Melbourne, Australia on 23 April 2014
|Birth name||Jennifer Jane Saunders|
6 July 1958 |
Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England
|Spouse||Adrian Edmondson (m. 1985)|
|Children||Eleanor (Ella), Beatrice (Beattie), Freya.|
|Notable works and roles||Various in French & Saunders
Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous
Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2
|International Emmy for Popular Arts
1994 Absolutely Fabulous
|Bafta TV Award for Best Comedy Series
1993 Absolutely Fabulous
Bafta TV Award for Best Female Comedy Performance
2012 Absolutely Fabulous
Jennifer Jane Saunders (born 6 July 1958) is an English comedian, screenwriter and actress. She has won three BAFTAs (including the Bafta Fellowship), an International Emmy Award, a British Comedy Award, a Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival Award, two Writers' Guild of Great Britain Awards, and a People's Choice Award.
She first found widespread attention in the 1980s when she became a member of the Comic Strip after graduating from the Central School of Speech and Drama. With her comedy partner Dawn French, she wrote and starred in their eponymous sketch show, French and Saunders, for which she and French received a BAFTA fellowship in 2009. She received worldwide acclaim through the early to mid-1990s for writing and playing the lead role of Edina Monsoon in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.
Saunders was born in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, on 6 July 1958. Her mother was a biology teacher, and her father served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF), reached the rank of Air Marshal and later worked for British Aerospace. Because her father was in the armed forces, Saunders moved to different schools many times. She was educated from the age of five to 18 in boarding schools and then at St Paul's Girls' School, an independent school in west London. After school, she worked for a year in Italy as an au pair.
She later received a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London on a drama teachers' course in 1977, where she met her future comedy partner, Dawn French. Both came from RAF backgrounds. They had grown up on the same base, even having had the same best friend, without ever meeting. The comic duo originally did not get on well, and as far as Saunders was concerned, French was a "cocky little upstart". The distrust was mutual: French considered Saunders snooty and uptight. French actually wanted to become a drama teacher, whereas Saunders loathed the idea and had not fully understood what the course was about; thus, she disliked French for being enthusiastic and confident about the course. Saunders was shocked to find that she was actually taking courses to become a teacher, as her mother had filled out the application form. Her mother, however, was saddened when Saunders chose not to apply for an Oxbridge university education.
After the initial friction, while at college Saunders and French shared a flat together. French has remarked on Saunders's messy habits when sharing the house, stating, "When we lived together in Chalk Farm she had a room at the top of the house. We got broken into and the police said, 'Well, it is quite bad, but the worst is that room at the top.' And, of course, nobody had been in there." The two performed together after graduation, working the festival, cabaret and stand-up circuits. They formed a double-act called The Menopause Sisters. Saunders described the act, which involved wearing tampons in their ears, as "cringeworthy." The manager of the club where they performed recalled, "They didn't seem to give a damn. There was no star quality about them at all."
Saunders and French would eventually come to public attention as members of the informal comedy collective the Comic Strip, part of the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s. They answered a 1980 advert in The Stage newspaper looking for female comedians to perform at the Comic Strip, which until that point, only had male performers. When they walked into the audition they were immediately told "You're booked. When can you start?".
Both Saunders and French became continuing members of the Comic Strip, which included Peter Richardson, Rik Mayall and Robbie Coltrane, as well as Saunders' future husband Adrian Edmondson. The group performed at the Boulevard Theatre, above Soho's Raymond Revuebar, and gained a cult following, with visiting audience members including Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams, who once joined in the performance. By the time French and Saunders became members of the Comic Strip, French was already working as a drama teacher, whilst Saunders was on the dole and spending a lot of her time sleeping in bed after the dole office closed for the day.
1980s and 1990s
The comedy group appeared on Channel 4's first night on air, in the first episode of The Comic Strip Presents: Five Go Mad In Dorset, broadcast on 2 November 1982. In the episodes "Bad News" and "More Bad News", Saunders plays a trashy rock journalist touring with the fictional heavy metal band Bad News. In 1985, Saunders starred in and co-wrote Girls on Top with French, Tracey Ullman and Ruby Wax, which portrayed four eccentric women sharing a flat in London. Saunders also appeared in Ben Elton's Happy Families where she played various members of the same family, including all four Fuddle sisters in the six-episode BBC situation comedy. Saunders starred in a Comic Strip film called The Supergrass, a little-known parody of slick 1980s police dramas directed by Peter Richardson. Saunders also played Meryl Streep playing Arthur Scargill's wife in Strike, a Comic Strip spoof on the 1984 Miners' strike. Saunders also appeared twice as guest on The Young Ones.
In 1987, she and French created French and Saunders, a popular sketch comedy series for the BBC, which aired until 2007. By the end of the 1980s, the show was an established comedy programme and became a staple in BBC viewing. Saunders has appeared in Amnesty International's The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball live benefit in 1989, along with Dawn French and others.
Saunders and French followed separate careers as well as maintaining their comedy sketch show. Saunders' biggest solo success has been Absolutely Fabulous. The comedy was in fact based largely on a fourteen-minute French & Saunders sketch called "Modern Mother and Daughter". Saunders and French were going to star in the comedy together, but just as the studio had been booked, French received a long-awaited phone call confirming that an adoption agency had a new baby for her to adopt. Saunders proceeded to star in the comedy. The series, which she wrote and starred in as the irresponsible fashion PR agent Edina Monsoon alongside Joanna Lumley, who played Patsy Stone, brought her international acclaim and attention. The show ran for five full series, a two-part film and three special episodes over the course of thirteen years from 1992 to 2005. The series is also known as Ab Fab and was broadcast in the United States on Comedy Central and BBC America, becoming cult viewing. In 2011, gay-friendly network LOGO began airing the full run of the show, a nod to the large gay fan base the show was always known to have. Rumours emerged that new episodes would be produced later in the year.
Saunders has appeared on the American sitcoms Roseanne, playing Edina Monsoon in the episode "Satan, Darling", and Friends as Andrea Waltham, the stepmother of Emily, Ross Geller's fiancée, in the episodes "The One After Ross Says Rachel" and "The One with Ross's Wedding". In 1999, she appeared alongside French in Let Them Eat Cake.
|“||I wanted to write something about the sort of community I was living in, why it works and how different it was. How life in the country didn’t have to be sinister.||”|
—Saunders on her motivations for creating Jam & Jerusalem
Saunders wrote and starred in a comedy drama about a Women's Institute entitled Jam & Jerusalem, also known as Clatterford in America. The first series aired in 2006, the second in 2008 and the third in 2009 on BBC One. The show starred David Mitchell, Sally Phillips and Sue Johnston as well as Dawn French and Joanna Lumley.
In 2007, Saunders and psychologist Tanya Byron wrote BBC Two's The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle about a neurotic daytime talk show host. Saunders played the eponymous character whose programme features crude headlines such as "Wife a slapper? Lie detector reveals all" and "I want a vagina".
Also in 2007, the final series French & Saunders series aired. A Bucket o' French & Saunders featured a compilation of old and new sketches and aired on BBC One in September 2007. It was the third show she had written in a year. In 2008 and 2009, French & Saunders completed their final live tour, French & Saunders: Still Alive.
Saunders appeared on the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment of BBC 2's motoring show Top Gear, posting a lap time of 1:46.1s, making her the fifth-fastest guest ever in the car that was used at that time. A self-confessed petrolhead, she has a passion for Alfa Romeos, and has so far owned four.
In 2011, Saunders wrote and appeared in "Uptown Downstairs Abbey", the Comic Relief parody of the critically acclaimed historical television dramas Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. Playing the Dowager Countess, she starred alongside Kim Cattrall, Joanna Lumley, Victoria Wood, Harry Enfield, Patrick Barlow, Dale Winton, Olivia Colman, Tim Vine, Simon Callow, Michael Gambon, and Harry Hill.
In 2012, Saunders guest-starred in Dead Boss, a BBC Three comedy set in the fictional Broadmarsh prison where she plays the cruel and work-shy governor, Margaret. The show's creator, Sharon Horgan, stated that she 'begged' Saunders to take the role, having been a fan of Saunders' previous comedy work.
She also wrote the script for the Spice Girls-based jukebox musical Viva Forever! which received some of the worst reviews of 2012 (and "arguably of all time"). It closed after only seven months with a loss of "at least £5 million".
Saunders has also appeared in several films, such as In the Bleak Midwinter (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Fanny & Elvis (1999) and also made cameo appearances in the Spice Girls' film Spice World (1997) and Absolument fabuleux (2001), a French film based on Absolutely Fabulous.
She most notably appeared in the internationally successful DreamWorks animated movie Shrek 2 in 2004, voicing Princess Fiona's evil Fairy Godmother and sung the songs "The Fairy Godmother Song" and "Holding Out For a Hero". Her part took only four days to record. The sequel broke the first Shrek's own box office record in the U.S in just a fortnight, and it proceeded to make $353 million in just three weeks in the U.S. Her role won the American People's Choice Award for the best movie villain in 2005. She also voiced Miss Spink in the animated film Coraline, in which Dawn French also voiced a character called Miss Forcible.
Saunders married Adrian Edmondson on 11 May 1985 in Cheshire. They have three daughters: Eleanor "Ella" Rose (born 22 January 1986, Hammersmith, London), Beatrice "Beattie" Louise (born 19 June 1987, Kensington and Chelsea, London), and Freya Domenica (born 16 October 1990, Wandsworth, London).
Saunders currently owns a £1 million property with 45 acres (180,000 m2) of land in Chagford, Devon, as well as a home in London. Edmondson and Saunders were estimated to be worth £11 million in 2002.
On 27 August 2012, Saunders and Edmondson became grandparents when their daughter Ella gave birth to a boy, Fred. She became a grandmother for the second time in 2014 when Ella gave birth to another son, Albert Rafferty.
Saunders published her autobiography, Bonkers: My Life in Laughs, in October 2013.
Awards and recognition
Along with Dawn French, Saunders declined an OBE in 2001. In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. Saunders placed 93rd out of E!'s 100 Sexiest British Stars. She also came 18th for Best British Role Models for teenage girls in Britain according to Good Housekeeping magazine. Saunders was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Exeter in July 2007. In July 2011 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Edge Hill University. In 2005, she was named the fourth funniest woman in Britain in a poll of 4,000 women. To date, she has been nominated for and received many awards, including:
- 1991: Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for TV Light Entertainment - French & Saunders
- 1993: BAFTA Television Award for Best Comedy Series for - Absolutely Fabulous (shared with Jon Plowman and Bob Spiers)
- 1993: Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award TV for Situation Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous
- 1994: International Emmy Award for popular arts - Absolutely Fabulous
- 2002: Honorary Rose Award - awarded with Dawn French
- 2005: People's Choice Award for Best Movie Villain - Shrek 2
- 2009: BAFTA Fellowship - awarded with Dawn French
- 2012: BAFTA Television Award for Best Female Performance In a Comedy Programme - Absolutely Fabulous
- 1993: BAFTA Television Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance for - Absolutely Fabulous
- 1993: British Comedy Award for Best Comedy Actress - Absolutely Fabulous
- 1994: British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actress - Absolutely Fabulous
- 1995: BAFTA Television Award for Best Comedy Series for - Absolutely Fabulous (shared with Jon Plowman and Bob Spiers)
- 1996: BAFTA Television Award for Best Comedy Series for - Absolutely Fabulous (shared with Jon Plowman and Bob Spiers)
- 1997: BAFTA Television Award for Best Comedy Series for - Absolutely Fabulous (shared with Jon Plowman, Bob Spiers and Janice Thomas)
- 2013: Blandings (TV) ... Connie
- 2012: Dead Boss (TV) ... Governor Margaret
- 2011: Uptown Downstairs Abbey, Red Nose Day 2011 (TV) .... The Dowager Countess/Herself
- 2011: The Hunt for Tony Blair (TV) ... Margaret Thatcher
- 2009: Red Nose Day 2009 (TV) .... Meryl Streep
- 2009: Coraline (voice) .... Miss April Spink/Other Spink
- 2008: French and Saunders Still Alive (V)
- 2007: The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle .... Vivienne Vyle (6 episodes, 2007)
- 2007: A Bucket o' French & Saunders .... Various Characters (5 episodes, 2007)
- 2006: Jam & Jerusalem .... Caroline Martin / ... (16 episodes, 2006–2009)
- 2006: L'entente cordiale .... Gwendoline McFarlane
- 2005: Comic Relief: Red Nose Night Live 05 (TV) .... Edina 'Eddie' Monsoon
- 2004: Fable (VG) (voice)
- 2004: Shrek 2 (voice) .... Fairy Godmother - People's Choice Award for Best Movie Villain
- 2003: Comic Relief 2003: The Big Hair Do (TV) .... J.K. Rowling / Ron Weasley
- 2002: Pongwiffy TV series (voice) .... Sharkadder
- 2001: Absolument fabuleux .... Une spectatrice du défilé
- 2000: Mirrorball (TV) .... Vivienne Keill
- 2000: French & Saunders Live (V) .... Various roles
- 1999: The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything (TV)
- 1999: Fanny and Elvis .... Roanna
- 1999: The Magician's House TV series (voice) .... The Rat
- 1999: Let Them Eat Cake .... Colombine (6 episodes, 1999)
- 1998: Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Not! (V) .... Edina 'Eddy' Monsoon
- 1997: Spiceworld .... Fashionable Woman
- 1995: In the Bleak Midwinter .... Nancy Crawford
- 1995: Queen of the East (TV) .... Lady Hester Stanhope
- 1993: Muppet Treasure Island .... Mrs. Bluberidge
- 1993: Prince Cinders (voice) .... Fairy
- 1993: French and Saunders Live (V) .... Various roles
- 1992: Absolutely Fabulous .... Edina / ... (38 episodes, 1992–2012)
- 1991: Clive Anderson Talks Back (1 episode, 1991)
- 1990: The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (TV) .... Dorcas
- 1990: The Full Wax .... Jennifer (1 episode, 1990)
- 1990: Rita Rudner (1 episode, 1990)
- 1988: The Storyteller .... Badsister 1 (1 episode, 1988)
- 1987: French and Saunders .... Various Characters / ... (48 episodes, 1987–2009)
- 1988: Eat the Rich .... Lady Caroline
- 1986: Dangerous Brothers Present: World of Danger (V) .... Anita Harris (segment "How to Get off with a Lady")
- 1985: The Supergrass .... Lesley Reynolds
- 1985: Girls on Top .... Jennifer Marsh (5 episodes, 1985)
- 1985: Happy Families .... Granny Fuddle / ... (6 episodes, 1985)
- 1984: The Lenny Henry Show (1 episode, 1984)
- 1982: The Comic Strip Presents... .... Anne / ... (28 episodes, 1982–1998)
- 1982: The Young Ones .... Helen Mucus / ... (2 episodes, 1982–1984)
- 1981: The Comic Strip (TV) .... Jennifer
- 1996: Roseanne in the episode "Satan, Darling"
- 1998: Friends in the episodes "The One With Ross' Wedding" (part 2) and "The One After Ross Says Rachel"
- 2012: Viva Forever! (writer)
- 2006: Jam & Jerusalem (16 episodes, 2006–2009)
- 2008: French and Saunders Still Alive (V) (writer)
- 2007: The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle (6 episodes, 2007)
- 2007: A Bucket o' French & Saunders (5 episodes, 2007)
- 2006: The Vivienne Vyle Show (TV) (writer)
- 2001: Absolument fabuleux (creator: TV series Absolutely Fabulous)
- 2000: Mirrorball (TV) (writer)
- 2000: French & Saunders Live (V) (writer)
- 1999: The Nearly Complete and Utter History of Everything (TV) (writer)
- 1998: Absolutely Fabulous: A Life (V) (writer)
- 1998: Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Not! (V) (original idea)
- 1996: Roseanne (1 episode, 1996)
- 1993: French and Saunders Live (V) (writer)
- 1992: Absolutely Fabulous (38 episodes, 1992–2012)
- 1991: Comic Relief (TV) (uncredited)
- 1987: French and Saunders (38 episodes, 1987–2005)
- 1986: Comic Relief (TV) (writer)
- 1984: The Comic Strip Presents... (2 episodes, 1984–1986)
- 1985: Girls on Top TV series (unknown episodes)
- 1981: The Comic Strip (TV) (writer)
- Absolutely Fabulous: Continuity
- Absolutely Fabulous (scripts from the show)
- Absolutely Fabulous 2 (more scripts from the show)
- A Feast of French and Saunders (with Dawn French)
- Bonkers: My Life in Laughs (Viking, 2013)
- Hannah Hamad. Jennifer Saunders — screenonline.org. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
- Editors at The Times. Birthdays — timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Decca Aitkenhead. What are you looking at? — guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Chrissy Iley. Farewell French and Saunders — timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 30 August 2007
- Editors at Teletronic. Dawn French — teletronic.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2007.[dead link]
- William Langley. 'We know how to use our mighty weight and the power of a full and voluptuous body' — telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
- "Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix - The Comic Strip Presents - The Complete Collection in July". Dvdtimes.co.uk. 4 July 2005. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- Neil Wilkes. 'Comic Strip' returns to Channel 4 — digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Editors at Screen Online. Dawn French — screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
- James Welsh. 'Ab Fab' stars receive GLBT Pride award — digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "Sweetie, Darling! We Have Absolutely Fabulous News!" 20 April 2011, Perez Hilton
- Rosie Millard. Absolutely no more TV sketch shows, darlings, Times Online, UK. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
- Press Release. BBC America to co-produce new comedies with Jennifer Saunders — bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Carol Midgley. Jennifer Saunders and Dr Tanya Byron take on the chat shows — timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
- Editors at Daily Mail. Jennifer Saunders hopes new comic creation will be 'Ab Fab' — dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
- Ed Stafford . "Comedy preview: French & Saunders: Still Alive", London
- "Top Gear - Celebrity Laps". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "BBC Three - Dead Boss - Margaret". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- Tarley, Rachel (14 June 2012). "Dead Boss producers: We begged Jennifer Saunders to be on the show". Metro.co.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "Viva Forever! vs The Bodyguard - Mister Producer". The Stage. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- Bamigboye, Baz; Bull, Sarah (1 May 2013). "Spice Girls left 'gutted and devastated' as it's announced musical Viva Forever will close in eight weeks". Daily Mail (London).
- Kimberley Dadds Spice Girls: Timeline.
- Fiona Morrow. Jennifer Saunders — timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Daniel Saney. People's Choice Awards presented — digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "Marriages and Births England and Wales 1984-2006". Findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- "Beatrice Edmondson - England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005 - Ancestry.co.uk". Search.ancestry.co.uk. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- "Freya Edmondson - England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005 - Ancestry.co.uk". Search.ancestry.co.uk. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- Neil Sears and Alison Bowyer. Saunders swaps London for Devon — dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "Jennifer Saunders's secret cancer battle". Melbourne: The Age. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
- Nathan, Sara (8 July 2010). "Jennifer Saunders: My battle to beat breast cancer". Daily Mail (London).
- "BBC News - Jennifer Saunders reveals her breast cancer fight". Bbc.co.uk. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- "Ella Rose Edmondson (ellaedmondson) on Twitter". Twitter.com. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Twitter / ellaedmondson: Well I'm now a mother of two". Twitter.com. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "Bonkers: My Life in Laughs". Penguin Australia. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. It is an honour to stand among the refuseniks — independent.co.uk. Retrieved 11 May 2007.[dead link]
- "Leak reveals honours snubs". BBC News. 21 December 2003. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- The Observer. The A-Z of laughter (part two) — guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- Uni bestows honorary doctorates — news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
- "Jennifer Saunders awarded honorary degree by Edge Hill university". BBC News Online (BBC). 21 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- Daniel Saney.Victoria Wood Britain's funniest woman — digitalspy.co.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2007.
- List of BAFTA awards for 1992 Bafta web site
- International Emmy Awards 1994 — imdb.com. Retrieved 21 October 2007.
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts Fellowship presented on Sunday 26 April 2009.
- List of Award winners for 2012" BAFTA web site
- List of Award winners for 1994 BAFTA web site
- List of Award winners for 1995 BAFTA web site
- List of Award winners for 1996 BAFTA web site