Jenny Eclair, ex-Loose Woman, novelist, Perrier winner and survivor of I'm A Celebrity, joined us for a live webchat in September 2012 to talk about her new book (Life, Death and Vanilla Slices) and her nationwide stand-up tour (something she says will give her enormous pleasure and varicose veins.)
Q: I did so enjoy your last two novels. I will order the new one for my kindle right now. Do you prefer writing or stand-up? And how did you come up with the title for your new book? It's great! rosiemus
A: Good, yes, get ordering right now! I like the mix of stand-up and writing, when I'm doing a lot of stand-up, I crave being at home writing, but when the writing's going badly I want to be showing off on stage. To be honest, the trouble with writing is that you dont get applause at the end of the day, I like applause, Mac should invent an applause button on your computer that gives you a massive cheer every thousand words.
The title was tricky, it makes sense once you've read the book, but it might sound a bit cakey and cute which could put people off!
Q: I saw on twitter that you said you got fired from Loose Women. What happened? beabop
A: Hahahaha, yes, they said it was my decision - but actually it wasn't, they didn't renew my contract and I was gutted. It was a dead cushy job with a decent income (but less than people would expect). It was near my house and very convenient - oh well, their loss, the fools. I think I was an odd fit - anyway, I think getting sacked is a good kick up the bum sometimes and it forces you to be more creative
Q: Have you ever done any straight acting? Would you like to? Are there the roles for older women? abfab
A: Yes, I HAVE! I did Killing of Sister George, Steaming and some hybrid West End shows that were part acting part rubbish - Mum's The Word being one of them - needed to be much harder hitting for the West End. I've also written several plays, the last being The Andy Warhol Syndrome which I toured and performed for Radio 4. I would like to do more straight acting, I want to be a Mum in the Inbetweeners. If there aren't any roles, I will have to write my own. Grrrrr.
Q: I would like to ask if - being interviewed on Gransnet, being a self-confessed geriatric and a Grumpy Old Woman - you are a secret Gransnetter? NfkDumpling
A: I thought by LAW you had to be a nanna and I'm not - but now I've snooped round the offices I shall be snooping round the site. I have to be careful with the internet and my addictive personality, I have to ration my twitter/browsing minutes - however I think the whole thing does make one feel less lonely. Twitter is great when you're on the road and feeling like you're the last person awake in a Holiday Inn.
Q: I love you on TV - but when I saw your live show on tour I was a bit taken aback by your liberal use of one or two good old Anglo-Saxon words which wouldn't be considered suitable for programmes like Loose Women! Is that the real you, or is it just done for effect and/or to attract a wider audience? Ana
A: I'm a terrible swearer, I do it because I'm showing off and it makes me laugh. I also have no trouble with words some people find offensive, however I believe there is a difference between performing live for adults and being on telly when children can be watching. I can be polite Jenny and I can be rude Jenny, mostly I'm a mix. I don't do it to attract a bigger audience, I think if anything it might put people off. Hmmm. *Thinks more about swearing. Realises can't help it!*
Q: I've just bought a copy of your book and I was slightly thrown by the fact you called one of your characters Jean Collins. Every time I read it I think "Joan Collins is in a coma?!" Was this deliberate? misterigran
A: Not deliberate but I do reference the similarity in the book, how just one letter divides the two women - and how polar oppostite their lives are. Weirdly I've had a few real life Jean Collins contact me on twitter, saying it freaked them out to read they were in a coma!
Q: I enjoy all your TV and radio appearances. Were you worried about the constant portrayal of men in a bad light on Loose Women? Many people remarked that if a panel of men were as critical of women they would be in deep trouble! It made me laugh, but also feel rather guilty. Greatnan
A: I was very keen not to play it that way, I hope I didn't. I have been with the same man for 30 years and he's far too good for me. I hope I managed to get that across whenever possible, I find the slagging off of men lazy and dull, although on stage I will sometimes fire something across the bows. I've got some new material about how unobservant men are generally and I think it gets a big reaction because it's true. I generally reckon that we are wired slightly differently but I think respect is due on both sides. I also think my generation of women are more suspicious of men than we need be. I went to an all girls grammar school and it took me a long time to realise it's OK to have boys as friends - waffling now!
Q: I just googled to see who this is. I haven't got a question. JO4
A: Have a look at my website, you will learn all and more than you need to know!
Q: What was it like being in Grumpy Old Women? I imagine rather like being on Gransnet but on the telly. I do love a good rant. minette
A: I had the time of my life doing the live shows, we travelled round the UK and toured Australia, the show was translated into Finnish and Icelandic so we got to go over there to see foreign female comics perform our words too - which was ace.
The telly prog hit such a nerve - it was great to be part of this battalion of women that form the backbone of the country. We are currently in talks about a third touring show possibly for next year.
Q: I saw you on Masterchef recently. Were you disappointed not to make it further in the competition? ellasgranny
A: No, to be honest, I'm a liability in the kitchen, it was an utter cheek to even have a go. I've barely cooked since - in some respects it was a relief for once and for all to realise I don't like it very much and I'm not very good at it, however I do a fab hefty salad and my actual diet is quite healthy. I just don't have the cooking gene.
Q: Jenny do you miss doing stand-up? And what your favourite sandwich? Lucy Zelazowski (Facebook)
A: Back on tour on Saturday - if you happen to be in Leeds, after that there are a further 39 dates of "Eclairious" all around the country, all details on my website.
As for my favourite sandwich, I like the Pret bacon and scrambled egg if I'm in town of a morning and at home I will pile anything in, though I try and avoid bread as much as poss as I get a bit bloaty. At the moment I'm very big on goats cheese, beetroot and pine nuts, with spinach - a nice sturdy leaf which will withstand a hearty filling.
Q: Do you think you can train yourself to be funny? How should I go about being wittier? firenze
A: Oh - hmmm, now then....er no!
I think one is born with either funny bones or not, but I think wit can be practised. I think women tend to be funnier when they are in the company of people they trust, when they know they are going to be given the time to finish their anecdote without someone trampling all over it - the trick is not to waffle around the edges too much, stick to the story and don't forget the punchline. If you cant be funny or witty, be fascinating and if you can't do that sit back, shut up and look mysterious.
Q: How long does it take you to write an entire standup show? Isn't the thought of keeping everyone laughing for an hour or whatever completely terrifying? tidymind
A: I do an hour and a half - leave them wanting nothing more.
This one has taken three months on and off, but I'm always doing other things alongside - so it's very tricky. The show is never set in stone, new bits come with the performance and I drop stuff once I get bored of it.
Q: I saw on your blog that you bought a walnut with Adam and Eve inside for your husband's birthday. How did that go down? Elephantgran
A: Very well - last year he got a stuffed squirrel. He always wants a Bentley Continental but as Mick Jagger once sang "You Can't Always Get what You Want".
Q: I like the title of your new book. Did you come up with it? Also - Gransnet is renowned for talking about cake - so can I ask whether you prefer vanilla slices - or eclairs? melly
A: Oddly enough, I don't eat cake - never ever ever. I had an eating disorder years ago and the one thing I never got over was cake/pudding/biscuits - I don't have a sweet tooth and I actually dislike chocolate. I'd much rather have cheese.
I did like cake when I was younger and growing up in the North a cream cake was a big treat. Given the choice or be shot against a wall - I'd rather the vanilla slice.
Q: I like your glasses. I am so bad at choosing frames, I always end up disappointed and buying something boring and safe. Any tips for getting out of my comfort zone? effblinder
A: It's so hard isn't it, because they're such an expensive mistake if you go wrong. I go to Cutler and Gross but I always take the old man who is a designer and just good at knowing what suits me. I actually only have about three pairs and the thought of losing or breaking them makes me feel sick. I occasionally wear lenses but I can't read in them - so I wear them less and less. Varifocals are beckoning, but I'm resisting.
Q: I think I've heard you say your daughter is a student? But do you hope she will make you a grandma one day? barbarab
A: She finished last year and has boomeranged back home for the time being! She has a year's contract with Battersea Arts Centre and does some TV running work. She makes me laugh more than anyone but she also makes me worry myself sick. It's time for her to move out but London rents are so mad - as for the Grandma thing, I wouldn't dare ask, but in the meantime I have started looking at dachshunds.
Q: Just how tired are you of being asked by lazy/misogynist journos (and the editors who commission them) to comment on "are women funny/whither female comedy?" features? plainbellysneetch
A: Yes it does go on, but there is an interesting debate about comedy and gender, it's just that the same things tend to get said. It is weird that young men particularly still don't rate female comics, I've seen some terrible stuff on Twitter, but I think the actual industry is changing and there are a lot more good working women comics around at the moment and I think Sarah Millican's TV success is a real door opener. The worry at the moment is the sheer number of comics trying to get work, I never thought I'd be in an industry that was over-subscribed - but I think, due to the recession, there are a lot of young bright graduates who - for lack of job offers - are giving it a go. This is both a good and bad thing, the business is bursting at the seams with talent and everyone is fighting for an audience.
Q: I noticed on Twitter you describe yourself as a geriatric stand-up comic. Do you think your age is affecting your career (in a positive or negative way)? beeble
A: Both, I think it's given me a niche and my audience certainly reflects who and what I am - but I worry that the telly offers will dry up. I'm not a new name and I think telly can sometimes be obsessed with "new". Oh listen I'm freelance, if I'm not paranoid about my age, I'll be paranoid about something else, it's tough out there for a lot of people regardless of age - anyway I couldn't lie - look at the state of me, I'm so obviously 52!
Q: When you were in the jungle for I'm A Celeb what did you miss most about home? I am never sure if I would miss my family the most or whether I would JUST WANT A FLUSHING TOILET if forced to choose. bakergran
A: Yes the loo was quite traumatic and I'm a real bath girl, so I do remember coming out and needing seven baths before I felt vaguely human. I didn't really miss home, because I kept expecting to be out the next day and I knew whatever happened it couldn't go on forever, but it's a very surreal experience and much more hard core than I ever expected.
Q: How many years have you been touring for? Does it get easier or harder? What do you like (or dislike) most about it? I think I would miss my own bed too much. katysgran
A: I've been working for thirty years, you just get used to it, I don't mind the one night stands. I get driven - because driving myself, doing a show and then driving again would be dangerous. I like my driver, I have an iPad and do you know some hotels have got much posher mattresses than I have at home. I quite like the freedom from adult resposibility and now there's an M&S at most motorway service stations, touring is much tastier.