As one of the UK’s most popular comedians – female or otherwise – the Southampton stop of Sarah Millican’s Outsider tour was, unsurprisingly, sold out. Thankfully, after years of wanting to see the self-professed Geordie “cat mam” live on stage, I was one of the relative few that managed to secure a seat to a show full of gloriously crude jokes, homely observations and witty comebacks.
The first thing that has to be said of Sarah Millican is that she offers a fabulous range of merchandise at her shows; a relative rarity amongst many stand-up comedy acts. Not only were her bright, glossy tour programmes full to the brim with interesting tid-bits and visuals, but they were also pre-signed. She also offered a range of other items. including mugs, aprons, (free) badges and other cute little mementos. Personally, I went for one of the goodie bags, which came in two choices: “Cock” (for a picture of a rooster on your tote bag) or “Tits” (for a tote bag with a pair of blue tits on). Having wryly requested “tits, please” from the clearly amused cashier, it was evident from the off that it was going to be a fun night.
Unlike the usual stand-up routine of support act-then-main act, Millican was the first to welcome us to the show, improvising a short, but funny introduction before bringing on her support act for the evening, Caimh McDonnell – a firm favourite on the British and International stand-up comedy circuits. The white-haired Irish comic, who self-deprecatingly referred to himself as “fat Father Ted” and/or a version of “Malfoy who’s let himself go”, proved to be very amusing and did a great job at warming up the Mayflower audience. Treating the patrons to ironic gags about race and nationality, his foul-mouthed, doctor-defying granda’ and what not to do with a fitbit, McDonnell provided a great start to the night’s humourous proceedings.
Millican then returned to the stage and began her proper set, in which she spoke at length about her love for animals- particularly her dog and cats. As a cat-lover myself, I couldn’t help but belly-laugh upon hearing Millican’s futile attempts at connecting with her cat, Chief Brody – apparently slowly blinking at a cat does not guarantee they’ll be around to return the act of friendliness! Her reference to being the “mama ladle” when she tries to spoon up to her cats when they’re sleeping was also very funny. As a new dog owner, Millican’s foray into the mystical world of poo bags was also as hysterical as it was gross.
Like most stand-ups, Millican was eager to get her audience involved, and in one round of audience participation, she asked patrons to shout out their most remarkable experiences with nature. After a laughably heated debate between two audience members as they squabbled to shout out their anecdotes at the same time (“dog!”, “dolphin!”, “dog!”), a number of funny wildlife stories came to light, from the size of an elephant’s ‘schlong’ to a squirrel hanging from a washing line and a frog strangling a goldfish. Amongst all this, Millican held her own, providing zingers to hecklers and a warm smile to anyone brave enough to speak up.
The second half took on a more reflective feel, as Millican spoke with painful honesty about some of the previous troubles in her life. Her words about self-esteem and body image were particularly inspiring, whilst still being amusing and intentionally upbeat. Seeing an opportunity to find the fun in a troubling situation, Millican also read out a smarmy letter from one of her former bullies, as well as her blunt, but entirely appropriate reply. The great thing about Millican is that she is so relatable and relatively normal compared to a lot of other performers. Therefore when she talks about affecting issues, even in such a light-hearted comic way, you know it comes from the heart. She also spoke about her marriages and her “no bullshit” women’s magazine, Standard Issue (which I would wholeheartedly recommend you check out and subscribe to!).
Millican closed her set with a series of hysterical and utterly shameless insights into the female body – from trying to come up with a better phrase to describe when you’re on your period to the awkwardness of body massages when you’re a woman with more bits to shuffle over. Her thoughts on the effect of Lush bath bombs have also forever changed the way I think about Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’…
Overall, Millican provided food for thought as well as rapturous laughter, giving a stand-up performance that was as shamelessly crude as it was homely and relatable.