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

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Fifi Geldof (left) with her sister Pixie at an event in 2013  

Like Fifi Geldof, I know how important it is to speak about depression

Rachael Lloyd
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering