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Lenny Henry Show, The (1984-88, 1995, 2004-)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Lenny Henry Show, The (1984-88, 1995, 2004-)
BBC, 4/9/1984-
46 x 30 min in 8 series, colour
Producers includeGeoff Posner
 Geoff Atkinson
Writers includeLenny Henry
 Kim Fuller
 Lenny Barker
 Ninia Benjamin
  Jocelyn Jee Esien

Cast: Lenny Henry; Vas Blackwood; Ninia Benjamin; Tameka Empson; Jocelyn Jee Esien; Gina Yashere

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A showcase for comedian Lenny Henry, featuring a mix of stand up monologues, sketches and spoof songs.

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Lenny Henry was already well established by 1984, when he became the first Black comedian to be granted his own British primetime series. Produced and directed by Geoff Poysner, The Lenny Henry Show's format was tailored to Henry's strengths, beginning with a lengthy stand-up monologue, followed by sketches and spoof songs.

The material included simple character skits (a sinful Preacher; a surgeon frustrated with his job because it's so messy; two revolutionaries bragging about whose country has had more "bloody coups and attempted overthrows"), pastiches of films, like Purple Rain (US, 1984) - with a purple-suited, wetlook-permed Henry astride a motorbike, doing his best Prince impersonation, singing a comically re-written version of the film's hit title song - and other spoofs, for example 'The Jewel in India's Passage', lampooning the contemporary vogue for epic India-set films and TV series. Also remarkable is the length of the sketches, with many running for as much as five minutes, unthinkable to today's audiences raised on the likes of The Fast Show (BBC, 1994-2000) and Smack the Pony (Channel 4, 1999-2003).

The series lacked the underlying social commentary found in the work of other comedians of Henry's generation, like Ben Elton, choosing instead to show off its star's versatility in an eclectic series of character roles, as well as his singing talents. This focus has led to - possibly unfair - criticisms that Henry is reluctant to address political or racial issues in his humour. However, one must balance this with the tireless work he continues to do with Comic Relief, bringing the world's attention to the economic and political hardships suffered by many in Africa.

The format has undergone several changes over its long life, including two seasons masquarading as a sitcom featuring Henry's popular Delbert Wilkins character.

Ali Jaafar

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Video Clips
1. Stand-up intro (4:38)
2. Doctors (2:02)
3. The Jewel in India's Passage (3:30)
Complete episode (29:28)
Henry, Lenny (1958- )
Black TV Writers