How We Met: Sarah Millican & Tom Allen

'Everyone was mingling; we sat in a corner, downing juice and devouring the buffet'

Sarah Millican, 35

One of Britain's most successful female stand-ups, Millican is known for her deft blend of innocent persona and shockingly blue humour. Outside her live shows, she has appeared on TV programmes from 'Mock the Week' to 'Have I Got News for You'

I first got to know Tom at the finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards in Cardiff, 2005. Normally there'd be a bit of competitive spirit, but the first thing Tom said to the group was, "Do you think I've got time to ring my mum?" and I thought, "Aww, I love him!" While everyone else went off to get hammered, we felt more excited about checking in to the fancy Marriott hotel booked for us.

We've done a few gigs together over the years, and the tougher ones bring you closer. We did one for a room of 40 nurses for National Handwashing Week and it was quite a hard crowd, which is often the case when you perform to a group from a single industry.

Tom is a tonic for me; we crack up to the point I almost wet myself. Laughter is such good therapy and it's part of the reason I took to stand-up. A man had said to me, "I don't love you any more," [Millican divorced in 2004] but I can stand in front of 100 people and tell them funny things that happened in my divorce, make them laugh, and I'll think, "He doesn't love us, but they do."

I like my own space, but Tom is one of the few friends I can spend a whole day with. We both like sidestepping the thing a building was made for and going for the secondary function instead: we'll meet at the Curzon Cinema, Soho, for tea and chocolate fudge cake at the café, but we've yet to see a film there. Or at the National Portrait Gallery we'll zip around to get to the gift shop and buy postcards.

I love watching Tom flirt with waiters – he's very good at it. It's not obvious; he just steps it up a notch, there's a bit more banter, he's just a bit funnier, and I think, "Why doesn't he do this with me?"

One of our biggest differences has to be our dress sense. Tom has amazing attention to detail, from top to toe, it's quirky and particular. People see me and think I look quite mumsy and accessible.

You want people in your life who you've been friends with when you were starting out. I don't think I'll turn into a dick with the success, but I've seen it happen to others, and Tom would tell me if I did.

Tom Allen, 27

A comedian, writer and presenter, Allen won various newcomer awards in 2005 and has gone on to perform at festivals around the world to critical acclaim. He has also penned two series of Radio 4 show 'The Correspondent', and appeared in films such as 'Starter for 10' and 'Tamara Drewe'

Sarah and I had both reached the finals for the BBC New Comedy Awards and I remember her coming up to me and saying, "I like you, I want to be your friend." She's very upfront and open like that, while I find it really difficult to make new friends and could never have done that. It snowballed from there.

Our first "date" was at a swanky BBC party in 2006. Everyone else was mingling while we just sat in the corner, downing cups of juice, devouring platters of buffet food and getting to know one another; it was refreshing to know thatI wasn't the only one who hated having all those forced conversations.

You feel vulnerable when you first start off in stand-up, but as long as you have someone else saying, "You're going to be OK," it's fine, and Sarah was particularly intuitive about my worries. My favourite advice from her was Millican's maxim: if you've had a bad gig, forget about it by 11am the following day, and move on.

One reason Sarah is so brilliant at what she does is her honesty; she's been through emotionally turbulent times and she uses that in her material to brilliant effect. I talk about being gay quite a lot: I was on a date and kissing a guy on the street and these lads drove past in the car with one shouting "You disgusting queers," and another, rather randomly, "...and get a job". I was on the brink of tears, but Sarah inspired me to take those difficult times, as she has, and be honest about my feelings. You're not reducing it, turning it into nothing; you're sharing it and allowing the absurdities to ring out.

Hanging out with Sarah is a joy. She comes across as sweet and lovely – and she is – but then she'll come out with something outrageous and we'll be hooting with laughter. We often meet up for tea. We make each other crack up so much that people on other tables stare at us disapprovingly. It's jealousy. Or the fact her laugh sounds like a clown's horn.

There is still an element of machismo and sexism within stand-up, but from any group that has a history of being excluded – like being gay or being a woman – you have to show you're just a person with great ideas. It's something that has helped bind us together, and when I see Sarah on stage, just being herself – with all her foibles, and the audience loving it – I realise how far things have come.

Sarah Millican's Chatterbox tour runs until 20 April. For details: sarahmillican.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past