Sir Lenny Henry's career spans nearly five decades, beginning at the tender age of just 16. Rising from a cult star on children’s television to becoming one of Britain’s best-known stand up comedians, as well as a writer and an award-winning actor.
He made a triumphant televisual debut in 1975, when he won the New Faces talent competition at the tender age of 18. He anchored the Saturday morning children's show, Tiswas, from 1978 to 1980, using the show to develop his comic persona to great effect.
However, Lenny didn't just stick to children's entertainment, he appeared on The Black and White Minstrel Show for five years and then joined the hugely popular sketch show, Three of a Kind, alongside Tracey Ullman.
Lenny teamed up with the Comic Strip in 1980, when he met comedienne Dawn French, who would later become his wife. By 1984, Lenny was ready for his own show and the Lenny Henry Show ran for a decade, becoming hugely popular with audiences. A return to his stand-up roots followed, with Lenny embarking on the Live and Unleashed shows, bringing him to the attention of Hollywood.
Lenny took the lead in the Hollywood film, 'True Identity', with mixed results. But the BBC sitcom, Chef, followed and it was a big success for Lenny, who also wrote and produced the show.
Critical acclaim followed in 1999, when Lenny acted in the straight role of Ian George in the BBC comprehensive school drama, Hope and Glory. He revived his sketch show persona with the show, Lenny Henry in Pieces, in 2000, which won Lenny the Golden Rose Award at the Montreux Television Festival. Another special of the same show was transmitted at Christmas 2001.
During 2002, the first series of Lenny Henry in Pieces was transmitted on BBC1. Lenny also completed a tour of the UK with his live show 'Have You Seen This Man' which was recorded for release on CD and filmed for the BBC (Lenny Henry - This is My Life)
In 2009, Lenny made his West End acting debut in the role of Othello in the Northern Broadsides production at the Trafalgar Studios. His portrayal won him huge critical acclaim and the London Evening Standard’s Milton Shulman Award for Outstanding Newcomer. Other stage roles Lenny has been praised for include Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and August Wilson in Fences.
Alongside his work on stage and screen, Lenny Henry is probably best known for his role in Comic Relief, the charity he co-founded with Richard Curtis in 1985. Lenny is also a vocal advocate of Diversity in the Arts and in 2018, having completed a course at Royal Holloway University of London, Lenny received a PhD in Media Arts.
He has won numerous awards throughout his career, including BBC British Personality of the Year, the Edric Connor Inspiration to Black People Award and, in 2015, he was awarded a knighthood in HM the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to charity and drama.
The following year, Sir Lenny was awarded a fellowship of the Royal Television Society, alongside a Judges Award for his work raising awareness of diversity within the television industry. He was also honoured with the Alan Clarke Special Award in recognition of his outstanding creative contribution to television at the 2016 BAFTA Awards.
In 2019, Faber published Lenny’s memoir, Who am I again?, around which he wrote a live show that toured the UK for two months.