Dawn French Exclusive by Ros Wynne-Jones 07/12/2007
Dawn French clamps her hands round her special leather book... inside are all her secret thoughts on boys she likes and finds funny.
"I'm not sure I should show you," says Dawn, who may have turned 50 last month but is still a schoolgirl at heart. Eventually, she hands it over, and its pages show the inner workings of a creative comedy mind.
She has just interviewed 32 male comedians to find out what makes them tick for her new series, Boys Who Do: Comedy. And she kept a secret scrapbook throughout the whole process. Next to cut-out photographs of the comedians are Dawn's thoughts on each, in neat longhand, along with a collage of phrases, words and ideas from glossy mags.
Alongside Graham Norton are the words "How Dreamy Are You?" Vic Reeves has a pair of antlers glued to his head. When she gets to Lenny Henry, her husband of 23 years, Dawn beams at his picture and strokes his face through the Sellotape.
"Interviewing Len was quite strange," she says. "I already know everything about him so asking him about his childhood felt a bit weird."
The 32 comedians are Dawn's personal selection but there is one notable funnyman missing. Where is Ricky Gervais? Dawn shrugs. "Not in it." They've taken a few potshots at each other over the years, but is he not a comedy genius?
"I would have liked Daniel Kitson and Harry Hill in it," Dawn says, tactfully. "They were the only two I wanted and couldn't get because of timings."
Her biggest comedy hero remains long-time collaborator Jennifer Saunders, and the couple begin their final stage tour in February. "Sometimes I wonder how we've done it," she smiles, packing away her scrapbook. "We've spent our lives getting away with just being incredibly childish."
Fortunately she has no intention of growing up any time soon...
Dawn French's Boys Who Do: Comedy starts Sunday, 10.15pm, BBC1.
ONES TO WATCH
Marc Wootton - was Shirley Ghostman and also in the comedy/gameshow My New Best Friend.
Personal Fave: Jethro (comedian Jeff Rowe) - Cornish and hilarious.
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