Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was like receiving a moneyshot facial of closure for me and I loved it! Perhaps I should explain...
For years, nay, decades now I've been a fan of Jennifer Saunders, her hit show Absolutely Fabulous and the myriad of satellite projects revolving about her. I enjoyed the work she did with her comedy partner Dawn French. Before that I was a fan of the '80s British tv series The Young Ones, and when I realized both women had appeared in episodes of that show I wanted to know how that came about. Later I would discover the show Girls On Top and wonder where that fit in, it being so very much like The Young Ones, and how was it Tracy Ullman was a part of that project. I'd heard through the grapevine that Saunders and Young Ones star Adrian Edmondson were married. Was that before, during or after they met in the '80s? Did they meet in the '80s or was there prior history? These are all inconsequential questions that only a fan would give a shit about, and that's the target of Bonkers: My Life in Laughs.
The first half of the book is about those early days, when Saunders was scrounging about for something to do with her life and Dawn French fell into her lap. They were fortunate enough to come along at a time when a comedy troupe was in need of a female act, and thus they met The Young Ones gang. In these glorious pages, illuminated with the help of a good many photographs, many of my questions were answered. Wonderful coincidences abound. Familiar faces pop up left and right. Hilarious anecdotes explode across the page at regular intervals. It was this first half of the book that had me ready and willing to hand over a 5 star rating to Bonkers.
The second half had me reeling that rating back in. I wasn't surprised. Right at the start Saunders admits she might not have the necessary baggage and skeletons in the closet that would bring her memoir up to the rollercoaster ride, tear-jerker level of autobios often churned out by celebrities and such these days. Hers is actually a fairly normal life. She prefers things a bit low-key. Not a terrible lot of terrible things have happened to her. This is not to say she hasn't had her share of trials, but either they aren't that dramatic or she does an excellent job of under-dramatizing them. The second half isn't bad, it's just that it didn't have me all wrapped up in it as the first half did. I was a little worried though, because at one point Saunders actually begins talking about writing this book. You know you've run out of things to say when that happens. Thankfully, she jumps off that wayward wagon before it flies over the cliff edge and crashes in the canyon below.
Guilt-ridden admission: This was my "Homer" bowling ball gift to my wife this Christmas. Not that she isn't a big Saunders fan, but I bought this book for her for selfish reasons. I wanted to read it.