Family & Companions
An internationally renowned comedian, writer and actress, Jennifer Saunders started her career alongside Dawn French as the two female cast members of The Comic Strip troupe. She rose to fame on "The Comic Strip Presents." (Channel 4, 1982-2005) as well as a string of their movies, and together with French starred in the moderately successful "Girls On Top" (ITV, 1985-86) before writing and starring in their own smash sketch comedy series, "French and Saunders" (BBC Two, 1987-2007). Parodying pop culture as well as creating original skits, the series became an instant classic and elevated the two to superstardom in Great Britain as well as placing them both on the international stage. Saunders reached even greater heights of popularity in the spin-off "Absolutely Fabulous" (BBC, 1992-2012) which she created, wrote and starred in as the boozy, "sweetie darling" fashion publicist from hell, Edina Monsoon. She and co-star Joanna Lumley, playing the outrageously debauched Patsy, became an iconic duo and the series became an international cult favorite, winning Saunders a BAFTA. Saunders went on to revisit the characters again in "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" (2016), but maintained a solid career aside from her most famous creation, appearing regularly on film and television. One of the most successful British comediennes of all time, Jennifer Saunders earned an international reputation as a much-loved force-of-nature and, even more impressively, displayed writing skills as acclaimed as her acting chops.
Born July 6, 1958 in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, Jennifer Jane Saunders was the daughter of a Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot father and a biology teacher mother. Due to her father's work, Saunders moved frequently as a child. After graduating, she worked for a year as an au pair in Italy. She also began her training at London's famed Central School for Speech and Drama, where she met Dawn French. Although the two did not hit it off initially, they eventually became best friends which led to the formation of their comedy act. After cutting their teeth performing in local cabarets, they successfully auditioned for The Comic Strip, a troupe that included then-unknowns Robbie Coltrane, Alexi Sayle and Adrian Edmonson. (The latter would become Saunders's husband, and French would also meet her future husband, Lenny Henry, in the troupe).
Theater soon gave way to television, where the troupe found a larger audience with their irreverent brand of comedy on the anthology series "The Comic Strip Presents." (Channel 4, 1982-2005). Writing and starring in many episodes, Saunders quickly became recognized as a major talent with impeccably sharp timing and delivery. She also wrote and starred on such British TV shows as "Girls On Top" (ITV, 1985-86) with French, Tracey Ullman and Ruby Wax, and appeared in the first two Comic Strip movies, "The Supergrass" (1985) and "Eat the Rich" (1988). She would achieve superstardom, however, when she and her longtime comedic partner created the sketch comedy series "French and Saunders" (BBC Two, 1987-2007). Critically beloved and groundbreaking for featuring two women both writing and starring in skits, the series became an iconic part of British pop culture and launched both comediennes onto the international stage. For their work on the series, the duo won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award.
On their show, Saunders and French had performed a skit about a mother and daughter, so when Saunders pitched a new TV series, she took the idea and expanded it to what would become "Absolutely Fabulous" (BBC, 1992-2004). Although French was not featured on the series as she had recently adopted a new baby, Saunders wrote and starred in the sitcom, which featured her as the boozy, pill-popping, endlessly scheming fashion publicist Edina Monsoon, whose life revolves around her equally outrageous best friend Patsy (a fearlessly debauched Joanna Lumley) and her conservative daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha). A massive ratings success out of the gate, the comedy also earned praise from reviewers as the most original - and vulgar - series in years. Such was its universal camp appeal, it became a cult classic around the world, with Comedy Central broadcasting episodes in the United States. Decades later, many of the show's catchphrases had joined the lexicon and it continued to be aired worldwide. For her work on the series, Saunders won a BAFTA TV Award and earned four additional BAFTA nominations, won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award, and earned two British Comedy Award nominations.
The success of "Ab Fab" allowed Saunders entrée into the American entertainment industry, and she reprised her boozy character in an episode of "Roseanne" (ABC, 1988-1997), played an innkeeper in "Muppet Treasure Island" (1996) and recurred as the frosty British mother of Ross Gellar's (David Schwimmer) English fiancée on "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004). She even cameoed in the embarrassing Spice Girls feature "Spice World" (1997). Back in England, she and French reunited to star in the 18th century France-set sitcom "Let Them Eat Cake!" (BBC One, 1999). After starring in "French & Saunders Live" (2000), Saunders took on the plumb role of the posh, villainous Fairy Godmother in the monstrously successful animated smash "Shrek 2" (2004). Dominating the film, her character also enjoyed a major set piece, singing "Holding Out for a Hero" and winning a People's Choice Award in the process.
Saunders next wrote and starred in the dramedy "Jam & Jerusalem" (BBC One, 2006-09), which earned some traction internationally under the name "Clatterford," and pulled double duty again in the special "The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle" (BBC Two, 2007). After a retrospective-themed series, "A Bucket o' French & Saunders" (BBC, 7007), the two embarked on a live tour and both provided voices for the dark animated feature "Coraline" (2009). On a serious note, the actress revealed in 2010 that she had undergone treatment for breast cancer, but had made a full recovery. She continued to work, starring in "Comic Relief: Uptown Downstairs Abbey" (BBC, 2011), and earning a BAFTA Fellowship along with French. After another series of "Absolutely Fabulous" episodes in 2012, Saunders appeared in voice roles in the animated hits "Minions" (2015) and "Sing" (2016), and wrote and starred in the long-awaited big screen effort "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" (2016).
By Jonathan Riggs
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
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Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Auditioned for newly formed comedy troupe, The Comic Strip
Appeared in several episodes of the cult English comedy series "The Young Ones", starring husband Adrian Edmonson
Appeared in many episodes of "The Comic Strip Presents...", an English comedy anthology series with Dawn French, Adrian Edmonson, Robbie Coltrane and Peter Richardson
Feature acting debut, "Supergrass"; the first of "The Comic Strip Presents..." Movies
Co-created, starred and wrote, with Dawn French, the English sketch-comedy series "French and Saunders"
US TV debut, "Live from London", part of the "HBO Comedy Hour"
Wrote, created and starred in the English comedy series "Absolutely Fabulous"; aired in the US on Comedy Central in 1994-95
Created new episodes of "Absolutely Fabolous"; reprised the role of Edina
Voiced The Fairy Godmother in "Shrek 2"
Voiced Miss April Spink and Other Spink in the animated film "Coraline"
Starred on the series "Blandings"
Reprised the role of Edina for "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie"