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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?