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Jennifer Jane Saunders (born 6 July 1958) is a BAFTA- and Emmy Award-winning Englishmarker comedienne, screenwriter and actress.

She first came into widespread attention in the 1980s and early 1990s when she became a member of The Comic Strip after graduating from the Central School of Speech and Drama. Along with her comedy partner Dawn French, she proceeded to write and star in their eponymous sketch show, French & Saunders, and received international acclaim for writing and playing the lead role of Edina Monsoon in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

In her other work, she has guest starred in the American sitcoms Roseanne and Friends, and won the American People's Choice Award for voicing the wicked Fairy Godmother in DreamWorks' animated Shrek 2. More recently, she wrote and starred in Jam & Jerusalem and The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle.


Saunders was born and raised in a middle-class family in Sleafordmarker, Lincolnshiremarker in 1958. Her mother was a biology teacher, and her father served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and reached the rank of Air Marshal. He then went on to work 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 eighteen in boarding schools. 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 Londonmarker 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 at first, 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, whilst at college, Saunders and French shared a flat together. French has remarked on Saunders' messy habits when sharing the house, stating "When we lived together in Chalk Farmmarker 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 later 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 that, "They didn't seem to give a damn. There was no star quality about them at all."


Early career

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 ongoing members of The Comic Strip, along with many of the comedians who were to become their generation's most well-known comedy performers, including Peter Richardson, Rik Mayall, and Robbie Coltrane, as well as Saunders' future husband Adrian Edmondson. The group performed at Soho's Raymond Review Bar with regular guests Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams. By the time French & 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.


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 Londonmarker. 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. She also appeared twice as guest on The Young Ones.

In 1987, she and French created French & 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.

Both Saunders and French proceeded to follow separate careers as well as maintaining their comedy sketch show. Saunders' biggest solo success to date is 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.

Saunders has appeared on the Americanmarker 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.


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 of aired in 2006, the second in 2008 and the third in 2009 on BBC One.

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 is currently listed as the fifth fastest "Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car" on BBC 2's Top Gear with a time of 1:46.1s. A self-confessed petrolhead, she has a passion for Alfa Romeo, and has so far owned four.


Saunders has also appeared in several films during her comedy career, such as In the Bleak Midwinter (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Fanny & Elvis (1999) and also made cameo appearances in The Spice Girls's film Spiceworld (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 performing the song "Holding Out for a Hero". Her part took 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.

Personal life

Saunders married Adrian Edmondson on 11 May 1985. They have three daughters: Eleanor "Ella" (born 22 January 1986), Beatrice "Beattie" (born 19 June 1987), and Freya (born 16 October 1990). Beatrice followed in her father's footsteps and studied drama at the University of Manchestermarker where she became a member of all-female comedy troupe Lady Garden. All three of Saunders' daughters have appeared in Jam and Jerusalem.

Saunders currently owns a £1 million property with of land in Chagfordmarker, Devonmarker as well as a home in Londonmarker. Edmondson and Saunders were estimated to be worth £11 million in 2002..

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 with an honorary doctorate from the University of Exetermarker in July 2007. According to Forbes magazine, Saunders is the 26th most influential female British export. 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 throughout her comedy career including:


  • 1991: Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for TV Light Entertainment - French & Saunders
  • 1993: BAFTA Award for Best Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous
  • 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


  • 1993: BAFTA Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance - 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 Award for Best Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous
  • 1996: BAFTA Award for Best Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous
  • 1997: BAFTA Award for Best Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous



Guest Appearances



  • 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)


  1. Hannah Hamad. Jennifer Saunders — Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  2. Editors at The Times. Birthdays — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  3. Decca Aitkenhead. What are you looking at? — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  4. Chrissy Iley. Farewell French and Saunders — Retrieved 30 August 2007.
  5. Editors at Teletronic. Dawn French — Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  6. William Langley. 'We know how to use our mighty weight and the power of a full and voluptuous body' — Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  7. Neil Wilkes. 'Comic Strip' returns to Channel 4 — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  8. Editors at Screen Online. Dawn French — Retrieved 10 May 2007.
  9. James Welsh. 'Ab Fab' stars receive GLBT Pride award — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  10. Press Release. BBC America to co-produce new comedies with Jennifer Saunders — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  11. Carol Midgley. Jennifer Saunders and Dr Tanya Byron take on the chat shows — Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  12. Editors at Daily Mail. Jennifer Saunders hopes new comic creation will be 'Ab Fab' — Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  13. Ed Stafford . Comedy preview: French & Saunders: Still Alive, London
  14. BBC - Top Gear - Celebrity Laps
  15. Kimberley Dadds Spice Girls: Timeline.
  16. Fiona Morrow. Jennifer Saunders — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  17. Daniel Saney. People's Choice Awards presented — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  18. Neil Sears and Alison Bowyer. Saunders swaps London for Devon — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  19. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. It is an honour to stand among the refuseniks — Retrieved 11 May 2007.
  20. The Observer. The A-Z of laughter (part two) — Retrieved 5 October 2007.
  21. Uni bestows honorary doctorates — Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  22. Daniel Saney. Victoria Wood Britain's funniest woman — Retrieved 4 October 2007.
  23. International Emmy Awards 1994 — Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  24. British Academy of Film and Television Arts Fellowship presented on Sunday 26 April 2009.

External links

  • (featuring The Life And Times Of Vivienne Vyle)

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