Interview: Jenny Eclair

Blackpool Citizen:

COMEDIAN Jenny Eclair is especially looking forward to bringing her current tour to Blackburn - because it means she'll be able to stay at her mum's house in Lytham St Annes after the gig.

"Will my mum spoil me? No, because she's the hardest woman in the world," she deadpans.

"She'll tell me off. She won't stand for any nonsense, like me talking about myself. I was brought up in the north and my mum's a real northern mum. I actually do a bit in the show about northern mothers being the best mothers in the world."

Jenny's Because I Forgot To Get A Pension tour was a smash hit last year and has been extended for 2008 due to demand for tickets.

Expect to hear lots of stuff about being on the mad side of 40; how women are ruled by their hormones and men are ruled by their bowels; the fact that the biggest passion-killer in the world is the en suite bathroom, and she'll also relive the nightmare of a deep sensual massage - by someone who's read about it in a magazine and has no idea what he's doing.

"It's quite interesting, this current generation of middle-aged women, because they're refusing to just disappear and fade into the background," says Jenny.

"When I was younger, middle-aged women used to more or less become invisible, but we're from the "me generation" and we're refusing to go quietly into the night. We're dragging our heels and saying: "Excuse me, that's not good enough".

Jenny, best known for being a star of the hit show Grumpy Old Women on stage and screen, was the first woman ever to win the prestigious Perrier Award with her 1995 Edinburgh show Prozac and Tantrums, and is a highly-regarded novelist, having written The Book of Bad Behaviour, Camberwell Beauty and Having a Lovely Time.

But when asked if she's proud of how far she's come, she scoffs.

"No, I'm absolutely livid," she says.

"It's not as if I'm gainfully employed on TV so when anything finishes I'm unemployed. That means I don't ever really relax."

But she does admit that she's hardly sitting waiting for the phone to ring.

"I do have a couple of nice things coming up," she says.

"I've got a new book coming out for Christmas which I really enjoyed doing co-writing. It's called Wendy, an annual for middle-aged women, and it pays homage to Jackie. It's for women of a certain age and there's love stories, quizzes, problem pages and pin-ups of newsreaders."

Jenny started her stand-up career after attending drama school and becoming a punk poet. Slowly her gigs turned more into stand-up comedy.

But she hasn't always been as successful as she is today.

"It's much easier now than when I was younger," she says. "The audience tends to be self-selecting now. If they come along you pretty much know they're going to like what I do.

"It was hard at the beginning, not because I was a woman comedian but because I was a rubbish woman comedian. I wasn't really good enough to conquer the criticism I received so there were lots of dreadful messy nights. I've left many a club and pub by the fire exit or escaped through the window in the toilets so I didn't have to walk past the crowd."

But she's certainly making up for it now. Critics have hailed her the queen of "middle-age alarm comedy" and her Grumpy Old Women TV and stage show has catapulted her to a new level.

"I think it came along at the right time," says Jenny.

"When Grumpy Old Women came on TV I think a lot of women thought Thank God it's not just me!' "It transcends age - everybody's a bit of a grumpy old woman, especially folk up north. They tend to be sensible and no nonsense. They'll say Come on, everybody's being a bit silly now'.

"What I love is when I see younger women in the audience who have obviously bought their mums tickets for their birthdays so don't really want to be there. Then as the show gets going they start enjoying it and you can see their matching faces laughing - that's really nice."

What's next for Jenny?

"I'd like a TV job," she says. "For the security more than anything. I do worry how much more stuff I can produce, how much more people will want to buy.

Judith Holder (Grumpy Old Women co-writer) and I want to start a channel called HRTV, but all the male TV executives recoil at the sound of it. We think it'd be great."

l See Jenny Eclair's Because I Forgot To Get A Pension tour at King George's Hall, Blackburn, on Wednesday, May 28. For tickets call box office on 0844 847 1664.

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