Until the 1980s, British humor stayed largely in the vein of Benny Hill and Monty Python. It was not a good place for women, who generally got laughs by falling out of corsets, bending over in mini-skirts, or fleeing dirty old... [more]
Until the 1980s, British humor stayed largely in the vein of Benny Hill and Monty Python. It was not a good place for women, who generally got laughs by falling out of corsets, bending over in mini-skirts, or fleeing dirty old men. That all changed when Jennifer Saunders arrived on the scene, smearing lipstick on British comedy with her scorching, dead-on sensibility. Though she's known for being self-deprecating, Saunders is one of Britain's most-respected women, one of its first female comics, and still its most successful.
She met her first comedic partner, Dawn French, while studying at London's Central School of Speech and Drama. Though they would later become a successful duo, they didn't even like each other at first. Nevertheless, they moved in together and began collaborating. The pair joined the Comic Strip Team and their careers took off. They left to produce "French & Saunders" in 1987, an enormously successful sketch-comedy series.
Though the two continued to collaborate, Saunders is most well-known for her next project, "Absolutely Fabulous," which she wrote and starred in with Joanna Lumley. The extent to which these two middle-aged women unrepentantly drink, drug, smoke, and abuse themselves and their loved ones was a kind of comedy coup when it first aired. Saunders' scripts straddle the line between the intellectually clever and the slapstick, between the tasteful and the crass. She pokes relentless fun at the upper class and its machinations, the fashion industry ("One snap of my fingers and I can raise hemlines so high the world's your gynecologist."), family relations, snobbery, the aging process. Saunders has stated that she intended to make the characters of Edina and Patsy completely lacking in any redeeming qualities whatsoever. And she's achieved this goal with remarkable succcess: in one episode Edina's chauffeur drives her to her daughter's school because she doesn't know how to use a can opener.
Saunders married actor-comedian Adrian Edmondson in 1985. The couple lives in Richmond, England, with their three daughters. A British Cosmopolitan survey found that Saunders is the woman young British females look up to most -- leaving Madonna, Princess Di, and numerous others in the dust. An ironic twist, since even the fashion magazine has felt the sting of Saunders' merciless slams. [show less]