OVER THE GRUMP Backed by a new generation of fans Jenny Éclair is arriving into the best years of her career. The Grumpy Old Women star tells Yasmin Sulaiman why she’s now returning to stand-up

I t may have been 15 years since Jenny Éclair 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, Éclair’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 a conscious effort to keep abreast of the rising stars in UK comedy, in name if not in

22 THE LIST 4–18 Mar 2010

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, Éclair 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.

Sarah Millican The potty-mouthed Geordie lass gives us her own hilarious take on the battle of the sexes, both with her stand-up and in her raft of appearances on Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You. And though she may have been compared in her time to Thora Hird, her homely demeanour masks a streak that would make Sadowitz wince. The Stand, Glasgow, Fri 12 Mar. Rhod Gilbert Rhod Gilbert is funny, dark and surreal, and that Welsh baritone gives his proclamations an even deeper resonance. If you choose to measure comedic prowess based on appearances on panel shows, DVDs and Welsh tourism ads, then Gilbert is surely in the big leagues. Rhod Gilbert and the Cat that Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst, King’s Theatre, Wed 24 Mar.

Jimmy Carr The Cambridge-educated jokesmith left his cushy graduate job at Shell to make his claim to the throne of the King of the One-liner. And he still seems to be up there, bringing the reassurance of at least a little bit of funny to innumerable Channel 4 panel formats. Rapier Wit, Clyde Auditorium, Fri 26–Mon 29 Mar.

Cardinal Burns The sketch show format is tough to pull of live, but this pair comprising Seb Cardinal (pictured) and Dustin Demri-Burns deliver funny voices, celebrity satire and grotesque characterisation to hilarious effect. Universal, Glasgow, Thu 11 Mar.

Mark Nelson In a festival rife with comics intent on pushing an audience’s boundaries (Sadowitz, Jeffries and Boyle for three), the former Scottish Comedian of the Year looks set to challenge the lot by Offending the Senses. The Stand, Glasgow, Sun 28 Mar.

Bridget Christie Having robed herself in historical garbs to muck about like it was 1660 in her last two shows, Christie delivers a slightly less bonkers set to recall her time as an accidental diarist at the Daily Mail. Blackfriars, Glasgow, Sun 14 Mar. Jim Jeffries Stamping a steel-toed boot in the face of political correctness, this Aussie potty-mouth scored a List first when he plummeted from a five-star review to a one-star review in the space of a year. C’mon Jimmo, give us something brave and magnificent again! And not just that shambolic FHM mince. Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me, King’s Theatre, Sun 14 Mar.