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Dawn French: I nearly said no to Dibley

She feared it wasn't funny enough

Dawn French has revealed that she nearly turned down the Vicar Of Dibley because she did not think it was funny enough.

She said she thought the central character of Rev Geraldine Granger was too perfect to be funny – and would have preferred to play the dim-witted verger, Alice.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs today, she said: ‘I thought, “How on earth do you play a central character who's so blooming good?”

‘I thought, “Where are the flaws? Where is the monster in this woman?” That's what I understand comedy to be.

‘Alice was a very funny character from the off. But anyway, he [sitcom creator Richard Curtis] wouldn't let me play it.’

The role of Alice was taken by Emma Chambers instead.

Whatever her reservations, the show was hit with viewers. It ran for 13 years and the final episode, broadcast on New Year's Day 2007, was watched by 12.8 million people.

She also spoke to Radio 4‘s Kirsty Young about how she got into comedy ‘to control what people will laugh at when it comes to my physical shape’.

French, 55, said: ‘I think I’d like to decide what you find funny about my fatness. I don’t need you to be laughing at the fatness of me in a cruel or bullying way... so I think I’ve always wrestled that control into my domain.’

And she talked about the collapse of her marriage to Lenny Henry in 2010, saying it was sad but amicable amicable.

But she also revealed that their daughter, Billie, 21, was still subjected to racist taunts.

She said that ‘lots of racism came hurling at us’ because of their mixed-raced relationship, adding: ‘We tried not to be too bothered about that.

‘But he lived and probably still lives, with a certain amount of that at all times, and I’ve got a mixed-race daughter, who also lives with a certain amount of it at all times, and it’s shocking.’

French’s chosen discs for her desert island included Bring Me Sunshine by Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, while her chosen book was Puckoon by Spike Milligan.

Posted: 23 Dec 2012

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