Over the Grump: Jenny Eclair
It may have been 15 years since Jenny Eclair won the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s coveted Perrier Award, but according to the veteran comedian, her brand of irreverent comedy has only gained the approval of the masses very recently. ‘I used to get gays, alcoholics and weeping divorcees,’ she claims, ‘but my audience does seem to look more mainstream now, since I started doing Grumpy Old Women.’ Indeed, Eclair’s position as the effective face of the hit BBC TV series-turned-live show has done much to elevate her profile. Add to this a recent appearance on teen drama Skins (a role she considers ‘a career highlight’), the several books she has penned and her current stint as a contestant in this year’s Let’s Dance for Sport’s Relief, and there’s no denying that this sharp-tongued entertainer is now one of the most successful females in comedy.
Nevertheless, with her Glasgow Comedy Festival appearance looming around the corner, the thought of returning to solo stand-up does seem to have the usually brassy Eclair a little fazed. ‘The Grumpy shows are quite mad,’ she explains. ‘Our second live show, Chin Up Britain, has got a gymkhana in it, a fashion show, a proper set – it all travels in a great big truck. It’s quite a professional piece. My own stand-up seems to be a little bit more chaotic than that. And when you haven’t done it for a while, you start forgetting that you’ve ever done it at all.’
Some of her nervousness does seem to stem from her conscious effort to keep abreast of the rising stars in UK comedy, in name if not in person. ‘I do keep my eye on other comics,’ she admits. ‘For example, I pay attention to the Chortle awards. I occasionally watch Live at the Apollo and choke on my own jealousy and bile. There are always names that pop up but when I do go and see stand-up, it does tend to be West End stuff – say, if Frank Skinner or Ross Noble are in town.’
That said, Eclair does get the odd first-hand taste of emerging talent when she’s on tour. ‘My career is littered with support acts that have gone on to do much better than me. Once, Russell Howard supported me. I was watching from backstage and thought, “Hang on, this is going down a bit too well.” It’s sort of like watching your boyfriend snog another woman.’
Nerves aside, Eclair seems genuinely excited about her upcoming solo gig. Her new show functions as a greatest hits-style medley of her best work, though the changing composition of her fanbase means that it’s less likely many of her audience members will have heard the jokes before. What’s more, her 2010 dates may eventually lead up to something bigger later in the year. In a February blog post, Eclair confessed that she’s considering a run at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. And though nothing’s been decided yet, her affection for the city is more than clear. ‘I’m looking forward to Glasgow but I love Edinburgh. I think it’s the eighth wonder of the world, it’s the most extraordinary city. There isn’t a street corner that I haven’t celebrated on or sobbed on.’
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 18 Mar.