We’ve known for a long time that the wonderful Sir Lenny Henry is a national treasure, and now it’s official. The veteran comedian and actor won the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards on October 13, honoring his 50-year career. This coveted award is the only gong at the NTAs not voted for by the public, and past winners include Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry and David Tennant.
Henry recently dominated our screens playing Sadock, a Harfoot The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The actor has made a big impact in film and television, and on stage, with incredible performances over the years Sandman, Who is the doctor?, Extensive church, Othello.
From his sketch comedy endeavors to his philanthropy, the 64-year-old has an impressive list of accomplishments under his belt. Below we take a look at some of Sir Lenny Henry’s walking moments.
Make a name for yourself
Henry’s career began at the age of 16, when he appeared on television new face talent show in 1975. He won the show with impersonations of Stevie Wonder, Frank Spencer and more. The performer honed his comedic skills on his school stage and at working men’s clubs, where he impersonated predominantly white characters such as Fred Flintstone, John Wayne and Elvis.
Breaking Ground for Black Talent
Henry was arguably the most prominent black British comedian of the 70s and 80s, at a time when black representation in entertainment and media was sorely lacking. Over the years, she has continuously used her platform to celebrate her heritage and uplift others.
He acted Shagbavachaf1976 First UK comedy series featuring a predominantly black cast with Norman Beaton. While writing his sketch series In three types In the early 80s, Henry – recalls his experience Black and White Minstrel Show — insists that his race will not be turned into a joke punchline. “I wanted to change attitudes towards black performers. It was time we the maker About jokes, not just takers,” he said.
In the early 90s, Henry also worked in comedy TV series Digestive!, playing influential chef Gareth Blackstock. It was a project he was very proud of, he said Radio TimesBecause “it was a real effort to diversify the production onscreen and beyond [with] A brown cinematographer, a black sound man, a Turkish cast member, and a pretty diverse mix of crew.”
Branch out into children’s shows
Evidence of Henry’s wide appeal lies in his success in children’s entertainment. He co-hosted the children’s TV series in the 70s Tiswas (an abbreviated version of Today is Saturday: Watch and Smile) from seasons 5 to 7. His most famous segments on the show include impersonating David Bellamy in a spoof gardening segment called “Compost Corner” and his recurring character Trevor McDonald, who was based on newsreader Trevor McDonald.
His work with the Comic Strip Collective
In the early 80s, Henry stepped back and became involved in alternative comedy, teaming up with the British comedy collective The Comic Strip, whose core members included Adrian Edmondson, Don French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Jennifer Saunders.
During this time, he created comic characters who mocked and celebrated African-Caribbean British culture, such as Brixton-based pirate radio DJ Delbert Wilkins. Following the support of his then-partner French (the two were married for 26 years and shared one child), Henry fully established himself as a stand-up comedian in entertainment circles.
Finding mainstream success with In three types
What really cemented Henry’s presence in the mainstream media was his involvement in the BBC comedy sketch show In three types, which aired from ’81 to ’83. Henry both wrote and acted for the show, proving to be an integral part of all aspects of the series. The fast-paced, snappy show was full of gags and co-starred Tracey Ullman and David Copperfield.
sound on the airwaves
Between ’82 and ’85, Henry worked as a DJ for Radio 1, initially working for Noel Edmonds, before moving on to his own show, Sunday Hoot. Expressing his creativity, he introduced several characters such as Alfreda the Tea Lady and 21st century private eye Gronk Zillman. “The idea of playing the music I love and mixing it with all my comedy nonsense was overwhelming. I loved it,” shared the actor.
In addition to being a DJ, Henry also writes radio plays. His personal favorite remains his first work, Corinne Come Back and GoneProduced with Radio 4. The plot follows Corinne, who leaves an abusive relationship in Jamaica — and her children — to live in the UK, but returns 20 years later and confronts her daughters.
Fronting his very own show
You know you’ve made it when you’ve got your own TV show and it’s named after you The Lenny Henry Show Aired as a comedy sketch from 1984 to 1988 and later returned as a sitcom incarnation from 1987 to 1988. It features stand-up comedy with celebrity impressions including Tina Turner, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Its various iterations and revivals ran for 19 years, including a six-part Radio 4 revival in 2020.
Co-founded and supports Comic Relief
Comic relief may be Henry’s most notable legacy. In 1985, he co-founded the charity with screenwriter Richard Curtis in response to the famine in Ethiopia. Its founding principle was to raise money by having British comedians make the public laugh, and its first live fundraising event in 1986 eventually spawned the first Red Nose Day in 1988.
In 2015, it was announced that Comic Relief had been running for 30 years, having raised £1.4 billion for the charity. Henry and Curtis still actively participate in the annual telethon to this date. “I miss the days when it was just three people in a room and a dog arguing about where the money should go and why. But I love the fact that Richard is still at the helm and people still care and put their hands in their pockets for it,” Henry wrote.
The blues are singing
Although he doesn’t really identify as a singer, Henry has been involved in several music projects. Interestingly, he first appeared as a backing singer on Kate Bush’s song “Why Do I Love You?” In 1993.
In 2015, he produced the show Lenny Henry’s Got The Blues for Sky, where he worked with musicians including King Crimson’s Jako Jaczyk to produce an album. It became Henry’s acclaimed blues album, New Millennium Blues.
A book written for his daughter
In 2019, Henry published his first memoir Who am I again?which details his formative years, extending to his rise in the entertainment business when his parents came to Dudley from Jamaica.. Written in a slightly frenetic tone that reflected his exuberant personality, Henry felt it felt less like an autobiography and more “laughing like a madman and crying until it was on the page.” He then followed it up with his second memoir Rising to the Surface in 2021, which covers the years through his rise to fame.
Addressing the lack of non-white characters in fantasy novels, Henry wrote two young adult books. He was inspired to do this when he couldn’t find books and stories that spoke to his daughter Billie. The Boy With Wings And Legendary book Both feature young Black protagonists and one of the main characters is deaf. Integral to diversity and inclusion projects.