Comedy Interviews

A Comedienne, Actress, Writer and Grumpy Old Woman – Jenny Eclair Interviewed

by Becca Heaton

“Don’t know what to do with a left-over half a banana? Discard it surreptitiously on the floor of a government-owned building, ‘accidentally’ slip on it and claim thousands of pounds of compensation”.

I met Jenny Eclair, stand up comedienne, actress, writer and all round Grumpy Old Woman, at her event at the Firestation Centre For Arts and Culture, Windsor, October 2010. She was promoting her book Chin Up Britain, a “return to basic commonsense” full of such helpful hints.

“Can’t afford a holiday? Slather on some sun tan lotion that smells of coconuts, at least you’ll smell like you’re on holiday.”

After the show she very kindly agreed to an interview, however after a couple of unanswered emails I feared it was not to be. Until of course, I discover she was actually in a jungle somewhere taking part in some rather unpleasant tasks… I tried not to take it personally.

You started out writing and performing Punk Poetry…  What did that entail?

Basically copying John Cooper Clark and writing poems about breasts and discharge, and performing them in a Mancunian accent.

What about it interested you?

It was a way of getting into performing.  The days of Rep Theatre were over, Fringe Theatre was still in it’s infancy. There wasn’t much else I could do.

Can you give us an example of the sort of things you’d perform?

Oh Dear Agony Aunty

I’ve discharge in my panties

It’s not VD I’m sure of that,

I’ve had trouble before with my twat

What was the band were you in?

Cathy La Crème and the Rum Babas

Why the change from Punk Poetry and the band to stand up comedy?

The band split up as bands do, and I was the only one out of the five of us who turned up for a gig one night. From then on I went solo.

You said, during your show at Firestation, Windsor that you used to be a rock chick?

Yes, I was very pretty and rather sexy, and wore PVC trousers

What do you think of the rock/alternative music scene these days?

I think music and comedy and theatre is healthy, the mainstream stuff is as dull as it ever was, but there’s always great stuff bubbling under the surface

What inspired you to write Chin Up Britain, and do you have plans to write more?

It was a spin-off from the last Grumpy [Old Women] Live Show – Chin Up Britain – we thought it would make an ideal Christmas gift (cunning!)

In the show you mentioned that you recently received a grant towards making a film, can you tell us more about that?

We have been given some development money…

What the film will be about?

My lips are sealed with superglue!

Who else is involved?

My co-writer, Judith Holder

What kind of films would you love or hate to make in the future?

I think making any film would be incredible, but if it ended up like ‘Eat, Pray, Puke’ , I’d put a bullet through my head

I’m sure you’re sick of Grumpy Old Women being brought up in interviews, and sadly this one is no different! You were on tour with it this year with Wendi Peters and Susie Blake. What was it like touring with two other Grumpy Old Women?

It was fine, there were lots of cushions and blankets in the back of a people carrier and plenty of wee stops on the motorway.

Any oestrogen soaked toys thrown out of the pram?

Oh God, yes

More importantly, are there any plans for more tours or shows?

Not at the moment, those shows were incredibly expensive to produce and the economic climate isn’t right for them at the moment – we’ve all gone back to basics!

You’re currently on tour now with your ‘Old Dogs New Tricks’ show. Can you tell us something about it?

It’s just me and a trick and some jokes. I do forty minutes then the audience has a stiff drink, then I do another 35 minutes and then I go to a hotel and try not to eat Pringles from the mini-bar.

You were the first woman to win the Perrier Award. What did that mean to you then, and what does it mean to you now?

Nice, but a bit last century

Judging from your event, your risqué humour clearly hasn’t grown old gracefully! Can you see that changing as you get older? And do you feel that it should change?

No, I’ve got rude bones, and letting off still makes me laugh

What do you love, what do you hate?

I lovewater, I like being in water very much…I like swimming pools, the sea and my bath. But I don’t like roll mop herring.

You were recently in ‘I’m a Celeb’.  The first question that comes to my mind is, what motivated you to take part?

My profile had bottomed out a bit, I needed some help to put bums on seats for my tour

Gillian McKeith was a pretty unpopular contestant amongst the ‘I’m a Celeb’ audience…how did you find her?

Idiotic

Who were you most fond of and who drove you mad?

I liked Sean, Nigel and Dom best. Lembit and Gillian were my human roll mop herrings.

What tasks did you find the hardest to do or to stomach?!

The eating and drinking tasks were the toughest, the physical ones were a laugh.

Apart from yourself, who did you want to win?

Stacey from the word go, she’s extraordinary

What are the important things still on your life’s ‘to do’ list?

I’d like to do some more acting, thank you

What achievements are you most proud of?

The books, and the fact that I can gig. Being able to go out and make a living from being a stand-up is hugely important to me.

If you could meet one character from history, who would it be and why?

Henry VIII, to see if he’d bother making a pass

What’s your current fandom/obsession/addiction?

Twitter, unfortunately, it’s Crack like.

If you could have one Superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it?

The ability to turn up my metabolic rate, so that I could burn food off more easily. I’d like the power to dissolve hangovers too, and to dream in jokes that I remember in the morning.

If your life was made into a film, who would you want to play you?

Not Su Pollard, she’s too old. Emilia Fox can do it.

You can choose one fictional character to be your BFF, who would it be and why?

I’ll go for Gatsby, so I can hang out at his house.

What did your 10-year-old self want to be when she grew up?

An actress

You’re stranded on a deserted something or other…apart from books, music and sun cream, what three things would you want to have with you?

My iPad thank you, then I can order everything else I need off that.

Jenny Elair is currently on Tour with ‘Old Dogs, New Tricks’, for more information visit: www.Jennyeclair.com

She is on Twitter @jennyeclair

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