Dawn french jennifer saunders

Dawn French says Jennifer Saunders comedy double act ‘will never end’

French & Saunders will never split up – even if they can’t find the time to do more things together.

Last Christmas, 30 years after their first sketch series and 10 years since their last television show, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders teamed up once again with a mix of old sketches and new ones including takes on the Kardashians and The Handmaid’s Tale.

It was a roaring success and people want more.

Dawn French will be back on our screens on Sunday in Little Big Shots (Image: ITV Picture Desk)

As do the firm friends who met at college.

Dawn, 60, said: “We never close the door on French and Saunders.

“There are no immediate plans, I would say. That’s because Fatty (Dawn’s pet name for Jennifer, 59) and I both are very booked up this year, and even into next year, so I can’t see the window of opportunity.

“But the minute there is one, we’ll be thinking of something. Fatty has been doing Lady Windermere’s Fan, which is brilliant. Fatty’s the best thing about it, of course, but the whole thing is wonderful.”

The pair met at the Central School of Speech and Drama, bonded by a growing up in RAF families.

Drawn to making each other laugh, they saw an advert for female comics for London club The Comic Strip, which included the Young Ones’ Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonsdon, who’d become Jennifer’s husband and Nigel Planner.

French and Saunders were an instant hit and had their TV debut in Five Go Mad in Dorset in 1982, before Jennifer co-wrote and starred in Girls on Top with Dawn, Tracey Ullman and Ruby Wax.

In 1987, they were given their own sketch show and have become national treasures as a team and going solo – Dawn as Geraldine Granger in The Vicar of Dibley but more recently with

Delicious and kids talent show Little Big Shots, which returns on Sunday for a second series.

Jennifer, meanwhile, had huge success as Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous, which was based on a French and Saunders sketch, appeared in Friends and played Lady Constance Keeble in Blandings, a BBC adaptation of P.G Woodhouse’s stories.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in 1993 on The Comic Strip Presents (Image: Daily Mirror)

But still the pair go back to their decades-long partnership.

Reminiscing about the Christmas special, Dawn said: “It was very good fun. We had very little time and it was a clip show at first that turned into more. I think they really wanted us to narrate between old clips but we couldn’t face the thought of doing that, so we did sketches, and then we ran out of time.

“It was chaotic but it was very doable. One of the great joys, and something I miss, is having accurate make-up and wardrobe.

“On the Christmas show, I used a make-up artist called Naomi Donne, who I’ve worked with since I was 22. Now she’s the chief on all the Bond films. But we still get together and when she’s putting the wig on me to play Giles on Gogglebox, it’s the best giggle you could have.”

The twinkle still sparkles in Dawn’s eyes – which are the focus of what she thinks is her only talent.

She laughed: “I haven’t actually got a tangible skill. Well, I can move my eyes independently. It is a bit of an odd thing and I’ve been able to do it since I was very little. I think my parents might have thought I was possessed.”

The comedy duo have appeared on a host of different shows over the years (Image: WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures’ Digital Picture Service (BBC Pictures) as set out at www.bbcpictures.co.uk. In particular, this image may only be published by a registered User of BBC Pictures for editorial use for the purpose of publicising the relevant BBC programme, personnel or activity during the Publicity Period which ends three review weeks following the date of transmission and provided the BBC and the copyright holder in the caption are credited. For any other purpose whatsoever, including advertising and commercial, prior written approval from the copyright holder will be required.)

Talent is what Little Big Shots is all about. The programme allows three to 13-year-olds to showcase their talents on stage.

Pint-sized acts from all over the UK and the world will show off their singing, dancing and acrobatic skills alongside other amazing acts including a dog handler, a Eurovision expert, a champion hen-racer, a juggling strongman and stand-up comedian.

The first episode includes two Russian eight-year-olds and their high flying aerial acrobatic act and a teen tap dancing trio.

Dawn also gets in on the act. She tries her hand at dog agility with Will and his dog Aston by crawling through an agility tunnel.

Dawn said: “I saw them setting up the agility course and I thought, ‘I see. I know what’s going to happen here’.”

She loves to get stuck in but admits her ideas sometimes backfire. When she was married to Lenny Henry, the pair went to an Elton John fancy dress party as Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles.

Dawn said: “Len was Michael and I was Bubbles. Hilarious for about five minutes and then hot, and then I could smell my own body rotting from the inside of the costume. It was a full chimpanzee outfit, I could hardly see. When I eventually took the head off, I looked around and there were all these people in very glamorous versions of fancy dress.”

Dawn and Sir Lenny, who raised adopted daughter Billie together, divorced in 2010. Dawn married charity worker Mark Bignell in 2011 and they live in Cornwall. She likes doing Little Big Shots because Mark’s family like it.

“My in-laws love it,” she grinned.

Dawn French will be appearing in Little Big Shots on STV on Sunday (Image: ITV Picture Desk)

“What I really like about it is that it’s old-fashioned family viewing. It’s got kids in it but it’s not a kids-only show.”

However, Dawn wasn’t sure about doing it at first because it had been done in the US but she changed her mind after realising they were promising to make the kids stars.

And she doesn’t have any truck with people criticising parents for pushing their youngsters into something they have to spend a lot of time dedicated to at a young age.

She said: “If you can identify a skill that your kid has – or a passion, or a love – for a thing and you can devote time as the parent to giving them space to do it, they will get better at it.

“Most of us go, ‘Let’s do a bit of judo and a bit of piano’, and open doors for your kids. But if you concentrate on one thing, you get really good at it.”

Dawn should know. She’s been making us laugh for over 30 years.

Comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are known for their hilarious sketches, amazing impressions and adorable friendship.

But while the BFF’s have spent more than three decades working closely together, it looks like there’s still something which bugs Vicar of Dibley star Dawn about her close pal – and that’s her time-keeping!

Speaking about Jennifer, the 60-year-old recently told Bella magazine: “ her thin grasp of the concept of time”.

And it looks like Dawn isn’t the only one to notice Jennifer’s lack of punctuality, as she continued: “Everyone she knows lies to her about timings. You can say ‘I need to meet you at 2:30pm’ and she does not turn up until 3:30pm.”

Well, we imagine she’s a very busy woman!

Tardiness aside, fans of the pair will be very excited to hear that French and Saunders are ‘in talks’ to reunite for an exciting project.

Teasing plans for a new show, Dawn also told the publication: “I’m maybe going to do something with Fatty . All I can say is that we’re talking”.

This comes after mum-of-one Dawn recently revealed she was planning to set the whole of 2019 aside to make a film with her on-screen partner.

“Jennifer and I have a film idea that we’d like to do together”, she explained on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast last month.

“What it really means is that she and I have got to say, ‘You know 2019, let’s just put it aside and work together and find something we want to do’.”

The comedians – who first starred together in 1987 – also reunited for the first time in a decade back in December for a Christmas special of their much loved sketch show.

In 300 Years of French and Saunders, Dawn and Jennifer performed in a ‘Karcrashians’ sketch, as well as recreating Gogglebox, Wonder Woman and The Handmaid’s Tale.

We can’t wait to have you back, ladies!

Dawn French: “I was jealous of Jennifer’s Ab Fab success”

At 16 I was virginal. I thought about sex almost every hour of every day. Imagining it, anticipating it, fearing it and longing for it. I was at a girls’ school and my brother was at a boys’ school so I fell in love with each of his friends in turn. Mostly misguided crushes on inappropriate people. Always asking, when will the moment happen? Before that I’d practised kissing on plums, other girls, pillows. I feel very affectionate about the teenage me. I was full of hope, always looking for the good in every moment. And always looking for the laugh.

I was angry, confused, bewildered, sad, blaming all the wrong people, including myself

There were points when I didn’t have much confidence. It would go from high to low a lot. My dad gave me a bit of talking to one night, when I was off to a party in my purple suede hot pants. He told me what I was to him. A beauty and a prize. He said if anything happened to me he’d be devastated. He told me any boy would be lucky to have me. And I utterly, utterly believed him. He was probably handling me carefully, knowing I was a bit vulnerable, off to a party, maybe not with a lot of confidence. But I believed he spoke the truth and it really stuck with me. A dad’s boost of confidence to his daughter is a very potent thing. I was very lucky to have him. And I still believe what he said to me was, and is, true.

I was 18 when my dad committed suicide. If I could go back an put an arm round my teenage self I’d say, one day, eventually, you will understand this. Because it was so hard to understand then. It was a giant trauma. I was angry, confused, bewildered, sad, blaming all the wrong people, including myself. But as time has gone on I’ve learned about mental health, and understood that if my dad had perhaps lived in a time when he didn’t feel so ashamed of his depression, it might have been very different. It’s a cliche but it’s true – over time you learn to forgive that person and understand they sought a way out at a particular time. At that point, for him, life was a sort of hell. He was just then altered, and not the dad I knew.

It wasn’t until the middle part of my life that I began worrying and catastrophising. Probably to do with having kids. Paying mortgages. Having responsibilities. I longed for children and I was so happy when it happened, but when they were there the responsibility sometimes felt overpowering. It can wear you down if you’re not careful. Since then I’ve made conscious decisions to live differently. There’s a Jane Hirshfield poem where she says “I move my chair into the sun”. That has been the most useful thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years. You can choose to move out to where it’s warmer. Now it’s like muscle memory, I’m starting to feel much more optimistic. I’m back to where I was when I was young.


There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

The 16-year-old me would be amazed and very impressed that I ended up in the comedy world with comedians I adored. I still have odd starstruck moments, like when I met Michael Palin or John Cleese, and I thought, ‘Oh God, I have adored you’. And I have to tell myself, come on, they’re just people, they’re normal. Among people I actually knew, Rik Mayall was very easy to love. Not only was he beautiful, he was extremely funny in a unique way. He used to have me in absolute fits of laughter. Probably because he performed very easily in his normal everyday life. He would do anything, any stupid thing, to get a laugh out of you. He was a complete tart for a laugh. I have a lot to thank him for.

It’s a slow, painful process, when you finally start listening to your inner instinct

It can be hard when a friend, especially one you’ve never done any work separately from, suddenly has a huge success without you. Ab Fab was such a massive hit. Until then Jennifer and I had been utterly linked in everything we did. I was made very aware that, in comedy terms, she was a completely individual, separate person. With her own powers. That really shocked me. Not only was she able to do it without me, she could do it really well. So that was really annoying. But however jealous I was, I love her and I was proud of her. I dealt with it by being open and honest about my jealousy. I sent her a bunch of flowers when she won a Bafta saying ‘Congratulations you cunt’.

For me, our separation was a sad thing , a kind of waking up to the inevitable. That’s a slow, painful process, when you finally start listening to your inner instinct. You must never never ignore voices in your heart. We all know them, suppress them like mad, but sometimes they are the truth. So it was sad. But we handled it by acknowledging that we were both in a bit of pain. And we looked after each other. We were kind to each other. I was delighted with that. It’s not like we had to say, ooh, let’s try to be kind to each other. We just were, because we’d always been. We thought, let’s finish this as we started it, as friends. And we’ve got a kid! Who matters much more than us. And she must never feel she was trapped in the middle of this, or that she was for one minute to blame.

Lenny Henry and Dawn French and daughter Billie

If I could have one last conversation with anyone, it would be my dad. I’ve always felt he knows what’s happening in my life because I have him in my back pocket at all times, sort of like my engine. But I would like to talk to him about his struggles with mental health. I knew nothing about them at the time, though other people did. But it was such a shameful thing back then, no one talked about it. Most of the time he was a cheerful, funny, adventurous, happy dad. Then there were times when he withdrew to a dark room, but I just thought he had a migraine. I’d like to talk to him properly about how he was feeling. Now that I think I understand.

I still have starstruck moments, like when I met Michael Palin or John Cleese

If I could go back to any moment I’d be 18 again, in a tent, in the dunes on a Cornwall beach called Gwithian Sands. That was the moment everything I had been worrying about for years finally came to pass. It was not at all traumatising – he was a lovely boy. It was a happy event. Then we had a big, long sloppy kiss. And went for a big swim in the sea. And then we had a Fab ice lolly. Bliss.

Me. You. A Diary by Dawn French (Michael Joseph, £20) is out now

DAWN French has revealed that she’ll reunite with Jennifer Saunders next year to make a movie.

Speaking to Fearne Cotton on her new Happy Place podcast, released today, Dawn revealed that the comedy duo plan to set the whole of 2019 aside to make the film together.

3 Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, pictured last November, are teaming up for a new movie

She said: “Jennifer and I have a film idea that we’d like to do together.

“What it really means is that she and I have got to say, ‘You know 2019, let’s just put it aside and work together and find something we want to do’.”

The 60-year-old comedian also shared the surprising beginnings of Absolutely Fabulous which happened when she took some time out to adopt her daughter Billie back in 1991.

She said: “Ab Fab only came along because I stepped aside to have Billie in a secret way, and Jennifer stepped up and took the studios that were booked for French and Saunders and she took them.

3 Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley star as Edina and Patsy in the hit BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, which first aired in 1992

“Because we had it all booked, we were writing stuff, we had the crew booked, everything, and I said, ‘Jen, a baby has arrived’.

“And she said, ‘Right go, go, I’ll do something’.

“And just the previous year we’d done a sketch of a mother and daughter that we’d enjoyed doing and she was particularly good at.

“And in fact it was one of the longest sketches we’d ever done because we enjoyed it so much.”

3 The comic duo reunited in December last year for Christmas special called 300 Years of French and Saunders French and Saunders in spot-on impression of Gogglebox’s Giles and Mary

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Dawn continued: “And she said, ‘I’ll take that sketch and I’ll make that into a sitcom’.

“And I said, ‘Good luck’ and off I go, so she was covering for me like a good sister.

But then she had the audacity to go and make a really good show without me, so that was very selfish!”

The comedians, who first starred together in 1987, reunited for the first time in a decade back in December for a Christmas special of their much loved sketch show.

It takes a lot of courage to admit you’re jealous of someone, but actress and comedian Dawn French has spoken candidly about her former green-eyed feelings towards comedy partner Jennifer Saunders.

Speaking on Glamour magazine’s podcast, Dawn revealed she had a ‘huge amount of envy’ when her friend found success with Ab Fab.

Explaining how it came about, she revealed: ‘I had to step away from a sketch show that we were in the middle of writing, we’d booked the studios and everything, to go home and be quiet and have my kid there.

‘She said “Don’t worry, I will cover, I will cover. I will do something in those studios so nobody notices this too much”… She goes on with Ab Fab. Ab Fab becomes huge, and so I sit and watch Jennifer just collecting many awards and bouquets…’


Dawn continued: ‘When I saw that happening it was a huge amount of envy. Right in your belly in a place you don’t want it, and its bile-y and it tastes bad and it’s all consuming.’

But Dawn stresses that her jealousy wasn’t a bad thing, as it allowed her to really realise how talented her friend was.

‘I think you’re allowed to own up to it, and that’s what I did, I called her lots of words and just said, “I cannot believe you’re this talented, I cannot believe it’s this successful, I can’t believe I’m not in it.”’


‘And she loved that that was the case. And so in a way that made it alright, and what’s more important than jealousy is that I love the girl.’

The pair met in 1978 at drama school and went on to collaborate on a number of projects – most famously their sketch show, French and Saunders, which ran from 1987 to 2007.

Dawn’s latest acting appearance is as Gina, in Sky 1’s drama Delicious, while Jennifer last appeared on the big screen last year in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

Now we just need another French & Saunders series, please!


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