Sarah Millican: Control Enthusiast review – a non-stop smut fest


Marlowe theatre, Canterbury
The comic’s latest show is bursting with gags about bodily functions but reveals precious little about Millican herself






Brusque eloquence … Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican doesn’t appear much in the tabloid press, she tells us halfway through her touring show, because she’s “a very private person”. That’s not how most people would describe a comic who usually details her toilet habits, bodily functions and sex life in lurid detail. But the remark rings true – because, with each set offering a near-identical cocktail of smut and scuzzy domesticity, it becomes clearer that Millican’s shtick is as much a feat of concealment as intimacy. She’s terrific at what she does, she covers this territory more distinctively than anyone else – but her shows reveal precious little about the 42-year-old woman behind the interminable gags about farts and fannies.

Control Enthusiast is almost uncannily similar to Millican’s previous show, Outsider, which likewise mainlined sex comedy, with occasional detours into pets, fond gags about her feckless husband, and an outspoken feminist bit about body image. But I doubt many will join me in hankering after a new creative direction from Millican, who knows how to give her fans what they want, and does so unstintingly – from the show’s first words (“I’ve just put a clean sanitary towel in”) to its closing set-piece about our host’s bedtime ritual (“I reapply the cream, I wash the finger, I do a fart”).

Sarah Millican



Keeps the show on a tight leash … Sarah Millican. Photograph: Channel 4 Television

It can start to feel as if you could automate the writing of Sarah Millican material, by arranging the words “fart”, “tits” and “rescue dog” into endless new combinations. But then she’ll bring you up short with the brusque eloquence of her phrase-making (“it’s like someone’s pouring juice through a hedge” – I’ll leave that one to your imagination) and the quality of her jokes. A routine asking what it would take for her husband to notice she’d gone missing comes to a choice laugh-line about socks. You assume that one line about declining to insert a Crunchie bar in her vagina is self-sufficiently comical – until she tops it with an out-of-nowhere reversal.

That gag comes in a set-piece listing things to which Millican has said “no”. Elsewhere, we get an extended anecdote about an undignified visit to the Queen’s former bra-fitter, and a routine asking how couples signal to one another that they’d like to have sex. In several instances, these questions are opened up to the audience but as her title implies, Millican generally keeps the show on a tight leash.

In one section, our host refers to paparazzi pictures that sought to body-shame her – which cues an up-yours routine celebrating her body shape and love of food. Elsewhere, the radicalism dims: a skit about her husband mismatching duvet cover and pillowcases implies that women alone want things to be just so in the home – which would be news to fellow standup Jon Richardson, who specialises in this sort of fastidious domestic comedy.

But you don’t come to see Millican for the mind-expanding worldview. You come for the filthy jokes, and the amusingly blunt delivery, forever bursting sentimentality’s bubble with life as it unglamorously is. And for the validation she gives to the kind of life (and body shape) that goes unloved elsewhere in the media. And if that’s what you’ve come for, you’ll leave Control Enthusiast wholly satisfied.

At Customs House, South Shields, 25-26 January. Box office: 0191-454 1234; then touring.



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1 COMMENT

  1. You’ll love it if you want to spend two hours listening to vagina/ IBS jokes. However, if you’re not 14 years old you might get a little bored…

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