There has been a fair amount written lately, often by stand-up comedians themselves, about the current state of play for UK comedy. With artists such as Michael McIntyre, Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard, Jason Manford, Peter Kay and the like selling out tours using some of the biggest arenas in the country, clearly stand-up comedy is enjoying a significant purple patch. The current televisual ubiquity of panel comedy quiz shows and the platform they give to comedians only feeds into the tours and more and more comedians are now fronting their own TV shows, Sarah Millican included.
It perhaps goes without saying that reviewing a stand-up comedian’s show is very different from reviewing a film or television show – the usual beats of narrative arcs, characterisation, photography, acting and pacing fall by the wayside and instead we ponder one central question – is it funny?
Well, more so than with many artistic forms, it is all in the eye (and ear) of the beholder. If nothing else, the frequency with which many of the better-known comedians appear on the small screen gives us a bit of an idea of what to expect. McIntyre will give us a lot of observational routines, erring on the side of physical comedy; Tim Vine and Milton Jones will rattle off lots of quick gags; Lee Evans will work up a sweat; Eddie Izzard will tend towards the surreal; Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle are more likely to push (and perhaps leap over) conventional boundaries of good taste. Where does Sarah Millican sit in this spectrum? Well, mostly it is observational humour, with jokes built from the experiences of friends, family and her own misadventures. Her self-deprecatory, vanity-free style is neatly offset by a strong line in close-to-the-knuckle smut and crudeness, but delivered with sufficient sweetness and good-natured self-effacement as to be unlikely to offend (although some of her sexually-themed mimes might test that perspective).
There is an enjoyable amount of interaction with the audience, none of it mean-spirited and all of it giving the impression that there are subtle elements here that will be unique to this show, as Sarah enquires (for example) as to what audience members have used when unexpectedly finding themselves wholly out of toilet paper. As anyone who has seen any of her stand-up before, or seen her on panel shows or her self-titled BBC2 series, she has a charming presence that one warms to quickly and although she peppers her routine with strong language and adult themes, it is never mean-spirited or intended to offend or upset.
As noted earlier, this sort of thing is an exercise in subjective assessment, but I laughed a lot and pretty much throughout, which must amount to some sort of endorsement.
Extras: Not available to review, but said to include an interview, a BBC radio play, the 1st episode of Millican’s Radio 4 show “Sarah Millican’s support group” and “Sarah’s Rider” (whatever that is).