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culture: Funny lady who's pulling in the plaudits and having fun as well; Funny lady Sarah Millican is coming to Tyneside to take a well-deserved bow in front of her home crowd ... and tell some jokes, obviously. Sam Wonfor talks to her.

HOW long do you think you'd need to lie on a settee before they'd need to surgically remove you from it?

Sarah Millican is asking because she's back to work tonight after a rare few days off and has chosen to do "absolutely nothing" with them.

"I really haven't moved... it's been ace," laughs South Shields's answer to ... well, all the other successful female comedians whose stars have been on a meteoric rise at one time or another.

It's not surprising she felt in need of the rest.

Her debut run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with her show Sarah Millican's Not Nice brought spoils aplenty.

You couldn't move for four and five-star reviews on the billboards outside the Pleasance Courtyard Hut, and it was all topped off in fantasy style with the if.comedy award for Best Newcomer (previously sponsored by Perrier if you're wondering whether this was as prestigious as the fizzy water).

Since then - aside from a post-Fringe Spanish holiday she had the foresight to book in advance - she hasn't stopped.

"The main difference I suppose is that the smaller promoters are now asking me to close the show instead of open it, and the bigger promoters know who I am," she says modestly.

The bigger promoters aren't the only ones who have been introduced to her comedic charms.

Listeners to Radio Four enjoyed her one-off comedy, Keep Your Chins Up, which found a relationship counsellor called Jean preparing for her annual appraisal.

"I loved it. We did it in front of a live studio audience and had the best time," she says.

The millions of viewers who tune into BBC1's Have I Got News For You also got a little Millican taster last month.

"People think that it would be scary," she says, "and it was scary, but really good fun too. Largely because Ian Hislop was really lovely to me," she adds, speaking of the left-hand team stalwart on the popular panel show.

"It is weird thinking that so many people are seeing you," she admits.

Not as weird as being faced with 5,000 in-the-flesh faces though, which is what happened when she was booked to play in front of a sellout crowd at the Albert Hall in a much-coveted slot at October's Secret Policeman's Ball in aid of Amnesty International.

"It was ridiculous. There were all these TV cameras everywhere, but the scariest thing was that there didn't seem to be a ceiling on the place.

"No matter how far you looked up, Funny lady Sarah Millican is coming to Tyneside to take a well-deserved bow in front of her home crowd ... and tell some jokes, obviously. Sam Wonfor talks to her. there were just more people. I enjoyed it though and it went ridiculously well.

My first joke went down really great which helped me relax and then it was just good fun."

So to sum up the end of Edinburgh to present day?

"A little bit mad, but in the best possible ways," she says, adding that she's off to the by-invitation-only Melbourne Comedy Festival in April.

Best of all though (as far as Sarah is concerned), she got to meet How To Look Good Naked guru Gok Wan who was doing a bit of Secret Policeman presenting.

"How good is that? I was telling Shappi (fellow comedian Shappi Khorsandi) that I really wanted to meet him, and then he comes along and tells me he really loved my set - it was brilliant. I so wanted to shout after him, 'Thanks for allowing me to have a belly', but I didn't have the guts."

See? She really is non-stop with the gags ... and that's not me being sarcastic. I've had the pleasure of knowing this deceptively pottymouthed lady since the beginnings of her stand-up career four years ago and she makes me laugh. A lot.

And if that doesn't convince you to scramble for the few remaining tickets for her three-night run at Live Theatre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then check out a few of these critical citations.

"... Sarah Millican, who reminds me of a young, slimmer and much filthier Victoria Wood," Stephanie Merritt, The Observer.

"There isn't a spare second in this gag-packed, deliciously dark show," Mickey Noonan, Metro.

"Sarah's gentle delivery proves the perfect disguise for her material, which is often rooted firmly below the belt," Me, Culture Magazine.

Plus, the Live Theatre audiences are going to get the live performance equivalent of DVD extras too.

"It'll be the Edinburgh show, then a break and then around half an hour of new stuff," she reveals.

"I need to have 50 minutes of new material in time for the Leicester Comedy Festival in February.

"So basically the audience at Live get their entertainment in the first half and then I get to shamelessly use them to test out my new material after the interval."

Don't know about you but I'm more than happy (in fact I'm willing to bet hysterical) to be her gag-testing guinea pig.

Sarah Millican's Not Nice plays Live Theatre on January 15-17. Call (0191) 232-1232 or visit to book.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2009
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