"A bear was in your house?!" Sarah Millican exclaimed on stage, genuinely surprised. Preparing for her upcoming touring show Outsider, themed around moving to the country and her uncomfortable experiences in the natural world, the British comedian solicited the audience for some of their own stories. "I forgot this was Canada and there are actual animals here!" she said after the audience member described how her dog scared off a bear rummaging through her kitchen. Other stories from the audience included orcas, hawks, snakes, and three dogs enjoying an intimate moment together. At home in England, Millican explained, the stories were about squirrels, badgers and pheasants.
During her first Montreal appearance, Millican was clearly chuffed with the appreciative audience packing the sold-out room at L'Astral. Her crowd-work-heavy set was funny and charming as hell. Millican, a star of the British comedy scene, is a frequent guest on comedy panel shows like QI and 8 out of 10 Cats. The winner of a raft of comedy awards, her DVD Chatterbox Live! is the all-time best-selling DVD by a female stand-up comedian. Her humour is smart and sweet, with a few spicy bits and plenty of Geordie-accented swearing mixed in for good measure.
Canada's wild animals weren't the only thing that was weird for Millican. She opened with a bit about differences between British and Canadian English, and later thought kayaking was a fancy word when an audience member mentioned it, quipping, "ooh, as my mother would say 'somebody's had dictionary pudding for lunch.'"
Millican was great working the crowd, including riffing on the animal stories and also skilfully silencing a guy complaining about how his girlfriend nags him, to a huge round of applause. But she was no less entertaining in her prepared stand-up material. It was all very everyday stuff ("Who's got pets? Can I get a woo?"), but Millican drew the audience in with relatable stories and jokes about doctor's visits, asshole pet cats who ignore you, relationships and messy cars, the latter the basis for an extended analogy about body-hair removal and her love life.
For her encore she talked about the anxieties related to getting a massage, including worries about her own body and how to behave, and closed with a story about an unusual massage experience and a well-deserved fart at the end.
Typically British in all the best ways, Sarah Millican is a great stand-up comedian who deserves to be better known by North American audiences.