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Jennifer Saunders Biography

  • Profession: Screenwriter, Actor
  • Born: Jul 6, 1958
  • Died: Jan 1, 0001
  • Birth Name: Jennifer Jane Saunders

Though occasional appearances in American feature films ([[Feature~V136176~Muppet Treasure Island~muppettreasureisland]], [[Feature~V286672~Shrek 2~shrek2]]) and sitcoms ([[Feature~V280389~Roseanne~roseanne[tvseries]]]) highlight her resumé, the hyperkinetic and overmodulated British comedian Jennifer Saunders is indelibly associated with two English series programs: the sketch comedy/variety show [[Feature~V175005~French & Saunders~frenchsaunders[tvseries]]] and the wild sitcom [[Feature~V163053~Absolutely Fabulous~absolutelyfabulous[tvseries]]], which skewers mercilessly the decadent pretension of British haute couture.

Born July 6, 1958, in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, to a father stationed in the RAF, Saunders, like many children of military families, acquired and honed a sharp sense of humor at a tender age, perhaps as a way to cope psychologically with being constantly shuttled from town to town. In the late '70s, Saunders enrolled as a student in London's Central School of Speech and Drama, where she met and befriended lifelong collaborator [[Performer~P25011~Dawn French~dawnfrench]] while studying to become a drama teacher. [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]] suggested that they respond to an advertisement placed in Stage magazine for aspiring comedians, and the success of that audition yielded a regular on-stage sketch-comedy gig at The Comic Strip Club -- alongside [[Performer~P108197~Peter Richardson~peterrichardson]], [[Performer~P46690~Rik Mayall~rikmayall]], [[Performer~P57030~Nigel Planer~nigelplaner]], and many other established talents. As this list suggests, the preponderance of comedians at that time were male, which set [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]] and Saunders apart from the pack and placed them in Britain's then-burgeoning "alternative comedy" niche. When the Comic Strip team graduated their skits to the eponymously titled BBC program The Comic Strip Presents... in 1982, [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]] and Saunders moved with them; the original run of that program lasted until 1988, with four- and three-year revivals in 1990 and 1998, respectively.

Over the next several years, Saunders co-starred in a number of BBC television series comedies, including Happy Families (1985), [[Feature~V19868~Girls on Top~girlsontop[tvseries]]] (which placed her alongside the legendary [[Performer~P72400~Tracey Ullman~traceyullman]] and [[Performer~P75066~Ruby Wax~rubywax]]), and -- in occasional cameos -- [[Feature~V175506~The Young Ones~theyoungones[tvseries]]] (1982). Then, in 1987, the BBC granted Saunders and [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]] their own sketch comedy program, aptly titled [[Feature~V175005~French & Saunders~frenchsaunders[tvseries]]]. That program debuted in 1987 and not only broke untold ground for up-and-coming British comediennes but became a massive hit and ran indefinitely. The pair scripted episodes and starred in them.

A sketch in the third season of [[Feature~V175005~French & Saunders~frenchsaunders[tvseries]]] -- done by Saunders during [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]]'s brief sabbatical from the program -- inspired Saunders to create a character for a new series: that of the pill-popping, booze-swilling, outrageously vulgar '60s has-been-turned-PR mogul Edina Monsoon -- played by Saunders herself. Entitled [[Feature~V163053~Absolutely Fabulous~absolutelyfabulous[tvseries]]] (and done sans [[Performer~P25011~French~dawnfrench]]), the program paired Monsoon with best friend Patsy Stone ([[Performer~P43740~Joanna Lumley~joannalumley]]), the inhabitant of a liquor store and a magazine editor. Episodes found Edina not only contending with the vicissitudes of a debauched lifestyle, but grappling her way through tumultuous relationships with her teenage daughter, Saffron ([[Performer~P199242~Julia Sawalha~juliasawalha]]), and naïve mom, known only as Mother and Gran ([[Performer~P211965~June Whitfield~junewhitfield]]). The program scored as a massive hit not only in Britain, but on American cable stations. Yet its run was surprisingly short given this popularity; it aired from 1992 to 1993, then resurfaced briefly in 1996, and came around for a third go between 2001 and 2003.

As mentioned, Saunders provided one of the voices in 2004's CG-animated [[Feature~V286672~Shrek 2~shrek2]] (that of the Fairy Godmother); she also voiced Miss Spink in directors [[Performer~P110736~Henry Selick~henryselick]] and [[Performer~P395675~Michael Cachuela~michaelcachuela]]'s stop-motion animated fantasy [[Feature~V352012~Coraline~coraline]] (2009).

Saunders is married to [[Performer~P21194~Adrian Edmondson~adrianedmondson]], one of her former on-stage collaborators from the Comic Strip troupe. They have three daughters. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

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