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Sarah Millican’s 'Control Enthusiast' sticks it to the media, the bullies and the patriarchy

★★★★★

Once upon a time, award-winning Geordie comedian Sarah Millican was told her conversational style of comedy wouldn’t cut it. For the last 15 or so years she's repeatedly proved the naysayers wrong, including with her sold-out new tour Control Enthusiast. The show is laugh-until-you-hurt funny and she’s still just chatting about stuff. Often regaling us with the minutiae of everyday life, Millican kicks off her set with the challenges of whacking on a fresh pad and having a wing attach to a patch of leg skin.  

There’s a lot here for those of us who don’t or never intend to have kids, which is refreshing. Millican is unabashedly rubbish with children. For instance, when a mate has a baby, Millican asks for how long the infant can be left alone and is shocked to be told “not at all”. In her book How To Be Champion Millican describes how a pal now refers to human progeny as “skin babies” and pets as “fur babies”. In her show, Millican elaborates further as to why skin babies are a bit crap. Amongst other things, she can leave her dog for four hours at a time.

Ranging from domestic observations through to urine tests (she describes peeing in a small jar as akin to “pouring orange juice through a hedge”), it’s all relatable and recognisable – just a hell of a lot funnier with Millican’s spin on it.

The show is also inspiring. For instance, Millican discusses the liberation she’s experienced since saying no to things in which she has no interest, without apology or explanation, and it sounds bloody marvellous. It also shows a lot of moxie. Amongst the list of requests she’s nixed includes one to perform at the Queen’s jubilee, because Millican was collecting a kitten. The fact that Millican is beyond people-pleasing or putting up with shit from anyone leads to a story about a high-school bully dropping her a newsy and altogether wanky email. Millican’s short and pointed response is that she shan’t reply further, because she doesn’t remember her schoolmate in a positive light. Of course, the longer explanation is now part of the show and a DVD, which is about the best takedown of a bully ever.  

As a “control enthusiast”, Millican is in absolute command, but she never compromises on kindness. At one stage, the audience is invited to share bra-fitting horror stories. In response, a woman reveals she was assaulted during her fitting and hearts stopped all over Hamer Hall. How the hell do you respond to that in a comic setting? Millican’s deft handling of the situation was calm and empathetic. She thoughtfully addresses something that’s monstrous but she isn’t derailed. To borrow one of her favourite descriptors, Millican is “champion”.

Highlight: Millican’s roasting of the mainstream media’s insanity when it comes to women. 

Lowlight: Millican is ardently anti-bully (see her denouement of a high-school torment above). That her support act Sally-Anne Hayward’s shtick rests so firmly with being a mean girl was jarring.

Crowd favourite: Accepting the compliment “fox” on the basis that she’s eaten out of a bin.