Veronica Lee: Losing your comedy partner is no laughing matter

 

Share

Last week, it was a pleasurable surprise to hear Dawn French announce her first solo tour. Since she and erstwhile comedy partner Jennifer Saunders did their last gigs together in 2008, French has successfully focused on writing books and gave no hint that she had ambitions to start performing solo at the age of 56.

She describes the show, 30 Million Minutes, which begins in June, as “somewhere between a monologue, a play and an autobiographical slide show with a few funnies thrown in” and she is working with director Michael Grandage, which augurs well. But can it live up to her previous work? Comics who have moved from double to solo acts have often experienced mixed fortunes.

After decades together, a comedy partner becomes almost a physical extension of you; Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, aka Ant and Dec, say that even in social gatherings they find themselves standing in the same positions (face-on, Ant on the left, Dec on the right). Duos can also achieve a strong emotional bond, extemporising easily because they intuitively know what their partner is thinking – which can lead to some awesome riffed comedy.

Performing without your other half, then, is like going on stage naked, particularly if the break  has been imposed suddenly by illness – as with Les Dennis and Ernie Wise, both of whose partners (Dustin Gee and Eric Morecambe, respectively) died of heart attacks at the height of their fame.

Happily, this doesn’t apply to French (pictured). But appearing solo for the first time means, at the very least, an adjustment of stage geometry. Sue Perkins, who made her name with Mel Giedroyc, said that when she did solo stand-up in 2005 (before teaming up again with Giedroyc to present The Great British Bake Off) she used only half the stage. “It’s as if there’s a space that isn’t my territory,” she said at the time.

However, lots of comics have made the transition from double to single with acclaim – among them Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Robert Newman and Frank Skinner – and have found their own comedic voices. And last year, David Baddiel – former partner of both Newman and Skinner – performed a corker of a show with Fame: Not The Musical, a thoughtful and hilarious critique of celebrity.

French has said that she’s going back on the road because she misses the sound of laughter. I can’t wait to join in.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
V&A museum in London  

Celebrating the cultural impact of PR at the V&A

Danny Rogers
 

Daily catch-up: will this be the election result? And other Questions To Which The Answer Is No

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn