christmas Tree, offered more upbeat music, rapping about skiing and mango chutney (a real earworm this one) while dancing with insane vigour. If the North Americans though Brits were reserved, he gave them pause to reconsider, as he’s more Bollywood than Borehamwood.

He’s an inveterate attention seeker in real life as on stage, according to the coming-out story he told between tunes, so combining identity comedy with some infectiously banging beats. Invigorating.

While Rizwan was all glitz, headliner Sarah Millican has weaponised ordinariness. Hers is the comedy of everyday reality for an inherently lazy middle-aged woman in a cosy relationship and a penchant for cakes. ‘Ooh, I’ve left my glasses downstairs,’ becomes a punchline as she recalls her domestic life with #nofilter.

She’s got a reputation for being a bit dirty behind the homely Geordie accent, but – a routine about a Pap smear test notwithstanding – that took a back seat for her Montreal set.

And while she is celebrating the details of day-to-day life she’s also quietly defiant of society’s expectations, amplified by the commercial impetus of women’s magazines. She challenges them not with some Bill Hicks-style swagger as a male comic might, but with a sort of ‘sod that’ honesty that almost every woman in the room would identify with. 

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Published: 27 Jul 2019

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