Sarah Millican: over in Australia they let you swear on telly with bare legs

"I expected some sort of reaction. Maybe women covering their children’s eyes. Or at least all of the men crying. No one noticed. YAY!"

So it’s 1.30am in Melbourne and I’m eating a steak pie in my nightie. Tonight I did a spot at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala, an annual gig at the start of the festival that, to the (huge) audience, is a way of seeing lots of comedians do short spots, thus helping them choose who to see during the next four weeks. Plus they’ve donated to Oxfam by buying a ticket. To the comedians, it’s a test. A fun test, but a test nonetheless.

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Firstly, it’s a test of your bowels. Will they be a team player? Will they gurgle so loud they’ll be picked up by your microphone? Secondly, it’s a test of your material. You have four minutes to make a massive, full theatre love you. And laugh. And clap at the end. While loving you. And laughing and clapping. And loving. Please.

I’m so used to wearing not much make-up these days that I had temporarily forgotten how heavy it needs to be for telly. Oh yes, did I mention that this show will be watched by millions of Aussies who will cross you off angrily or add you tentatively to their list. Like a testy Santa. If they go for a big wee, they won’t even know you exist.

My face fully loaded, my chest colour then didn’t match my face colour, so I had to be painted (I called it knocker bronzer). They looked at my arms. There wasn’t time. They needed a sheep dip.

For the first time ever on telly in my seven years as a comedian, I didn’t wear tights, leggings or trousers. Just a dress with bare, slightly bruised, bristly legs. I expected some sort of reaction. Maybe women covering their children’s eyes. Or at least all of the men crying. Such are my long-held feelings about my legs. No one noticed. YAY!

My favourite part of the process was asking the producer which swear words you can say. Things are a lot more relaxed in Australia. (Bare legs! No one pulled me aside with a pack of opaques or anything.) I had one swear word that would never have been sanctioned for UK telly. I can’t say what it was here, so let’s call it Blank. Which it actually rhymes with. They said yes. Of course they did.

Bare legs and swearing on the telly. It’s been a helluva night. The good news is it went well. And while the other comedians are drinking beer and winding down from a stressy day, I’m here, talking to you in my nightie having polished off my steak pie bought in especially for if the gig went well – or if it hadn’t. I’m not a partying type, so thank you for the excuse.


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Sarah’s stand-up DVD, Thoroughly Modern Millican Live, is available at amazon.co.uk.