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INTERVIEW: Rosanna Rothery chats to comedian Jenny Eclair about 30 years in showbiz

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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SHOWBIZ for Jenny Eclair is not about pool parties, designer handbags and hanging out with the A listers. The truth is, life on the road has a far more dark, dreary and drab side. You only have to take a look at the "glamour" shots, posted on her website – pictures she's taken in back room changing rooms on her tour of the UK – to see what she means.

"Dear God I have been some places where if I had been by myself, I think I might have topped myself," she laughs. "Fortunately, I have a very loyal driver/director who is with me and we do have a really good laugh."

Being a realist, who has spent the past 30 years in the entertainment business, Jenny understands more than most why it's just not pragmatic to pamper performers.

"There is no point in spending all the money back stage where nobody gets to see it. There are some really grim places. I've always had that in my career though. For the first ten years I spent my entire career getting changed next to a deep fat fryer in a pub kitchen."

For many of us Jenny represents the woman's woman. Over the past three decades she's championed us gals who feel average, ordinary and aware of our own imperfections.

"I explode the myth quite quickly that showbusiness is a glamorous lifestyle," she says. "I think it's quite obvious that I am bit of a bag lady really. I would like to be better dressed and more glamorous and all that sort of thing but I am slightly untidy and a bit dishevelled, bits fall off."

Jenny is pretty wary of the pressures women can feel under to look glamorous.

"I kind of resent the whole set up of it," she says. "I hate the word 'pamper'. I do a lot of stuff about being brought up in the North by a Northern mother so I was brought up in a pamper-free zone. I think I've always been a bit suspicious of all that kind of thing."

Equally, there are no limousines or taxis for Ms Eclair.

"I would hate it if I couldn't go on public transport," she confesses. "I'm a big user of public transport. I was travelling across town to East London today and I will be using buses all the way."

Jenny may have been one of the first female comedians on the circuit but she appears happy to embrace and encourage the new wave of women joke tellers.

"I think the quality of comedy and shows out there is fantastic. Check your local art centres and theatres, the touring circuit is so strong at the moment. There are some brilliant shows out there. Even if you can't stand me, go and see someone else."

Her new show, Eclarious, which she brings to the Plough this month, links the fact she's been touring for 30 years with the reality that she's been in the same relationship for 30 years. The first half will be random stand-up (exploring subjects like why men don't make good spies) followed by a second half that will be slightly more anecdotal.

The Grumpy Old Woman star doesn't think her style of comedy has changed hugely over three decades. She's still as rude as ever.

"I still enjoy shock tactics. I still have filthy sense of humour. I love a good fart joke. Nothing really changes."

And she's not about to give it up any time soon either.

"I'll be dying in the saddle. I've got no pension. I've got no money so I'll be gigging until I drop."

Her self-effacing show sounds like a reality-tonic for ordinary women everywhere.

"We'll just have hoot, a really nice laugh and you will go home feeling so much better about yourself because I might even show you my knees," she laughs.

Apparently her knees are the most appalling sight on the planet. "Once you have seen them you will feel so much better about yourself physically and you'll just feel like everyone is in the same boat. It is quite reassuring. It's a kind of battle cry, an acknowledgement that we are all in this together really."

Jenny Eclair is at the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on Friday, November 16, 8pm. Tickets: £18.50. Box office: 01805 624624. Check out Jenny's backstage "glamour" shots at www.jennyeclair.com

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