Jennifer Saunders webchat
Jennifer Saunders popped into Mumsnet Towers on 10 October to tell us about her memoir: Bonkers, My Life in Laughs. Jennifer has been making us laugh since the early 80s; from Comic Strip through to French and Saunders, to the universally acclaimed Ab Fab with plenty of hilarious sketches thrown in (remember Comic Relief's take on Mamma Mia?).
We're delighted that we've been allowed access to some of the fabulous pics from the book which you can check out in our Gallery: The Many Faces of Jennifer Saunders. And if you've ever wondered what Jennifer Saunder's favourite biscuit is, whether she'd rather clean up sick or poo, and whether she prefers Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad, watch the video below for the answers.
Q. DoItTooJulia: How did you realise you were funny?
A. Jennifer Saunders: People laughed, and once that happens you just keep going. The general default mode in my family was laughter.
Q. Carlammc1: Have you every been badly hurt from any of the comedy tripping over things or falls to the ground?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I have bruised various parts of my body and it was in the last few Ab Fabs that I decided it would be funny for Edina to fall over and didn't realise it was a concrete floor. I hurt myself very badly but pretended I was fine because pretending to do that is a sort of badge of honour!
Q. cocoleBOO: Any chance of any more Jam And Jerusalem?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I would love to do more Jam and Jerusalem and so would all the cast. So if there's anyone out there who would like it I'd do it in a second!
Q. BewitchedBotheredandBewildered: I'm not sure I really have a question to ask, but I would love to know how you teased Patsy out of Joanna Lumley.
A. Jennifer Saunders: With a lot of backcombing!
Q. johnworf: What's in the pipeline for you (and Dawn, dare I dream of you together again?)
A. Jennifer Saunders: Dare to dream John and I shall join you in that dream. I'm sure we will work together in the near future.
Q. Theyremybiscuits: Were you the class clown at school?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No. I was quite quiet and spent my time trying to blend in and not be noticed.
Q. Devoncalling123: Now that you and Adrian are grandparents, how do you both find this new role for you?
A. Jennifer Saunders: It's more enjoyable than I ever imagined it could be. We're totally besotted with Freddie and if he's not in the room then we're just looking at photos of him. He's taken over our lives. It's a joy.
Q. ExitPursuedByABear: Are you still riding?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No I'm not still riding and I wish I was and that's one thing I'm definitely going to start again next year!
Q. Madlizzy: How do you feel about Beattie going into the comedy scene? I saw her sketch group last month and thought they were fab.
A. Jennifer Saunders: It makes me very happy and very very proud. I feel a bit too old to give her advice and luckily she's hilarious.
Q. OddSockMonster: Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I'd like Cher to play me!
Q. cassieandchloe: I am a writer too, and often aspects of my dreams make it into my stories. Have you ever incorporated any scenes from your actual dreams into your writing? If so, are there any examples you would care to share with us?
A. Jennifer Saunders: All my dreams tend to be panic dreams about not remembering lines or not having done my homework. It would be very dangerous of me to incorporate these thoughts into any writing I do.
Q. PuzzleRocks: What's your favourite car?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I think my favourite car would be a 1950's Bentley Continental! It's got such a glamourous style about it.
Q. Shootingatpigeons: Regarding the suggestion that people might enjoy wearing Cancer like a badge. It is the badge no one wants surely? As others have commented you coped with your Breast cancer your way, I coped with mine a different way, personally I find all the "pink" stuff patronising and frustrating, but don't you think you should respect others for coping with their Cancer in whatever works best for them, not how others think they should cope?
A. Jennifer Saunders: The conversation about people wearing cancer like a badge came out of a part that I write about in the book and was only relevant to the people who criticised me for being positive. It wasn't a generalisation and I completely agree with you. Everyone copes in their own way.
Q. midwifeandmum: How do you keep a straight face when acting out those scenes?
A. Jennifer Saunders: You hope you've done all of the laughing you can do by the time rehearsals end so that you can keep a straight face, but if you look at the outtakes you'll see that we're not always successful.
Q. southeastdweller: The Sunday Times review of your book mentioned you 'having digs at Mumsnet types'. Could you comment on that please?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I don't make digs at Mumsnet types! It's all done in a very light-hearted way and all I'm doing is apologising for moments in my life when I haven't been the perfect mother! If you look in the book, I tell the story of misplacing my baby, having had her in the bed breastfeeding one night, which I know isn't recommended practice. I think Mumsnet is marvellous!
Q. Reenypip: Will you ever go on tour again with dawn French? Or is it definitely over?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No... and yes. I'm not saying we won't do anything live again, but it won't be in a French and Saunders format.
Q. PrivatePeaceful: I would love to see a Girls On Top modern day reunion, what are the chances?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Very slim!
Q. buttermellow: Of all the television shows and films that you've done, which was the most enjoyable to star in?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Well, it's really hard to choose. I couldn't choose between the stuff I've written myself – between French and Saunders and Ab Fab. Stuff I've been in... gosh! I think doing a voice in Shrek was the most enjoyable job I've done, even the singing. I had to sit next to Julie Andrews at the premier in Cannes, and I was very nervous when my singing came on, but afterwards she turned to me and said, "well done, dear."
Q. owlface: Are you still doing ballet? It was really inspiring for me to see your At The Barre documentary.
A. Jennifer Saunders: No I'm not still doing ballet, and I no longer have a barre. But I have to say, I do miss it and I have the utmost respect for dancers. My posture at the moment could do with a bit of barre work.
Q. member: Did you feel your hand was forced into writing your memoir after the release of an unauthorised biography?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No I didn't feel that at all, because the unauthorised biography was surprisingly kind and nice about me, and very useful in the writing of mine with it's facts and chronology!
Q. offtogetmesomebrains: Basically I was wondering if your blank/frightening/aloof expression bothers you or has been a hindrance to you?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No, don't change your expression, it's very useful. Keep them guessing. I don't think it's ever been a hindrance but it was very useful in the double act that I was always seen as the quiet intimidating one and Dawn was seen as the jolly sociable one. She could say things to people like, "Jen's not happy" and get things changed and moved about. I was always held up as a threat.
Q. IshefromGabon: Do you see yourself acting in dramas or films playing straight roles in the future?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I don't mind doing straight stuff as long as it's fairly light-weight. The trouble is I can't take my serious face seriously and even the thought of me being serious makes me laugh. Dawn is much better at acting than me.
Q. surreygirl: Have you ever been asked to do Strictly Come Dancing and if not, would you ever think of doing it if asked one year? Or do you think Edina would ever do a Comic Relief one?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I was asked to do Strictly at the beginning, and if I was ever going to do it I should have done it at the beginning when there wasn't quite the expectation that people could dance at all. I wouldn't do it now because I've looked in the mirror and I know what I would look like dancing. I'm sure most people go on it just to lose weight.
Q. duffy: So, I suppose someone's got to ask so it might as well be me, do you by any chance use a penisbeaker in your house?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I do have a beaker by my bed. I don't call it a beaker - I call it a glass of water and if I ever found my husband putting his penis in it I'd probably divorce him immediately.
Q. alicethecactus: What's the worst, and the best bit of parenthood? Thanks!
A. Jennifer Saunders: Well I have to say I enjoyed my kids at all ages and I still enjoy them now. The best moments are when everyone's round the table having a meal and the girls take it upon themselves to entertain us with impressions and stories and we're all laughing and having fun. It's one of the best feelings. One of the worst things is when your children start treating you like a child.
Q. Halexlo: What was your inspiration for Eddy Monsoon? And the plot in general? Do you know any similar characters in real life?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No, I thank god I don't know any similar characters in real life. I think they'd be a nightmare to know! Eddy was inspired by various people I'd known, one who was in PR, one who had a very straight daughter but who was herself crazy, the rest of it comes from imagination and bits of me. Sometimes Eddy's a great way of getting away with saying things I wouldn't say myself, and in my book I have a few rants and say them as myself and take the flack.
Q. nowit: I have a mini comedian in the making, she is but four but everyone she meets says she should be on the telly. She likes to do voices and has done from a young age - she is very funny and does an excellent Daddy Chubby in a northern accent.
How can I encourage her without turning her into a madam? Confidence is not an issue and I'm all for letting her be a child but her natural charisma is commented on a lot. Any advice?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I think that the way to encourage her is to keep being a good audience, which you obviously are being. Don't try and get her to repeat really funny things too often, let her just enjoy the reaction she's getting and she'll work it out for herself.
Q. Sparklingbrook: How about getting Ade to do Strictly? He would be fab and he would get my vote.
A. Jennifer Saunders: Well... I'll tell him! He's actually quite a good mover Ade.
Q. Angeleno: In the new Bridget Jones book, Bridget wonders if the best way to raise normal, good children is to be as badly behaved as possible as a parent, and references Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous! Would you agree?
A. Jennifer Saunders: No, because Saffy is just as damaged as Edina and Patsy, she just exhibits it in a different way. It's a terrible menage-et-trois of psychological torture!
Q. tripethelightfantastic: How do you feel about your husband winning Masterchef? Are you proud or a tiny bit jealous? Would you ever want to do something like that?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Not jealous at all because I saw how much hard work it was and Ade's very good at putting his mind to something and giving it everything and he's very clever. I think I'd just get very tired and grumpy. However, the upside of Masterchef is we have a marvellously equipped kitchen and lovely food to eat.
Q. laurensween: Did you enjoy the experience of writing your memoir, which I am very excited to read? And would you ever consider becoming an author?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I did enjoy it and I enjoyed it the moment I discovered how to write it in my own voice and stopped trying to pretend to be a writer. I'm not a natural author, and I certainly shan't be trying out novel writing, although of course I'm expecting to win Booker prize and the Nobel prize for my book. And of course the most prestigious, Richard and Judy. I actually think I deserve the prize for best book note... which refers to Dolly Parton's breasts.
Q. motherofmuddles: You are on my 'if you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be?' list! Why is it that there are less female comedians than male - hoping you'll know from your insider vantage point so to speak?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I think stand-up is quite different to what I do and there are definitely in the UK less female stand-ups because it takes quite a lot of competitive energy and I think often women don't want to aggressively compete in the same way. I think the ones that have made are of extraordinary comedy. There are an awful lot of men out there who are basically crap, but they're fuelled by enough testosterone and fake confidence to get away with it.
I think David Sedaris would be a great perfect to have a meal with.
Q. RubyRR: I really enjoy listening to you and Dawn on Radio 2, do you have any more dates lined up? Or could you take over Sunday mornings please?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Yes we're doing more radio at Christmas. Because Dawn lives in Cornwall and I live in London and generally being busy we tend to do it occasionally.
Q. CanCanSal: A hypothetical question - if you didn't have the opportunities that were presented to you at the start of your career, and something like Britain's Got Talent existed, would you have applied to perform for the judges or would you have persisted with another career? If so, what would that other career have been? Also, what is your opinion of such shows?
A. Jennifer Saunders: What a brilliant question! I do believe that people who are talented and are willing to work really hard will make it anyway, and it's the hours that you have to put in that the contestants on the talent shows don't realise. I think if you're serious about a singing career, I don't think that not winning X Factor should mean your life is over and it's the end of opportunity. And also you shouldn't just want to be famous. I have no idea what I would have done if I Britain's Got Talent was around when I was starting out, but I don't think we would have seriously auditioned.
Q. achiltibuie: How do you feel modern TV comedy compares to when you were first starting out?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Well there's a lot more of it for a start. There seems to be 10 times more channels but half the television. The budgets for comedy are tiny now compared to in my day. There was a lot of traditional comedy shows around when we first started out, and it was shows like The Young Ones that cut through all of that, but then of course there had been Monty Python. One of the problems nowadays is that TV isn't always a common experience and therefore audiences are much smaller. I think nowadays there's a lot more younger people on TV.
Q. OmNom: I grew up in the eighties, and you and Dawn French were brilliant role models for young women - funny, clever, confident, attractive but not in a way that defined your public personae.
Would you say you're a feminist? And do you think there was something about the DIY, punk-influenced ethos of the eighties that was particularly liberating for women like you? Or was it the same old seething mass of prejudice underneath a thin veneer of radicalism?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Crikey!! <Reaches for dictionary> growing up in the seventies, I wouldn't have called myself a feminist because we got the tail-end of the women's lib and strident feminists of the day, and I think that put a lot of young girls off. But I think now I definitely would call myself a feminist, and I think feminism is being revived in a very great way, and I would encourage my girls to think of themselves as feminists. The irony is that when we started out our career, Dawn and I were part of a group of men, and I think it would have been a lot harder if we were on our own. Ironically, we were supported by men. I think there's been a huge regression, certainly in the TV world, in how women are allowed to be represented on TV. There is a kind of view that women are allowed to be on if they're somehow linked to, attached to or with a man, and that single strong-minded women aren't really what's called for, which is why female comedians who are a little bit different find it hard. Men are expected to be weird and crazy but if a woman does that she's considered actually mad.
Q. Mimstar: I loved your cameo in Friends, really funny. What current TV Show would you love to appear in?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I'd love to be on The Great British Bake Off. I'd love to be in Girls... I wouldn't even have to be in the show, just hang out. I'd love to be in The Killing –or any Danish drama involving murder. I'd like to be in a murder show. If you're going to be serious you have to be really serious... Like death. I'd like to play a psychopath!
Q. midwifeandmum: How were your birthing experiences?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I had three children and each was different. The first one I prepared for massively - I went to classes, I sat cross-legged with hippies in Hampstead and discussed the eating of the placenta. I prepared my bag with the correct music, candles, clothing changes and massage oils, but when it actually came to it the only thing I used was the lip-salve! She was born in about eight hours straight in hospital using gas and air, that would be my drug of choice.
My second one I had at home and it was a bit longer and a bit more painful. And the third one I started at home, but she refused to come out so I had to go to hospital where I had an epidural and more gas and air! They got longer and longer, the idea of them getting easier is nonsense! The third one I screamed so loud that the other children asked if there was a dragon in the house <does lovely dragon impression>
Q. hairtwiddler: Who do you think are the best up and coming female comedians/writers?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Beattie Edmondson is a brilliant comedian, incredibly funny, a wonderful writer and actress. She works with two others called The Birthday Girls. If they're gigging with you - catch them!
Q. CanCanSal: As you ARE famous, whether or not that was your intention at the beginning, is there anything about being famous that you do/don't enjoy in particular? And, have your opinions of fame changed over the years and as you have got older?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I think that the idea of fame is very different now to what it was when I started out. I think I probably did want to become famous, because I think everyone has a fantasy about being a rockstar or a famous actress or something like that. I didn't go into the job I was doing thinking I was going to be famous, because I didn't know if it would last more than six months. I basically love doing my job and making people laugh, and being famous has its good points <thinks hard... fails>. Disadvantages... the lack of places I can go and just have a good old stare, because it's very disconcerting if they're staring back. I have to go abroad.
Q. BewitchedBotheredandBewildered: Who makes you laugh the most?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Well... My father used to make us laugh a lot, and even though he's no longer with us we still tell his jokes a lot.
Q. Gigglesworth: I heard it's something a lot of celebs do, so I was wondering whether you have ever Googled yourself? Or read comments on YouTube where people have uploaded clips of your shows? If you were to come across negative feedback, how would you take it?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I have Googled myself to see what comes up. Often if you're researching photos, you go back and you find things you weren't expecting. For the book I went back to look at photos of me in the eighties. I try not to Google myself. I don't know - it's quite depressing sometimes. I have looked at clips on Youtube. I started looking at clips of Ab Fab and I found myself missing it terrible, that's the worst thing. I don't read a lot of comments because criticism because you either don't like it or you get cross...
Q. YouTheCat: Out of all the Comic Strip series, which was your favourite?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I think one of my favourites is The Beat Generation because when we made it we didn't know what we were doing but it seemed to be quite weird and enjoyable.
Q. gussiegrips: Dawn French is a knitter, I know that because I have knitting books written by her. Did you two knit together, or was she simply annoying with the constant click-click-click?
A. Jennifer Saunders: She's always annoying, especially when she's click-click-clicking. I can honestly say I have never seen her knit anything. She once had a book called Big Knits in the eighties, and I can assure you she didn't knit any of it. The only clicking in our relationship is of my knees.... Still available on Amazon... Five star reviews!
Q. Icelollycraving: Do you still wear a turban when dodging Dawn at home?
A. Jennifer Saunders: I'm wearing one now. It's a very useful accessory on a bad hair day. I learnt all I know about wearing turbans from Joan Collins.
Q. morethanpotatoprints: What was it like filming Bad News? Can you remember that far back and had you and Dawn worked together much before this?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Dawn and I had been working together for at least two years before Bad News and we all had live work in the comic strip.
Q. Badgerous: Did you ever come up against competitive parenting and how did you deal with it?
A. Jennifer Saunders: You come across it at school gates often and it's generally from people you don't know very well. I try to avoid talking to any other mothers at all costs at all times. The ones that annoyed me the most were the ones who blamed the children, the small toddlers, for the fact that they had been late to school. That sometime, a four-year-old hadn't got himself dressed and to school on time! It's attention-seeking parenting I don't like I think.
Q. Rebecca879294: You have worked with Helena Bonham Carter back in the 'Hospital' episode of Ab Fab. I was wondering, would you like to work with her again in the future?
A. Jennifer Saunders: Yes I would love to! I meet her all the time and beg to be in any of the award-winning stuff she's in... Not the shit though! The award winning stuff.
- Buy Jennifer's memoir: Bonkers, My Life in Laughs
- See the whole webchat here
- Our Jennifer Saunders photo gallery
Last updated: about 3 years ago