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The top comedienne talks to Amie Mulderrig about stand-up, acting and dressing room demands
Twenty white kittens. One hundred white doves. Lilies with stems trimmed to precisely six inches. A great white shark. Comedian Jenny Eclair makes few demands while touring.
Fortunately for staff at the Harrow Arts Centre, none of the above requests will be submitted when she visits the venue as part of her Eclarious tour.
“All I ask for is M&S low calorie sandwiches, a Diet Coke, a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a plastic beaker,“ the 53-year-old rasps, in her distinctive gravelly voice.
“I do have a driver though, but that’s because I’m motorwayphobic. It would take me days to get anywhere otherwise, and it’s not a limo, it’s a hire car. I sit in the front, but I put my feet in what I like to call the ‘executive position’.“
It’s surprising that Jenny, who’s been in the entertainment industry for “donkey’s years“, isn’t more difficult.
She is, after all, the woman who started her career as a punk poet, performed in a band called Cathy La Crème and the Rum Babies (in a bid to make her Manchester’s answer to Toyah Wilcox), was the first female winner of the coveted Perrier Award, and makes regular appearances on television – Loose Women, This Morning and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!
She’s also a writer, both for television and stage – Grumpy Old Women, an author – Life, Death and Vanilla Slices, and an actress – she’s made appearances in Holby City and The Bill.
“I never used to consider myself as a stand-up,“ says Jenny, “more of an actress that’s gone wrong. But after 30 years in the business, I think I can now.
“When I won the Perrier Award, in the last century, it was easier because there was such little female competition.
“But things are changing, there are more women on the scene. There have been elements of sexism in this industry. As a female comedian you’re an acquired taste, when commissioning editors look at you, you need to have wider appeal than men do. It’s much easier to succeed in this business if you’re a Marmite man, than if you’re a Marmite woman.“
Indeed, love her or hate her, it’s clear that Jenny’s brand of comedy tends to attract mainly female fans.
So it was unexpected, perhaps, that she was unceremoniously dropped from Loose Women after a year on the show.
“You’d have to ask them, but it may be in part to do with some graffiti Janet Street-Porter and I did to a picture of Katherine Jenkins at the studios. I drew pubic hair on her using a biro. And I drew a blue ballbag on a picture of a man. It was just a bit of fun, it could have been anyone.
“It’s a shame because in terms of work, it was a piece of piss, and good money.“
Upfront and to the point, Eclarious, Jenny says, will feature stories, observational humour, dancing, and the occasional joke.
“It’s a long, desperate scream for attention,“ she sniggers, “a middle-aged woman who refuses to go quietly into the night.“
Given her apparent preoccupation with sweet things, will Jenny be tucking into a pudding after the show? “God no,“ she exclaims, “I’m totally disinterested in sweet things; I despise chocolate and hate the way that women are meant to eat it. Same with cupcakes.
“You know what I’d love to see when I walk into my dressing room? A friendly, small Shetland pony looking back at me,“ she laughs throatily.
“After all, I rarely remember anything about a place other than the dressing room."
Harrow Arts Centre, take note.
Eclarious is at Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End, on Friday, May 17, from 8pm. Details: www.harrowarts.com or 020 8416 8989