‘The joke was on me’: The comedy sketch that left Dawn French in tears

Jan 02, 2024
The revelation gives fans a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes challenges of creating comedy. Source: Getty Images.

Dawn French, the beloved comedian and one half of the iconic duo French and Saunders, has recently revealed the untold story behind the sketch that led to the end of their legendary series.

In a candid interview for a new BBC documentary, French, 66, disclosed how a 2004 sketch proved to be a breaking point, resulting in her decision to bring the curtain down on the beloved show.

The sketch in question involved French dressing up to impersonate the renowned singer Anastacia, a comedic twist that didn’t sit well with the Vicar of Dibley star. Contrary to the audience’s laughter, French found herself struggling to see the humour in the situation.

“Instead of finding it funny, I just thought: ‘Oh I don’t like it, I don’t like it’,” French said.

“It just felt like I wasn’t in control of the comedy, the joke was on me.

“It wasn’t funny enough.”

The pivotal moment occurred during the last sketch of the day, leaving French emotionally shaken.

“I came off the stage, it was the last thing we did that day, and I remember saying to everyone, like I would, ‘Bye everyone, bye everyone’, and I offered to buy everyone a car so that they liked me,” she explained.

“And I got in the car and just wept all the way home. I hated that, I hated everything about the day.

“I’m never going to do that again. I’m never going to feel humiliated like that again.

“I was just a bit weak. And I just hated it. And I hadn’t ever hated it.”

The revelation gives fans a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes challenges of creating comedy, illustrating that even the most celebrated figures face moments of doubt and vulnerability.

In a recent candid revelation, French opened up about yet another challenging behind-the-scenes moment. In this instance she shared an experience that left her in emotional distress and discomfort, all sparked by what seemed to be an innocuous gag from the beloved series The Vicar of Dibley.

For those who fondly remember the beloved British sitcom, one of the standout moments was undoubtedly the scene in which French’s character Geraldine Granger fell into a seemingly innocent puddle. This moment has become etched in the collective memory of viewers and remains one of the show’s most memorable and hilarious segments.

However, during a recent one-woman show, French revealed that behind the laughter was a series of painful years for the 66-year-old.

“One of the most enjoyable moments in my work life was being asked to jump in that puddle It seemed to tickle a few funny bones. So much so that it was repeated in another episode,” she told her audience recently, as per The Daily Mail.

“Honestly to this day, people still send me films of themselves jumping into puddles.”

While there is no doubt the scene is beloved by fans across the world and stands to this day as an iconic moment in comedy history, French spoke of how disaster struck when she was asked to recreate the moment during an appearance on The Paul O’Grady Show in 2009.

“They constructed a 10ft-high hill out of scaffolding covered in AstroTurf. The idea was that there was a long enough drop for me to disappear into,” she said.

“Then some bright spark had the idea of having a shallow silicon membrane containing two inches of water on top so that, as I jumped through, the water would splash up and look like a deep puddle.

“But what was I falling onto? The answer is absolutely nothing. Except for 10ft below there were two very thin crash mats in a film studio with a flat concrete floor. Any fool would know this was a disaster in the making. Any fool but me.

“The producers took me to show me and see if I was all right with it. And I replied ‘Of course I’m all right with it, I’m British’.”

French went on to reveal that after a considerable drop, she knew something wasn’t right.

“I went 10ft down and plump on to the two crash mats. One leg twisted very awkwardly underneath me and I landed very heavily. I heard the worst twanging noise you could ever imagine,” she said.

“I knew I was in trouble but I completed the sketch. I clearly felt like I’d rather die than admit weakness.

“The producers were asking if I was all right but I said I was fine. I drove five hours home to Cornwall trying to convince myself everything was all right but it wasn’t.”

Over the subsequent “painful years”, French met with a sports therapist who suggested eight weeks of rest for her knee.

He foresaw a future knee replacement and offered three steroid injections.

The problems with her knee eventually caught up with her when she was forced to cancel her Dawn French Is A Huge Twat tour to undergo surgery.



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