French and Saunders (pictured here pretending to be Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears) are a female comedy double act who first shot to fame in the 1980’s as part of the new wave of “alternative” comedians, a term used to distance the young up and coming comedians from the old guard like Jimmy Tarbuck, Jim Bowen and Bernard Manning etc.. Good comediennes are few and far between, comedy being an often male dominated territory for some reason, but Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are both great performers with a large number of successful comedy programmes under their belts.
They first appeared in some of the early Comic Strip films, but their big break was as the comedy relief on Channel 4’s music show The Tube in 1984. In 1985 they wrote and starred in Girls On Top, with Ruby Wax and Tracey Ullman. This was kind of like a female version of The Young Ones, about four very different female flatmates. In 1986 they moved to the BBC for the first series of their highly popular sketch show.
French and Saunders sketch shows were always a lot of fun. They had some wonderful recurring characters, such as the fat old country ladies who were somewhat trigger happy, the sleazy old men who would usually utter “give ‘er one” type comments when watching TV, and of course their celebrity impersonations. They were also accompanied by their house band Raw Sex (a balding old man who played the keyboards and an overweight, sleazy bongo drummer played by Roland Rivron), who also sang the theme tune to the show, for some comedy musical numbers, and the odd appearance in some of the sketches too.
Their celebrity impersonations soon led to them doing film spoofs, which were often the highlight of each episode, split into chunks and dotted between the other sketches. These film spoofs led them to being one of the highest budgeted BBC comedy shows of the time, and included such targets as Gone With The Wind, Thelma and Louise, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. The film spoofs also spawned a running joke about the duo not always being able to recreate certain accents very well, with Saunder’s character saying “How are you?” and French’s character replying “Hah urr yew?” back in a screechy nasally voice.
Of course, French and Saunders have also been involved in a great many other shows in more recent times, both together and individually. Most prominently, Jennifer Saunders had huge success with Absolutely Fabulous, about PR woman Edina, whilst Dawn French’s role in The Vicar of Dibley has been a prime time favourite, and a regular on the BBC festive schedule. They have a 2008 tour planned if you want to see them live, for more details check out the French and Saunders website.Search for French and Saunders items on Amazon.co.uk