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Interview: comedian Jenny Eclair on irritating habits, reality TV and life after 50 ahead of Grumpy Old Women at Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: April 16, 2014

Jenny Eclair, Kate Robbins and Susie Blake star in Grumpy Old Women

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DON’T ever give Jenny Eclair a cup of tea with the bag still in – and if you do – don’t ever think about buying her a bottle of cheap perfume to apologise.

The 54-year-old isn’t particularly fussy but there are things in life that drive her totally bonkers.

“The other day I was at a BBC meeting in media city and I asked for a glass of water and it came in a mug,” she says, indignantly.

“A mug! Apparently the dishwasher was on and all the glasses were in there. I raised my eyebrows.

“Tea bags are another thing. When people hand you a cup of tea and leave the tea bag in. That annoys me. What are you meant to do with it exactly?”

If you’re reading this and get the impression that Jenny’s a pampered celebrity with diva-like requests, you’d be wrong.

She’s merely in full Grumpy Old Woman mode – a persona adopted for the latest tour of Grumpy Old Women which is making its way to Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre for a run of performances.

Jenny was part of the original ‘grumpies’ when the series first aired on BBC Two in 2004 with contributions from the likes of Germaine Greer and Ann Widdecombe.

On this particular outing she’s joined by actress Susie Blake of Mrs Brown’s Boys and Coronation Street fame and singer and actress Kate Robbins.

“We’ve got a ‘day of a Grumpy Old Woman’ divided into a pie chart, which includes grooming, worrying, nagging, and watching television,” she says.

“There’s a kind of middle class Jeremy Kyle show, a nagging masterclass and a bit of a dance-off.

“I’m the world’s worst dancer but Susie’s really good. You never know, she could make a career out of twerking.”

Used to touring as a solo stand-up performer, Jenny says she’s enjoying the social aspect of the tour with a certain etiquette already established among the three woman on the highways of Britain.

“We have a daily queen of the car who gets to choose how many lavatory stops we have and what's on the radio,” she says.

“There’s usually a 20-minute gossip scheduled and when it comes to food Susie likes a hot lunch, Kate isn’t bothered and I’m a bit food particular.”

By that does she mean she’s a bit of a snob? “Oh no,” she says. “I’m just hungry and when you get past the age of 50 you just like regular food and lavatory stops.”

Grumpy Old Women is clearly a project close to Jenny’s heart – she co-writes the material as well as performing it – but she’s certainly not adverse to appearing in other projects including her fair share of reality TV.

In recent years she’s appeared in Splash! and I’m A Celebrity.. Get Me Out Of Here! and doesn’t have any regrets about any of it.

“I think we’ve made a monster [out of celebrity culture] but it’s fun to watch and I subsidise my income from doing celebrity game shows and reality shows and I’ve never tried to hide that,” she says.

“I don’t make enough as a novelist, which is what I love doing the most, and I don’t write quickly enough.

“I think everyone in the business has to be realistic unless you’re at the very top when you don’t have to consider that.”

Times are changing though and Jenny admits that there has been a dismantling of the comedy establishment in recent years and there are more opportunities available to young comedians than ever before.

“It’s no longer an exclusive Oxbridge club,” she says.

“When I started 32 years ago it was a real battle and a fight and a bit of a mini war and I just didn’t feel part of the gang.

“Now people are very open and I think social media has played a part in that.”

Grumpy Old Women is at the Everyman next Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.45pm. For tickets, from £24, call 01242 572573.

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