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Creator / Lenny Henry

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"When I started, I was surrounded by a predominantly white workforce. Thirty-two years later, not a lot has changed."

Sir Lenworth George "Lenny" Henry CBE (born 29 August 1958 in Dudley, England) is an English actor, writer, comedian and occasional television presenter, but to non-British audiences, he's best known as the voice of Shrunken Head from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

He was the first host of Comic Relief, and is still heavily involved with the event. These efforts eventually led to his knighthood for services to charity. His best known sitcom is Chef!. Branched out into theatre acting in the 2000s with roles in William Shakespeare's Othello and The Comedy of Errors.

He was married to fellow comic Dawn French from 1984 to 2010. In recent years, Henry has heavily criticised the British entertainment industry for its lack of minority representation in both on and off camera roles.


His work provides examples of:

  • Benevolent Genie: In Bernard and the Genie Henry plays one of these to Alan Cumming's Bernard.
  • Celebrities Hang Out in Heaven: He imagined the 'House Band in Heaven' on his show - Elvis Presley, Otis Redding, Karen Carpenter, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain... and George Formby on ukelele; "'Ey up Mr Hendrix can I 'ave a go? (sings) 'Ey Joe... where you goin' with that gun in yer 'and?'
  • Everything Is Racist: In Lenny Henry in Pieces, he portrayed a character who was a large black man who applied for jobs that were unsuitable for him (such as the lead role in Annie) and would get the job after accusing the interviewers of racism whenever they told him he wasn't what they were looking for.
  • It's All Junk: White Goods is a virtually unknown ITV drama (with a surprisingly awesome cast including Ian McShane, Rachel Weisz, Chris Barrie) about a severe falling-out between two families after they win a bunch of stuff in a game show and can't agree on how to divide up the loot. His character eventually decides to burn the lot.
  • Literal Genie: The Christmas programme Bernard And The Genie starring Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson.
    Bernard: I have to be very careful, haven't I?
    Genie: Yes, say the words "I wish" with the caution you would normally reserve for "Please castrate me."
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller Parody: He spoofed the music video as "Thinner" in 1984, parodying allegations about Jackson's anorexia. It also inverted the opening scene (the girl's dating a werewolf, and is horrified when he turns into Michael Jackson), and featured "Michael" accidentally knocking the head off a zombie in the dance routine, his mother giving him a telling-off (and having the zombie eyes at the end), and a cameo by Henry's David Bellamy impression.
    Vincent Price soundalike: This film will shock, your flesh will creep,
    It's nasty, but it sure ain't cheap,
    And Michael will scream harder still,
    Just wait until he gets ... the bill!
  • One Phone Call: He did a routine about being arrested by the police and told he was allowed one phone call. "So I phoned my Uncle in Jamaica 'cos I haven't spoken to him in years."
  • Paddleball Shot: Parodied in a sketch on The Lenny Henry Show in which one of two doomed men in the opening scene of a spoof horror film keeps waving his fishing pole around. The other guy asks him what he's doing, and the first says he's making the most of the 3D effects (the sketch is not shot in 3D, although the pole behaves like a bad 3D effect).
  • Painting the Medium: He hosted a show about dreams, in which he met an ancient philosopher who didn't speak English, so they agreed to talk in Subtitle. Further parodied when Lenny Henry is talking about dreaming of having tea with the queen and whether that meant it was important to really have tea with the queen. His subtitle replaced "tea with the queen" with "sex with Michelle Pfeiffer".
  • The Parody: He is very fond of parodies. The most notable are his spoofs of pop stars (Michael Jackson, Prince, Beyonce Knowles) and their music videos.
  • Playing Against Type: When he eventually appeared in the real Doctor Who, in the two-parter "Spyfall", it was as a cold and serious villain.
  • Take That!: A 1985 sketch on The Lenny Henry Show parodying Doctor Who had Lenny as the Doctor note  confronting the Cyberman dictator Thatchos (and her ineffectual underling Denos).
  • Techno Babble: In the Doctor Who skit.
    The Doctor: Now, it looks like the proto-anodysing discorporators have short-circuited the molecular quark overload.
    Peri: Is that difficult to fix?
    Doctor: No, but it's very difficult to say!
  • Token Black: In the British comedy scene he is the only really well-known black comedian; only Reginald D. Hunter comes close to his level of prominencenote .
  • Traffic Wardens: The Doctor Who skit has the Doctor escaping the Cybermen only to find the TARDIS has been wheel-clamped. Fortunately, Peri has a Disintegrator Ray.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Lenny has been accused of this, but he's also pointed out that as a kid he grew up seeing people like Charlie Williams on TV and feeling uneasy at seeing a black comic playing on all the stereotypes and expectations to please a white audience.
  • White Like Me: Played a character like this in True Identity. Whenever he played Michael Jackson from 1987 on, he also had to perform in white face.