Dawn French has more nights at the London Palladium this month and in October
Dawn French’s new stand-up show, Dawn French is a Huge Twat, had its London premiere at the Palladium last night, marking the first of a string of dates in capital for the 65-year-old.
The two-hour show features adorable anecdotes from throughout French’s 40-year comedy career, from when she started out alongside lifelong pal Jennifer Saunders in British TV series The Comedy Strip, through to Dibley and Harry Potter.
On opening night, French bounded around the stage like a woman a decade (or two) younger than her age. At one point she got so engrossed in a joke about her ‘face fanny’ that her stage manager played the opening music to the next scene to hurry her along. French, wearing her trademark grin, laughed towards the side of the stage as she realised she’d missed her cue.
Although French hasn’t actually done that much stand-up comedy on her own, she is a natural at it, mostly because she delivers her lines like a warm conversation between friends. It makes you hang on every word. It’s a joyously self-effacing, deliciously gossipy few hours backstage on 40 years in show business.
Here are seven of our favourite moments from the first London night.
Dustin Hoffman said he wanted to direct an episode of The Vicar of Dibley
At an industry party in the 1990s Hoffman overheard that French played a vicar, then brashly said he’d direct an episode of the show. French does a grand job of putting him down a peg or two, playing up the ridiculousness of the notion that Hoffman could simply demand he would direct an episode of a BBC sitcom he hadn’t the first clue about.
Dawn and her ex-husband Lenny Henry turned up as Michael Jackson and his chimp at Elton John’s birthday party
In what is the show-stopping anecdote of the evening, French recalls a time in the 1990s when Elton John invited her and Lenny Henry to his 50th birthday party. It was fancy dress, and so French and Henry turned up as Michael Jackson and his chimp. Lenny in ‘white face’ and French dressed literally in a boiling hot chimp outfit. There’s some absolutely hilarious bits about how she was sweating so much that it felt like her skin was falling off – Elton’s people even directed them away from the Your Song hitmaker as they didn’t recognise that it was French and Henry under the outfits. An absolute howler.
Dawn injured herself jumping into a fake version of the iconic Vicar of Dibley puddle
You’ll remember that iconic Dibley scene where Geraldine jumps in a huge puddle that goes up to her face? Well, The Paul O’Grady show asked her to recreate the skit, which she did, obligingly, but when she jumped into the puddle she badly twisted her ankle. Ever the professional, French carried on with the skit even though she was in serious pain.
She can’t help but pull that massive, endearing smile
Early in the show French talks about her big sharky grin. She just cannot help but pull it, she says, as a reel of hundreds of photos of her with the smile, as wide as her face, are plastered over the stage.
The comedian thinks she has a ‘neck fanny’
….Yep, and she has a brilliant way of showing it off to the audience too!
She once misheard Ben Elton and thought she’d been offered a job when she hadn’t
It is the sort of mortifying moment Geraldine Granger might have gotten herself into: once, at a party, French thought Ben Elton had offered her a role in his big new London show. She gleefully accepted, but wait, had she misheard him all along? There’s a happy ending though, as Elton went on to write a show especially for French to make up for it.
She’s embracing the grey these days
French left her hair to go its natural colour during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back. After going short she is now back to her iconic bob cut, but it is now a silver colour. It takes a moment to get used to, but allows her natural colour to shine through, making her a great role model for older women who want to celebrate their natural colour.
Tickets for Dawn French’s live shows are here; Dawn French is a Huge Twat plays September 22, 23 and 24 and October 19, 20 and 21