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Lenny Henry

Comedian and one of the founders of comic relief

Born on August 29 1958 in Dudley, West Midlands to a Jamaican family, Lenworth George Henry shot to fame in 1975 aged just 17. After doing impressions to amuse his classmates as a child, Lenny won a place on the TV talent show 'New Faces', doing a Frank Spencer impersonation. He won, and was subsequently offered numerous contracts including those he took up, The Fosters and Tiswas (1975). From there he joined the touring 'Black and White Minstrel Show' alongside 'blacked up' whites. After 5 years he left, admitting "I'd like to do anything else rather than that" and went on to star and write alongside Tracey Ullman in 'Three of a Kind' (1981), through which Lenny first met TV producer Paul Jackson who introduced him to the Comic Strip team.

He hosted the pilot 'Saturday Night Live' in 1985 which starred French and Saunders as well as Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson. Later that year he performed at the Edinburgh Festival and starred in the second series of 'The Lenny Henry Show'. Lenny's impression of Steve Martin in 'Lenny, Live and Unleashed' led to interest in his comedy from across the Atlantic, and he was offered a three film deal for 1.75m from Disney which began with the film 'True Identity'. The film flopped at the box office and Lenny's contract was subsequently terminated.

Lenny has worked for Comic Relief for almost 15 years, and is now a key member of their fundraising team. In 1993 he wrote a serious letter to newspaper The Times protesting against government cuts in foreign aid.

Lenny also spends a lot of his time helping young, black comedians start their careers, particularly through his production company Crucial Films. After creating the series 'Chef' he encouraged the producers to hire more black workers on set, and as a result the programme is made with many black crew members. He won a Royal Television Society Silver Award medal for outstanding contributions to multi-ethnic programming in the UK, through his production company Crucial Films.

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