Growing up, I had two different personas. At school I was quiet and shy, then I blossomed at home. I never wanted to be in the limelight. I wrote short plays and films, and studied film and production. It didn’t cross my mind to be in front of the camera.
I got divorced when I was 29. Before that I’d always been in the middle, just coasting. After that, there were days when I thought I could do nothing and days when I thought I could do anything. And on an anything day, I signed up for a workshop for people that had written before but never performed.
I read a monologue I’d written about my divorce. I was shaking, and some of it was crushingly sad. But some of it was hilarious and the audience responded accordingly.
After the divorce I moved back with my mam and dad. I spent a few months just trying to get a handle on it. But then I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I thought, “Well that was fun, let’s do that again.” So I rang the girl who had run the course and said, “I think I want to try stand-up comedy,” and she said “I know”, like she’d known the whole time and had waited for this call.
She booked me a five-minute spot at a really rough pub in Newcastle. Everyone sat with their arms crossed, then they laughed and then I came off stage and thought, “Wow, that feels nice.” I’ll always be grateful that she saw something in me.
Going on stage in front of an audience is nerve-racking. I have a really good “I’m having a lovely time” face. It’s fake. You can fake confidence until you get it. As soon as I have a couple of big laughs under my belt then that confidence is real. There’s nothing better than making people laugh. I love it. It’s the best job in the world.
I’d never lived on my own before. I had no idea how awesome it is and I don’t know if I ever want to go back! It’s just the freedom. There’s no compromise necessary. It’s a sort of healthy selfishness and it also means that I’m not selfish when I’m with my boyfriend.
Gary and I live 90 miles apart. It gives us both breathing space and we see each other a lot more than we would if we lived together because we plan ahead. He’s still the most important person to me. But I think I am also important.
I think you’ve just got to make sure that you don’t slip into complacency. So I never iron or hoover when he’s there so that when we’re together we go for lunch or nice walks. And there’s no routine, so you can’t get bored of no routine, can you?
The thing that keeps me awake at night is box sets. I’ll say to myself, “Oh I’ll just do one more episode,”. I could really do with my cat learning to tell me to go to bed.
The DVD of Sarah’s second sell-out headlining tour,
Thoroughly Modern Millican
, is out now.
This is an edited version of Sarah’s interview. To read the full article, pick up the January issue of woman&home, out now.