Jenny Eclair: ‘I’m Almost Feral!’

The comedian tells us about her light-hearted approach to ageing.

Jenny Eclair might be best known for her work in Grumpy Old Women, but the 58-year-old is far from crotchety.

Born Jenny Hargreaves, all of the comedian’s moans about getting older are done with a cheeky glint in her eye.

Considering she spends so much time talking about age, how does she really feel about it?

We find out…

On exercise…

When asked how she maintains her health and wellbeing when touring with the Grumpies, Eclair lets out an explosive laugh. “I don’t, darling,” she giggles. “I let myself go – I’m almost feral, my toenails are six inches long.”

However, it’s clear you’ve got to take the comedian’s words with a pinch of salt. Sure, Eclair isn’t up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym, but she’s definitely less “feral” than she lets on.

“I’ve got a swimming costume,” she says. “But I’ve left it in the back of the tour car in a plastic bag for a couple of days, and I have a horrible feeling it might have gone mouldy.”

All jokes aside, she adds: “I take a swimming costume with me on the road, and if we’re in a hotel with a pool, or there’s one nearby, I’ll do that.”

Eclair’s stance on exercise is hugely relatable. “That’s the great thing about technology,” she says. “You can do yoga classes on YouTube – there are quick 15-minute ones.

“Of course, I’m a lazy cow, so do I ever do it? No! But the option’s there.”

On food…

Spending so much time away from home with a sporadic routine means it’s hard for Eclair to stay on top of her diet.

“The elasticated trousers are starting to cut in a bit,” she groans. “I’m on the brink of waddling.”

However, she appreciates that it’s a whole lot easier to be healthy on tour now, compared to how it used to be. In 1995, Eclair became the first solo female winner of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Perrier Comedy Award, so she’s seen a whole lot of changes during her time in the industry.

“It’s much easier now, because Marks & Spencer has revolutionised the motorway service station,” she explains. “Back in the day, it used to be Ginsters or nothing – now you can actually get a salad.

“I pick up bags of spinach now and again – I often leave them on the back seat of the car, but the good intention is there.”

Even though it’s easier to eat healthily, Eclair still has an axe to grind. She’s on the warpath, saying: “I’m sick to death of British hotel breakfasts.

“It’s the trough mentality of it all, when it’s buffet style – the waste is phenomenal. I’m always the last one down for breakfast, and there are just trays of stuff congealing that’s all going to get chucked away. I think the individual order is much better.”

On touring…

Touring can be a tough life, but Eclair is very much used to it by now. Her secret? Naps.
“I like an afternoon nap,” she whispers conspiratorially. “I love my bed, I love the duvet. It would be silly not to.”

When she’s not napping, Eclair spends her downtime looking at art. “If we’ve got a long day somewhere, the first thing I’ll do is head to a gallery,” she says. “Most of the time you’re on a train or stuck in the back of a car, so when I have a spare day, it’s nice to do that instead.”

She’s even dabbled in art herself as a way to relax, but with classic self-deprecation, she proclaims: “I paint very badly.”

On ageing…

Considering she’s part of a troupe called Grumpy Old Women, ageing is something that Eclair has been forced to consider – and she’s got a very level head about it all.

“There’s no point being scared of it,” she says frankly. “But, as my mother said, getting old is not for sissies.

“I think we’ve got the right to be scared of things going wrong with our bodies – cancers and weird medical things that throw themselves into your path at this age – but I don’t think you should be scared of looking older. It’s only the physical side of it that scares me.”

Eclair speaks with great affection about her mother, who’s just turned 89, and has evidently taught her a lot. “She’s extraordinary,” Eclair says. “She’s incredibly stoic and just keeps on going whatever – she’s remarkable.”

Grumpy Old Women Live is at Swansea Grand Theatre 23rd June www.swansea.gov.uk/swanseagrandtheatre.