Jennifer Saunders (born 6 July 1958 in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England) is an English comedienne, actor and comedy writer.
She is most widely known for writing and starring in the popular British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.
Saunders attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. There she met Dawn French, and the two performed together after graduation, working the festival, cabaret, and stand-up circuits. They were a central part of the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s.
She and French created French & Saunders, a popular sketch comedy show for the BBC, which still runs sporadically to this day.
Both comediennes are able to play a seemingly endless array of roles in parodies ranging from Fellini to Baywatch to The White Stripes. The shows are still only available on video in heavily edited "best of" compilations.
Absolutely Fabulous was in fact based largely on a French and Saunders sketch called Modern Mother and Daughter.
Both Saunders and French were also founding and ongoing members of the comedy troupe The Comic Strip, along with many of the comedians who were to become their generation's most well-known comedy performers such as Peter Richardson, Rik Mayall, and Robbie Coltrane, as well as Saunders' husband Adrian Edmondson.
The Comic Strip was a completely different half hour film each week. One week featured a parody of spaghetti westerns, another was a black and white film about a hopelessly goofy boy trying to host a hip party for a cool beat poet who's a friend of the family.
In the episodes Bad News and More Bad News, Saunders plays a trashy rock journalist touring with the fictional heavy metal band Bad News. The character of Edina Monsoon was actually not based on a character called Eddie Monsoon created by Edmondson for the episode "Eddie Monsoon - A Life?", in which Eddie Monsoon was a failed comedian; the name is borrowed but there is no other resemblance.
Saunders also starred with Edmondson in a Comic Strip film called The Supergrass, a little-known parody of slick '80s police dramas directed by Peter Richardson.
Saunders appeared as all five Fuddle sisters in Happy Families, a six episode BBC situation comedy written by Ben Elton (cowriter of The Young Ones) and starring Edmonson as her brother Guy Fuddle, who needs to reunite the family for the sake of their dying grandmother, also played by Saunders.
Dawn French, Stephen Fry, and Chris Langham also appeared.
Saunders appeared in the Amnesty International The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball live benefit in 1989, along with Dawn French and others. She co-directed the show with one of her comedy heroes John Cleese.
Jennifer Saunders came to international attention for Absolutely Fabulous, which she created, wrote, and starred in as the irrepressible, irresponsible, impossible Edina Monsoon.
The show has run for five full seasons over the course of about 15 years, and there have also been one two-part movie, and two special episodes. The entire show is available on DVD]. The show was finally put to rest after the fifth series.
She has also appeared on the US television shows Roseanne and Friends, and in the Spice Girls' movie Spice World. The Spice Girls have returned the favor by appearing on French and Saunders, and Emma Bunton (formerly Baby Spice) had a recurring role as herself on the fifth season of Absolutely Fabulous.
Along with Dawn French, Saunders declined an OBE in 2001. In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2004 she played the Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2; in the film she performed the song "Holding Out for a Hero" (among others).
Jennifer Saunders is married to fellow comedian Adrian Edmondson, with whom she has three daughters, Eleanor (born 22 January 1986), Beatrice (born 1987) and Freya (born 1990).
Saunders is currently working on two new series in 2006, Jam and Jerusalem, about a Women's Insitute, and The Vivienne Vyle Show. Jam and Jerusalem will air later on BBC1 in 2006, and The Vivienne Vyle Show will be filmed as a pilot.