Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Jennifer Saunders at the Southbank Centre and Why it's Never Cool to be a Superfan

Anyone who follows my blog (as much as it’s possible to follow something that doesn’t actually move for months on end – sorry!) will know that it’s not a Jennifer Saunders fan site. Jennifer Saunders is my holey old jumper that I put on when I’m feeling a little unwell or upset and need to hear jokes that I know the punch-lines to or just be in trusting, uncomplicated, familiar company. You can read my first post for more thoughts on this subject, but the overall point is that we all have these holey old jumpers (authors, bands, comedians, actors, etc.); we just can’t wear them all the time. There are new authors, bands, comedians, actors, etc. to be discovered, work to be done, relationships to be had and life to be lived. In fact, I now use Jennifer Saunders as a marker of how well things are going in my life. If the DVDs are cold then life is probably quite sweet.  

That said…Oh my God!...She was at the Southbank Centre being interviewed and I went and I’ve never seen her live before and…oh my God!...I’m such an unbelievable sap that I almost cried when she came on the stage. What’s wrong with me? I’m a 36-year-old woman attending a literary event not a 12-year-old Justin Bieber fan hoping to get close enough to the stage to have his spit rain down me. How embarrassing! What’s more, I immediately felt possessive. What were all those other people doing there pretending like they knew what Jennifer’s all about, laughing at obscure Comic Strip references as if they understood them? Pah! She’s my Jennifer Saunders! Bugger off! But then it became quite obvious that she’s not just mine; the woman next to me looked as if she was going to kill me when I opened my bag of sweets noisily and she potentially missed a few sacred words from her hero; one weirdo had come all the way from Canada to see her and when given the opportunity to ask her a question couldn’t gather her thoughts to say anything but a garbled mumble about a diamond ring; other people came forward to ask questions, all prefixed by the words, ‘I love you, Jennifer.’ And do you know what? At no point during the whole interview did Jennifer Saunders look in my direction to seek me out, say hey, find out how I am. After all these years and the hours we’ve spent in each other’s company, this was the least I had expected.

I realise that all of this makes me sound a little crazy, but I think that it’s that pretend closeness that makes people crazy. Some part of us really thinks that we know celebrities and so they must know us back. This became apparent to me years ago when I was in a pub in Brighton and saw a familiar bloke sitting on a nearby table. ‘I’m sure I went to school with that guy,’ I told my mate. ‘I should pop over and say hi.’ Turns out it was Will Young, but I was convinced that we knew each other. Thankfully my friend stopped me from making an absolute tit of myself.

With this in mind, I guess meeting our heroes will always be an anti-climax and this is why I didn’t stay for Jennifer Saunders’ book signing after the interview. I knew that I would say something embarrassing and sycophantic or drop a nonsense on the table in front of her and she would probably roll her eyes at me or glaze over because I was the fiftieth or sixtieth mentalist to approach her thinking that there was some sort of closeness between us. So I kept my cool, went home, put the day behind me and put on an episode of Absolutely Fabulous instead.

Before I wrote this blog I thought I would do a quick Google search about superfans (understatedly defined by Wikipedia as ‘[people] who show a great deal of excitement for something’) and very quickly realised that compared to other nutjobs all I have is a mild case of admiration for Jennifer Saunders. There are people who have had plastic surgery to look like their idols, sent them letters in menstrual blood and covered their bodies in tattoos and that’s not to mention devotion shown in phenomenal volumes of calls, tweets and cash spent. One woman changed her name to Mrs Kanye West and another broke her own leg to be like Jessie J when she was injured in 2011. Perhaps most extreme, one One Direction fan killed her own dog to get their attention on Twitter. 

Yeah, by comparison I think I’m fine!  
(FYI, the JS tattoo pictured above is not on my leg. Also pictured, chest tattoo of Radiohead's Thom York with nipple for eye. Hmmm!)

Diazepam for Sale, the debut novel by Hayley Sherman is now available on Amazon
Time travel as a cure for depression, the Mods and Rockers on the West Pier, a vengeful Sat Nav lady, a seagull-stalked Frank Sinatra and Diazepam for sale... 
A fairytale for a prozac nation...
Fiction for a world that doesn't behave the way it should....  

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  1. I was there too and I felt a bit like you, like - "get off, she's MINE!":)) This is quite funny in retrospect but that was my initial reaction! So I understand what you're saying.

  2. I was going to reply with 'I'm glad I'm not the only one', but that contradicts the point I was making! Good to have confirmation that I'm not completely bonkers, though.

  3. I was there - and met her after. My boyfriend and I were at the Viva Forever previews and she was sat infront of us. (As a joke) we touched her hair sliiightly (she didn't notice) and my boyfriend decided to tell Jen this. 'I touched you once'. 'Oooh aren't you naughty' she replied. Face palm.

  4. I went to Jennifer Saunders book signing last week and my reaction at seeing her suprised me - I basically couldn't think of a single thing to say. And it was weird seeing other fans too. But she was really lovely.

  5. I've always felt this way about potentially meeting one of my heroes (heroines). It would be so disappointing to have the opportunity to speak to her and then not say anything worth saying or hearing, which in no way would adequately convey what her work has meant to me, and she'd have heard it all before anyway! I totally get it. How lovely that you got to see JS live, though. I'd have had the same reaction. :) Thanks for writing about it.

  6. this weirdo traveled all the way from detroit to be there. i felt like i needed a gold star in recognition of my fandom, but settled for an autograph and a "yeah detroit, brilliant!" from 'fer

  7. I saw Jennifer at cheltenham literature festival, went to the signing after. I also babled nonsense at her and thought Id be funny and round it all off with a "are you going to do the accent?" for about two seconds she just looked at me...... I thought NOOOO I knew I shouldnt have said that!!! Face palm!! but graciously she looked away and did it. How are u? lol.... they say never meet your idols.... i dont know what happened to me!!

  8. My personal favourite was the one who shouted "JENNIFER! I LOVE YOU! I'M MARRIED!" as if those two things were somehow related.

    Anyway, anyway, anyway. My best friend and I are huge fans, and we also got emotional when she walked onto the stage. We worship this woman. And even though we were really nervous about it, because we were thinking about all the ways it could go spectacularly wrong, we decided we absolutely had to stay and get our books signed. I wanted to actually meet her, just to be one of the many fans who had shown up to express their appreciation and admiration of her work.

    So my best friend and I go up to the table, and my best friend starts off by saying how much of an inspiration Jennifer has been to her throughout the years. Jennifer responds to this by asking, "What have I inspired you to do, exactly? I hope it's to be more silly." And then I popped my head onto my BF's shoulder and said "Yes, that's exactly it!" Jennifer smiled at us and added, "I hope I've inspired you to not take life so seriously." My BF and I both smile back and proudly say, "Oh, we don't!"

    We left the table completely hysterical, of course, but we didn't start the hysterical laughing until we had walked away. I'm really glad we stayed for the signing, as I can now say with absolute certainty that Jennifer Saunders is an utterly charming and lovely human being!