Earlier this month I got to watch Sarah Millican live in person for the first time, in what was also my first visit to the Hammersmith Apollo. And I had a great time, as you can see from my recent post about it, where I also discussed her observational style of comedy in general. But in preparation for that show, I naturally rewatched all of her other stand-up gigs that I own on DVD as well. And so this post is my review of those.
As well as the DVDs, her first three shows are also freely available in their entirety on her Youtube channel, which is very generous, and there are loads of other clips of her on there too. It was a direct result of watching those free shows during lockdown that I bought her DVDs last year. And edited versions of her gigs are also sometimes repeated on Channel 4 as well. However, there are some bonus features that are exclusive to the DVDs, and you never know when Youtube videos will disappear or when shows will stop being repeated on TV. Plus all the DVDs have subtitles as well. So all of the discs are worth owning I think, and I hope you enjoy reading about them.
This show, filmed at the Bloomsbury Theatre, lasts 1 hour 40 minutes. Among the various topics, Sarah discusses a film called Chatterbox (a comedy about a woman with a talking vagina), living on her own, her boyfriend moving in for a few months, intruders, pets, giving blood, being stranded in Australia, cakes and puddings, being overweight, methods of relaxing, baths, sleep, driving, bidets, clothes shopping, spicing things up in the bedroom, going to a wedding, jewellery from her boyfriend, tiny baby jeans, and the effects of curry on a date night.
There are also a lot of amusing responses from the audience when she asks them to nominate the best things about being men and women, and things that have been broken during sex. Plus she comes across a lady who’s knitting during the show, and another guy who expresses a clear disgust for vaginas, much preferring the male anatomy instead.
One thing that Sarah doesn’t notice during the show, however, and neither did her production team while they were editing the footage, is a man fast asleep in the audience! He appears at around 34:37 on the DVD, and about 20 seconds earlier on the Youtube video. To be fair, he’s easy to miss, as he’s hidden in the dark, just up and to the right of the woman who had called out that always being right was the best thing about being female. But once you know he’s there, you can’t help but notice every time.
That may not seem like a big deal, but several people pointed it out to Sarah after the show was released, and it resulted in an amusing running gag on her later DVDs. So it’s actually quite relevant!
There are a few extras on the DVD as well, which you access via the animated menu that’s set in a café with cakes. They’re all officially available to watch for free online as well, which isn’t the case for her other DVDs.
- Interview by Joe Lycett – In this 12-minute mix of Q&A and banter, Joe poses a set of either/or questions for Sarah, followed by some questions from Twitter followers about punching people, her last meal on death row, her desert island supplies, and her thoughts on love. Then he sets her a taste test involving Victoria sponges, seeing if she can guess which retailer each one comes from. So it’s an interesting and fun little bonus.
- 5 Top Tips For Divorce – A quick 3-minute feature where she gives some important advice on dealing with divorce, having been through it herself, with a slightly humorous slant on it of course.
- Royal Variety Performance – This is her 5-minute set from this special show in 2010. Most of her jokes are shortened versions of those in the main Chatterbox show, which isn’t a surprise, including driving, intruders and calling her boyfriend while she’s away. But she also makes a joke about self-service checkouts, and overall it’s an enjoyable routine that makes Prince Charles laugh as well as the audience.
- The Hair Of The Dead – Currently still available on the BBC Radio 4 website as I write this, from Series 5 of Comic Fringes, this is a 13-minute radio monologue from 2009 that Sarah wrote and performed, acting as a hairdresser working on a dead body in a funeral parlour. And it’s ok, with some amusing lines, but her stand-up is much better.
Thoroughly Modern Millican
This show from the Hammersmith Apollo lasts just under an hour and a half, and I like the fact that she enters to the tune of Our House by Madness. Subjects covered this time include exercise and trying to eat more healthily, her relationship with her boyfriend, going to a theme park, risk taking vs caution (aka bumper cars vs dodgems), learning about sex and how bodies change with age (including The Body Book by Claire Rayner), feeling sexy and confident, dirty talk in the bedroom, euphemisms, house-hunting, her love of swearing, running over a deer at night, her family, pets, eating a whole packet of Space Dust (a form of popping candy), and euphemisms for needing a poo.
There’s also quite a bit of enjoyable interaction with the audience, where she asks them about the signs of love, reasons for carrying spare pants, what you can use as an alternative if you run out of toilet paper, and the lies people were told about their pets dying.
The DVD menu represents a fairground this time, and the first extra is actually a hidden Easter egg. If you use the arrow keys to go up on the main menu, you can click on the big star in the middle of the Ferris wheel. This takes you to a secret moment from the show, where Sarah talks about the sleeping man from her first DVD, and invites the audience to recreate a similar moment that she can sneak into this second DVD for people to spot.
So a woman gladly volunteers, pretending to be asleep while everyone around her laughs raucously, and it’s exactly what Sarah wanted. But, as she then mentions in voiceover at the end, they didn’t need to use it after all, as they discovered another person sleeping for real during the edit anyway! Hence the fake sleeper became a hidden extra, while the real dozing lady was added around the 34 minute mark in the show, to match the time on the previous DVD. She’s at the bottom left of the screen, her head resting on her partner’s shoulder.
Apart from that, there are various other features available via the Extras menu:
- Sarah’s Rider – An amusing little 2-minute sketch about her fictional backstage requirements, including rose petals in the toilet, M&M’s, KitKats and kittens.
- Q&As – There are a couple of interesting interviews lasting about 18 minutes altogether. One is about Sarah herself, where she’s asked about films, TV, music, childhood, a typical day and her dream comedy line-up. Then the other is specifically about her comedy, where she talks about her actual tour rider (as opposed to the earlier sketch), starting and ending tours, winding down, having family in the audience, writing the shows, and tips for aspiring comedians.
- BBC Radio 4 Programmes – There are a couple of audio extras, which are both currently still available online. The first is another Comic Fringes monologue, from Series 7, called Stairlift Us Up Where We Belong, where she plays an old woman talking about her life and the people she knows for about 12 minutes. The other feature is the first half-hour episode of Sarah Millican’s Support Group, where she acts as an agony aunt discussing what it’s like to dating out of your class (as in working class, middle class, etc), with the aid of audience members and so-called ‘experts’. There are one or two jokes that are recognisable from Sarah’s stand-up shows, but otherwise it seems original. Neither of those programmes held my interest as well as her live shows though, they’re not things I would listen to again particularly.
This show lasts for an hour and 40 minutes, and was filmed in her home town at the Newcastle Tyne Theatre. So there are a couple of fleeting local references, but nothing that interferes with the show. The focus of her show is on making changes in her life, to get out of a rut and freshen things up. And the many topics she addresses along the way include reacting to the heat in a rather intimate area, house-hunting and moving into her new home, getting new cats, relaxing, learning to cook, bad Christmas presents, a scary Warwick Castle Dungeon tour on her husband’s birthday (which actually sounds quite fun!), going shopping on her birthday, having a medical assessment, beauty advice in women’s magazines, getting a powerful new vibrator, a heartbreaking late-night discovery about a poem from her ex-husband, letting her partner move in to her new house, waving her partner goodbye when she goes away to various places, her family, getting older, and dawdling as a child.
The interactive audience segments on this occasion see Sarah asking what to do with a half-dead animal the cat brings in, and what to take on a dirty weekend, both of which bring the usual mixture of amusing and amazing replies.
And for the encore at the end of the show there’s a special appearance by Phil Creswick from the group Big Fun. Earlier in the show Sarah talks about that group’s version of Blame It On The Boogie, and how she was forbidden by her mother from doing a seemingly sexual move to the line “don’t blame it on the good times” when dancing along to it. So Sarah gets Phil, and the audience, to join in with the amended version of the dance that she had been forced to do. It’s a great lively way to finish the show.
The extras are accessed via a menu system that reflects a homely environment, with a breakfast table for the main menu, while the extras menu is laid out like a TV’s electronic programme guide. There are 3 extras altogether:
- Sleeping Audience Member – This 10 minute extra continues the running gag that began with her first DVD. Once again Sarah gets an audience member to pretend to be asleep while everyone laughs around them. But then she attempts to reverse it by getting the entire audience to pretend to be asleep while just one person laughs hysterically. It’s funny to watch because of how chaotic it ends up being, with the first woman she chooses being too quiet, while the second has clearly had far too much to drink!
- Interview With Dad – In this 19 minute feature Sarah asks her Dad a variety of questions about his life, his memories of her and thoughts on her comedy, his advice on some situations, and more. It’s not hugely interesting, but he’s a nice bloke, and it’s great to see that he’s so supportive of her work.
- Behind The Scenes On Tour – Lasting 16½ minutes, this enjoyable feature includes short interviews with Sarah and her support acts (including Tom Allen and Andy Robinson), about how they prepare for the shows. Plus there’s some banter backstage with Tom Allen as they get ready to do a show in Wales, and a chat with the guys running the merchandise stall. And finally there’s a look at the first time Sarah did her Blame It On The Boogie routine on stage, filmed at an earlier preview show at the Glee Club in Birmingham, where she even got the other comedians from the event up on stage to do it with her, including Gary Delaney and Joe Lycett.
Available on DVD.
This show, filmed at the Brighton Dome, lasts for 1 hour 25 minutes. Here we find Sarah talking about things like weeing into a bottle while driving, living in the countryside, her cats, her new dog, encouraging wildlife into the garden, bath bombs, IBS, piles, her husband (she had got married to Gary since the last tour), self esteem about her body image, school, an email from an old bully, Standard Issue (a podcast she created to counter the unrealistic idealism and expectations that society and the media hold about women), men retaining different information to women (including a quiz of useless versus useful information), nagging, chatting before and during sex, being in her 40s, periods and going for a massage.
The audience interaction segment this time is all about the best things seen in nature. And at the end of the show she brings her adorable little dog on stage – before he darts away in terror when she takes her knickers off and waves them at him!
The extras on this DVD consist of:
- Fan Questions with Tom Allen – A enjoyable 22-minute chat where Tom chats with Sarah about jungle luxuries, farting and thinking about food on stage, cats, drying laundry, eating in the cinema, foods she dislikes, what she would save in a house fire, ketchup, car boot sales, wearing shirts, feminine hygiene products, eating eggs, toilet brushes and more.
- Another Sleeping Audience Member – For this final part of the running gag from her previous discs, lasting 9 minutes, it’s Sarah herself who pretends to be asleep in the auditorium, while Tom Allen comes on stage to direct everyone else to laugh around her.
- Stripey Dressgate – A brief but funny 2 minutes of outtakes, where Sarah is having trouble with her dress getting creased up during the show.
Available on DVD.
There are no extras on this DVD, you just get the main show. But it’s still a lot of fun, so that doesn’t matter. It lasts for 1 hour 20 minutes, and was filmed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. This time Sarah imparts her thoughts on another wide variety of topics including road rage hand gestures, sexual confidence, her rescue dog, difficulties talking to children, her mother, IBS, buying period sanitary products, her husband’s habits, sexual fantasies and self pleasure, an emotional film called Room, the movie Iron Man, shorthand code for fancying sex with your partner, spicing up your sex life, giving a urine sample, a holiday in New York, Naked Attraction, a false news story about her losing weight, body confidence, exercise, buying shampoo, painting her toenails, getting better at saying “No” to things (with a list of things she’s said no to), buying knickers, difficulty sleeping, and her routine before going to bed. And there’s a very entertaining segment with the audience where she asks the women what they didn’t like about getting a bra fitting.
So that’s it, I hope you enjoyed reading about those shows. Remember, you can check out my review of her current touring show as well, which I saw live recently. She’s still as funny as always, and I’ll hopefully see her live again in the future!