All About AbFab

Dateline: January 10, 2000

Absolutely Fabulous, Jennifer Saunder's wicked satire of "trendy" PR people and their hangers-on, established in a very few episodes a completely believable, if outrageous, lifestyle. Its genesis and success is equally fascinating, particularly how it has caught on around the world. Here's all you need to know about the series.

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders started out in stand-up comedy, playing at the Comic Strip club in London in the early 1980s. They admit now they had no idea what they were doing, and unlike the guys who did the same material every night (including Jennifer's future husband Adrian Edmondson), Dawn and Jennifer thought they had to come up with a new act for every show. On television, they appeared in many Comic Strip Presents productions on Channel 4 and BBC-2, and guest-starred in the seminal alternative comedy The Young Ones.

In 1985, Dawn, Jennifer, American Ruby Wax, and future big-time star Tracey Ullman starred in Girls On Top on ITV about four flatmates. Everyone contributed to the scripts, but Jennifer ironically enough was often too shy to speak up in rehearsals, and was stuck in the role of the quiet, slightly dim girl. Ruby Wax added a certain shrillness to the series, although her contributions would later be invaluable as Absolutely Fabulous evolved.

French and Saunders went on to a hugely successful series of double-act sketch series for the BBC, and continue to be two of the Beeb's highest paid performers. It was in a sketch called "Mother Modern and Daughter" during one show that audiences got their first glimpses of the Edina Monsoon character. Dawn, rather improbably, played Saffron, in her familiar character as straight-laced foil to her frantic mother, though in the series the part would be performed by Julia Sawalha.

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