Sir Lenny Henry: from Comedy at Age 16 to British Legend

Stephen Nartey September 19, 2022
Sir Lenny Henry/Photo credit: Great British Speakers

He is among four Black people in honor of whom the Royal Mail painted a post box black, following his contributions to British history. 

Royal Mail said that four postboxes across the UK in London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast were painted black with a gold trim as part of Black History Month in October.

At age 15, popular actor and comedian, Sir Lenny Henry, had built a large fan base from impersonating towering figures such Stevie Wonder, John Wayne, Top Cat and Fred Flintstone. 

He shot to fame when a local DJ, Oscar Michael, spotted his rare talent at the age of 16. 

Oscar wrote to New Faces and Opportunity Knocks, telling them he has a 16-year-old black comedian who had outstanding talent. 

New Faces wrote back to Oscar and said, “a 16-year-old black comedian from Dudley? we’ll have some of that,” Lenny wrote in his biography. 

Oscar was right about his talent. Lenny came out outstanding In New Faces’ competition and emerged winner twice.  Lenny at the age of 16 appeared in all the winners’ final at London Palladium. He recalled the experience as one of the best moments of his life. 

He said the opening three minutes of his career on television was raw, shambolic but strangely meant a lot to him. 

“I told some good jokes at that age,” he said on his Lenny Henry page. 

Since then Sir Lenny has left huge prints in the world of comedy and film industry.  He said it has been a childhood dream to become a comedian. 

He said he started with play acting and pretending to be the Man from uncle of Batman or NapoleonSolo or the man In the suitcase.  

His Interest in comedy peaked at the early stages while play acting at school. 

He recalled being called to the Headteacher’s office for play acting some teachers. 

He recounted that his craft got noticed as he performed on stage In the school show at the Queen Mary Ballroom, doing impersonations. 

He said It made him become a local star of sort getting him accolades while taking a walk to the shopping hall with his mum.  

 Sir Lenny indicated that he got the opportunity to appear on children television shows at such an early age and transitioned into acting with dramas Hope and Glory, Alive and Kicking, Coast to Coast and many more.

After many stints on radio and Djing, Sir Lenny later launched into another career as a stage actor. 

He said a turning point with his stage acting career was when he won the London Evening Standard Milton Shuman Award for Outstanding Newcomer. 

He described the feat as mind-blowing, adding that he never thought he would win such an award. 

According to him, there were a lot of learnings and teaching he picked along from producers and directors which has shaped the figure he has become today. 

Sir Lenny noted that one of his life time achievement was getting knighthood from the Queen.

He recounted that he was overwhelmed by it which got him to make a joke about It saying he had been assaulted by an old age pensioner with a sword. 

“It was almost like a cap to quite a long career. I mean, I’ve been doing this since I was 16,” he added. 

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