Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sarah Millican's Not Nice, Melbourne Town Hall

I caught Sarah Millican as part of the Gala show on Channel 10 that showcased Melbourne Comedy Festival acts at the start of the month. She was just about the only act that piqued my interest, partly due to her North East accent but mostly due to a very funny routine about a romantic shower-a-deux that ceased to be sexy when she realised it had essentially become mutual washing. She has gone on to be one of the success stories of the Festival, selling out most of her nights at Melbourne Town Hall and being nominated this week for a Barry Award.

Sarah Millican’s Not Nice is a show about the questions people ask themselves when a long term relationship ends. It’s based on her own experience of divorce and her unexpected return to singles life. Millican is a natural story teller and it’s hard not to laugh at her tales of absurd and unhelpful advice and words of (supposed) comfort she received from her friends and family post-break up.

More squirrel dear? Sarah Millican takes in brunch

The show is also a story of moving on and embracing being single (and then reattached) in these anything goes post-millennial times. It's sprinkled with tales of sex toy shopping, dating, comfort eating, underwear with messages and not liking kids. On this last point whilst considering unappealing offers from parents to come over and hang out with their offspring, Millican counter-offers ‘would you like to come over to mine and watch me kill a wasp?’

There is something undeniably unique about the sense of humour in the North East of England and it was hard for me to separate Sarah’s telling of her plight from her geographical roots. Having lived there for many years I felt a natural warmth towards her, despite some of the jokes erring into the world of ‘men and women: they're different.’ I also couldn't help but think of a couple of other comic icons of the North East; Middlesbrough's Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown and Newcastle-based adult comic,

Whilst Millican has nothing in common with the childish and old school casual racism and sexism of Chubby Brown, some of her more bawdy comments about sex would have sat comfortably in one of his routines. The fact that such jokes seem fresher and more appealing from the mouth of an attractive woman says as much about the evolution of political correctness as much as the material itself.

Perhaps a kinder comparison is to
Viz which is less malevolent but purposefully puerile to the point of genius. Their ongoing Roger’s Profanisaurus – a collection of reader-suggested swear words and euphemisms from around the world (but mostly from Northern England) could have provided a few choice responses to her request for the audience to suggest alternative names for (ahem) lady parts. That said her punchline – that the show’s title is not all that it seems - provided a nice subversive twist that as she said ‘would make me Mam blush.’

Sarah Millican has the charm and the personality to have a long career in comedy and Sarah Millican’s Not Nice is a nice end to a chapter in her life. There was a real mixed crowd there to see her, including a lot of people well past fifty, and she made us all laugh so she clearly has the every woman touch. Personally I’d like to see her stretch out a bit more and see what makes her laugh – because I think there’s a whole lot more to this lady than the sum of these particular (lady) parts.

Sarah Millican's Not Nice is on at the Melbourne Town Hall until Sunday 26th April. You can follow Sarah's very funny blog

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