Sarah Millican on the terror of Live at the Apollo and trying not to fall over on stage

Everyone told the comedian her third time at the Apollo would be as easy as riding a bike. The problem was, she can't ride a bike...

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You’d expect the third time you do Live at the Apollo to be easier, easier peasier, a doddle. Like riding a bike. Except I can’t ride a bike so that analogy has always been lost on me.

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“Oh, it’s like riding a bike.” What? Something I’ve never been able to do. Something I never learnt as my mam is disabled, my dad worked shifts and the man round the corner who offered to take me out was on the list my mam gave me of people I wasn’t allowed to walk home from school with. That list basically said: “EVERYONE, even the man round the corner who you know.”

“Oh, don’t worry about doing the Apollo. It’ll be like riding a bike.” What? I will fall off and hurt myself, won’t I? Turns out that is a genuine worry. When you’re watching at home and see the comedian walk out all confident under the fast-moving glittery Apollo sign amidst a Bonnie Tyler’s worth of dry ice, you have no idea what’s going through our heads.

I can’t speak for all comics, obviously. I’m sure some of them are super confident and come strut- ting out thinking: “This is going to be great”. I, on the other hand, have one thought – DON’T FALL OFF THE STAGE.

You hear your name, get the word from the stage manager while standing in an area backstage marked off with tape as a safety box (the only place something won’t clank on your head), and out you walk, waving, smiling but not being able to see a bloody thing – and realising that at some point, the stage ends and the albeit soft and squashy audience begins.

On the way back in, at the end of the show, you turn and do a wave so as not to crack your head on the Apollo sign. counted it out in rehearsal, maybe this is what being nearly 40 means. Ten steps. Any more and I’m doing an involuntary stage dive. 

The building itself is iconic. And intimidating, but I kept telling myself that I’ve played here before, I’ve done two of these and many shows on my own. I paced backstage, had 74 last sees and stood in the safety box, licking my lips and going through my set. 

I came out, DIDN’T fall off the stage, and had a wonderful time. The audience was on great form and I was ok, too. I introduced two of my favourite people, Joe Lycett and Russell Kane, who both had a grand time. Such lovely, funny comics.

We had a lot of fun posing for the pre-show photos. Will they go with there of us side by side,m or the one with two of us back to back? In that shot, we looked like a band in the X Factor over-25s category. I hope you enjoy the show and indeed the series. It was a fantastic experience. Again. Maybe the next time I need to do something scary, someone will say: “It’s just like doing Live at the Apollo,” and I will worry less. 

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Live at the Apollo is on tonight (Wednesday 19 November) at 10.35 on BBC1