Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders Headshot

Actress • Comedian • Writer

Birth Date: July 6, 1958

Age: 65 years old

Birth Place: Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England, UK

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

Credits

Stand Up to Cancer Night

Self
Show
2023

The Best of Comic Strip

Actor
Show
2023

Kathy Burke: Growing Up

Self
Show
2023

This is the Night Mail

Voice
The Mother
Movie
2023

Sumotherhood

Actor
Di Brookes
Movie
2023

Fantasy Football League

Guest
Show
2022

Fantasy Football League

Self
Show
2022

The PentaverateStream

Actor
The Maester of Dubrovnik, The Saester of Dubrovnik
Miniseries
2022
28%

Death on the NileStream

Actor
Marie Van Schuyler
Movie
2022
61%

Allelujah

Actor
Sister Gilpin
Movie
2022

French & Saunders: Funny Women

Self
Show
2021

Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable

Guest
Show
2021

Sing 2Stream

Voice
Nana
Movie
2021
72%

Kalles födelsedagsäventyr

Voice
Movie
2021

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane Austen?

Voice
Selina
Show
2020

Jennifer Saunders' Memory Lane

Host
Show
2020

Richard Osman's House of Games Night

Guest
Show
2020

IntelligenceStream

Actor
Joanna Telfer-Fotheringham
Series
2020

The StrangerStream

Actor
Series
2020
83%

The Masked Singer

Guest
Show
2020

Utterly Outrageous X-Rated Comedy

Host
Show
2019

Utterly Outrageous X-Rated Comedy

Narrator
Show
2019

There's Something About Movies

Contestant
Show
2019

There's Something About Movies

Host
Show
2019

Moominvalley

Actor
Mymble
Show
2019

Moominvalley

Voice
Mymble
Show
2019

Hard to Please OAPs

Narrator
Show
2019

Isn't It RomanticStream

Actor
Natalie's Mom
Movie
2019
69%

Grandpa's Great Escape

Actor
Miss Dandy
Show
2018

Patrick

Actor
Maureen
Movie
2018

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires

Voice
Dr. Alex Cular
Movie
2018

300 Years of French & Saunders

Actor
Various
Show
2017

300 Years of French & Saunders

Writer
Show
2017

Joanna and Jennifer: Absolutely Champers

Host
Show
2017

Tommy Cooper Forever

Guest
Show
2017

Comic Relief 2017

Guest
Show
2017

Let's Sing & Dance for Comic Relief

Judge
Show
2017

The Insider's Guide to the Menopause

Guest
Show
2017

We Love Sitcom

Guest
Show
2016

The Making Of: Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Actor
Show
2016

Tillykke, dronning Elizabeth 90 år: Fødselsdagsshow

Actor
Show
2016

Insert Name Here

Guest
Show
2016

SingStream

Voice
Nana
Movie
2016
71%

Absolutely Fabulous: The MovieStream

Actor
Edina Monsoon
Movie
2016
58%

Absolutely Fabulous: The MovieStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2016
58%

Absolutely Fabulous: The MovieStream

Screenwriter
Movie
2016
58%

Stick Man

Narrator
Show
2015

The Late Show With Stephen ColbertStream

Guest
Talk
2015

MinionsStream

Voice
Queen Elizabeth II
Movie
2015
56%

Stick Man

Narrator
Movie
2015

The Boy in the Dress

Actor
Miss Windsor
Show
2014

French And Saunders: Still Alive

Actor
Show
2014

French And Saunders: Still Alive

Director
Show
2014

This Book & Me

Guest
Show
2014

Josh

Actor
Judith
Show
2014

Blandings

Actor
Constance/Lady Keeble
Show
2013

Absolutely Fabulous: 20th Anniversary Specials

Actor
Show
2012

Dead Boss

Actor
Show
2012

Celebrity Antiques Road Trip

Guest
Show
2011

Have I Got a Bit More News for You

Host
Show
2010

The Project

Guest
Show
2009

Watch What Happens Live With Andy CohenStream

Guest
Talk
2009

CoralineStream

Voice
Miss Spink
Movie
2009
90%

The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle

Actor
Show
2008

Would I Lie to You?Stream

Contestant
Game Show
2007

Would I Lie to You?Stream

Guest
Game Show
2007

The Graham Norton ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2007

The Graham Norton ShowStream

Guest Star
Talk
2007

Jam and Jerusalem

Actor
Caroline Martin
Show
2006

Jam and Jerusalem

Writer
Show
2006

The One Show

Guest
Show
2006

The One Show

Self
Show
2006

L'entente cordiale

Actor
Gwendoline McFarlane
Movie
2006

Hell's Kitchen

Guest Star
Show
2005

Shrek 2Stream

Voice
The Fairy Godmother
Movie
2004
89%

Imagine...

Guest
Show
2003

Absolutely Fabulous New York Special

Actor
Show
2002

Absolutely Fabulous New York Special

Writer
Show
2002

Top GearStream

Guest
Reality
2002

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Host
Show
2001

Absolument fabuleux

Writer (Characters)
Movie
2001

It's Lulu

Self
Show
1999

The Magician's House

Actor
Show
1999

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

Fanny and Elvis

Actor
Movie
1999

The Magician's House

Voice
The Rat
Movie
1999

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

Have I Got News for You

Host
Show
1997

Muppet Treasure IslandStream

Actor
Mrs. Bluberidge
Movie
1996
71%

In the Bleak Midwinter

Actor
Nancy Crawford
Movie
1995

French and Saunders Christmas Special

Actor
Show
1994

French and Saunders Christmas Special

Writer
Show
1994

FriendsStream

Guest Star
Andrea Waltham
Series
1994
78%

Absolutely FabulousStream

Actor
Series
1994

Absolutely FabulousStream

Writer
Series
1994

Pet Shop Boys: Absolutely Fabulous

Self
Movie
1994

Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Voice
Show
1992

The SimpsonsStream

Guest Voice
Phoebe
Series
1989
85%

The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball

Actor
Movie
1989

RoseanneStream

Guest Star
Edina
Series
1988
76%

RoseanneStream

Writer
Series
1988
76%

French and Saunders

Actor
Show
1987

French and Saunders

Writer
Show
1987

Eat the Rich

Actor
Lady Caroline
Movie
1987

More Bad News

Actor
Sally
Movie
1987

Girls on Top

Actor
Jennifer Marsh
Show
1985

Girls on Top

Writer
Show
1985

The Supergrass

Actor
Lesley Reynolds
Movie
1985

The Young OnesStream

Guest Star
Sue
Series
1982

The Comic Strip Presents

Actor
Show
1982

The Comic Strip Presents

Writer
Show
1982

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

Just a Minute

Contestant
Show
1967

News aboutJennifer Saunders