Lenny Henry

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Lenworth George "Lenny" Henry, CBE (born 29 August 1958) is an English actor, writer, comedian and occasional television presenter.

Contents

Early life

Henry, the son of Jamaican immigrants, was born at Burton Road Hospital in Dudley in 1958. He was a pupil at St John's Primary School and later The Blue Coat School outside Dudley, before completing his education at W.R. Tuson College (now Preston College).[1][2]

Career

Henry's first manager was Robert Luff, who signed him in 1975 and gave him the opportunity to perform as part of the Luff-produced touring stage version of The Black and White Minstrel Show.[3] In July 2009, Lenny Henry stated he was contractually obliged to perform and regretted his part in the show.[4]

His earliest television appearance was on the New Faces talent show in 1976 where he repeatedly won. The following year he appeared with Norman Beaton in LWT's sitcom The Fosters, Britain's first comedy series with predominantly black performers. His formative years were in working men's clubs where his act was as a young black man impersonating white characters such as the Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em character Frank Spencer (whom he impersonated on New Faces).

He co-hosted the children's programme Tiswas from 1978 until 1981, and subsequently performed and wrote for the show Three of a Kind, with comedians Tracey Ullman and David Copperfield. Around this time, he met his wife, Dawn French, who encouraged him to move over to the fledgling alternative comedy scene, where he established a career as a stand-up comedy performer and character comedian. He introduced characters who both mocked and celebrated black British culture, such as Theophilus P. Wildebeeste (a homage to Teddy Pendergrass using the 'TP' initials), Brixton pirate radio disc jockey DJ Delbert Wilkins and Trevor MacDoughnut (a parody of Trevor McDonald). His stand-up material, which sold well on LP, owed much to the writing abilities of Kim Fuller. During this time he also spent three years as a DJ on BBC Radio 1, playing soul and electro tracks and introducing some of the characters that he would later popularise on television.

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