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Sarah Millican Tells HuffPost UK About Turning Heartbreak Into Humour, Her Funny Family, A General Point About Exes

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"I don't understand people who stay in touch with their exes. I find it a bit weird. There's no need."

The reason Sarah Millican is mentioning this is because she can thank her ex-husband, indirectly at least - like she said, they don't chat - for her entrée into comedy, a career that has set her up nicely, earning money for funnies or, as she puts it, "paying bills with funny money. You do so much for free, you're learning and then someone offers you money for petrol."

sarah millican
Sarah Millican turned heartbreak to humour

The ex left her when she was 29. She cried, moved back in with her parents, and then started creating her schtick:
"I used humour to get through it. My family are all very funny, so it wasn't a surprise. What was a surprise was my turning it into a career. I think my bosses at the time were hoping I'd throw myself into work, but instead, stand up became my therapy, where I felt valued. The idea of making strangers laugh... it was a euphoric sensation."

Was it a dish best served hilarious on the trample of the heart? "No, revenge would have been pointless. It was more about being proactive, having control, feeling nice."

Millican's family may have been a kin of clowns, but, unlike many comedians, it wasn't in the school classroom that she started practising her trade. "I was as quiet as a mouse there, because everyone was horrible to me. It was only when I started working in a cinema with 70 or 80 other people at the same time. I was 18, I could start afresh, I was popular. I was astonished by how many people liked me."

And the smut, the potty mouth for which her comedy has become known, both on stand up and her recent TV show - was that always in the mix?

"I've always been a nice girl, but my mam can be quite rude. She told me once, 'I think you can be quite coarse' and I pointed out I got it from her. I get the storytelling from my dad."

sarah millican
"I've always been a nice girl"

Millican's fans know her father - he pops up on Skype during her TV show and the pair have 'normal' family chitchat - but how unselfconscious is it under all those lights?

"It's actually like a little tea break for me in the midst of all that studio business, which can be quite pressured. I asked him if he was nervous and he replied, 'I used to work down the pit, of course I'm not nervous.' But he was really."

Millican understands nerves. At the Edinburgh Festival in 2008 where scooped the Best Newcomer Prize, her big evening was defined for her by bumping into Clive James beforehand.

"I was so nervous, I just jabbered, and he had no idea who I was. Then, when they called my name and I went on stage, I caught his eye in the audience, and I could see him thinking, 'Oh, it's you.'"

Since turning heartbreak into humour, Millican has found personal happiness in her private life, so looks elsewhere for creative inspiration - "everyday life, normal stuff, it's all about recognition, making other people feel like they're less alone. I really believe that having a good laugh can have an amazing effect on your psyche. I still love sitcoms.

"Someone said to me, 'Now you're happy, you won't be funny. But I've been happy for ages, so I'm not worried."

Thoroughly Modern Millican LIVE is out to own on DVD on 12 November 2012. Watch Sarah in action below...