British Heritage
Remember, Cherish, Learn.

French and Saunders

A Touchstone of British Comedy Heritage.

Few names in British comedy have the power to inspire laughter as readily as the dynamic duo French and Saunders. Comprised of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, their eponymous sketch comedy series "French and Saunders" emerged as a groundbreaking force in the comedy landscape. Heralded for its witty writing, flawless execution, and versatile performances, French and Saunders' legacy left an indelible imprint on British comedy heritage.

Establishing Their Legacy (1978–1987)

The seeds of this illustrious partnership were sown in 1978 when Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, both undergraduate students at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, discovered a shared passion for comedy. Their comedic synergy quickly became apparent, and they began to carve out a niche for themselves in London's burgeoning alternative comedy scene.

In the early 1980s, their performances at the now-legendary Comedy Store turned heads and brought them into the orbit of the wider comedy community, leading to appearances on the live comedy album of The Comic Strip. Their first mainstream television appearance, in The Comic Strip Presents..., marked the beginning of their ascent in the comedy world.

As the duo began to establish themselves in the "underground comedy" scene, they formed collaborations with many other talented actors and comedians. They starred in an edition of Channel 4's series "The Entertainers" and later went on to appear as comedy relief on the weekly music programme "The Tube" on the same channel. Their involvement in the programme "Girls on Top," which they wrote and starred in, further cemented their place in British comedy. By the time French and Saunders signed a long-term contract with the BBC in 1986, they had already set the stage for their future successes.

Triumph and Transformation (1987–2005)

In 1987, French and Saunders launched their sketch show, which would span six series and nine specials until 2005. The show's first series intentionally adopted a low-budget variety show aesthetic, offering an array of grandiose, often failed stunts and hilariously mistreated guest stars.

As the show progressed, its ratings skyrocketed, prompting the BBC to move it from BBC Two to BBC One in 1994. French and Saunders received increasingly higher budgets, which they used to craft elaborate parodies of mainstream culture, from iconic films such as "Thelma & Louise" and "Titanic" to popular music artists including Madonna and ABBA.

The sixth and final series, which aired in 2004, returned to the metafictional premise of the first series, highlighting French and Saunders' ability to continually reinvent their comedy style while retaining the wit and charm that had initially made them popular.

Comedic Legacy and Recognition

Their pioneering work in comedy earned them a place among the top 50 comedy acts ever in a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian. In 2006, they announced that their sketch show was "dead", marking the end of an era. Nevertheless, their impact was already etched in the annals of British comedy history.

The comedic brilliance of French and Saunders lies in their innovative approach to comedy, marked by their signature use of meta references and "accent checks" during sketches. The duo frequently broke character to engage with the audience, adding an additional layer of humour and unpredictability to their sketches.

The duo's live shows, while less frequent, were equally impactful. Their 1990 and 2000 UK tours, along with their "Still Alive" tour which ran until 2009, demonstrated their comedic prowess and adaptability. The tours showcased both new material and a selection of their favourite sketches, a testament to their consistency in delivering high-quality comedy.

French and Saunders’ reach extended beyond their own show, impacting the music industry as well. Their spoof all-girl group, Lananeeneenoonoo, and later the Sugar Lumps, succeeded in not only tickling funny bones but also raising funds for Comic Relief, a British charity.

Continuing Influence (2007–Present)

Even after the curtain fell on their sketch show, French and Saunders continued to make waves in the world of comedy. They featured in three two-hour radio shows on BBC Radio 2 in Christmas 2010, and later debuted their podcast, French & Saunders: Titting About, on Audible in 2020.

In 2021, they returned to the set of their original sketch series for a one-off special titled French and Saunders: Funny Women, which focuses on the history of women who have contributed to comedy.

Conclusion: A Cornerstone of British Comedy

French and Saunders' contribution to the realm of British comedy is nothing short of monumental. They broke the mould, creating a comedy style that was uniquely theirs. From the humble beginnings in the "underground comedy" scene, through their groundbreaking sketch show, to their recent ventures, French and Saunders have continually pushed the boundaries of comedy. They remain a crucial part of British comedy heritage, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and entertain.

Reviews (0)
No reviews yet.

The seeks to recognize individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and whose actions, in addition to their achievements, embody the character of the British people through commitment to British values, the British community and/or to Great Britain. Beyond demonstrated qualities of achievement and commitment, the serves to recognize the British Heritage contribution to the betterment of mankind.