Friday, 17 July 2015

“No BBC, no me” – at last, Lenny Henry says something funny

The lovable chucklemeister and greatest dramatic actor of his generation, “Sir” Leonard Henry, made this statement in a Guardian article (here) with the following sub-heading:
Without its support, my career would have come to an early halt, I wouldn’t have set up my own production company … and it made me brave on diversity.
So now we know exactly who to blame.

I’m not sure why Lenny Henry annoys me so much. He was a (very) mildly amusing presence in comedy sketch shows in the ‘80s (Three of a Kind, with David Copperfield and Tracy Ulman, had it moments, I seem to remember), but he has been leadenly unfunny ever since, perhaps because he has decided to go down the Norman Wisdom cuddly loveability route, and because he fronts those nauseating telethon cheriddy events where famous rich people parade their infinite capacity for compassion while asking poorer people to donate money so the rich, famous folk can all indulge in a self-congratulatory group-hug.

Maybe it’s because the BBC keeps giving him work and offering him opportunities therby, one presumes, denying opportunities to other perhaps more deserving actors and programme presenters. (Oddly enough, I really couldn’t give a rat’s arse what Lenny has to say about Shakespeare. Or anything.) But the thing that finally got my goat was his determination to reinvent himself as a race hustler, wagging his finger in the face of the BBC’s Director General over the corporation’s supposed lack of “diversity”. To me, this smacked of racism – why should talented white performers and production staff be deliberately disadvantaged just to help an incredibly lucky second-rate comic deal with the psychological scars left by starting life appearing in The Black & White Minstrel Show? We all have our cross to bear. Besides, there are tons of excellent black actors on our TV screens these days who all seem to have managed to thrive without Sir Lenny’s patronage.

Ultimately, I suspect, it’s the BBC’s determination to turn Henry into a national treasure. He isn’t, and never will be. Give up trying, lads.
The BBC has many good arguments to make in its forthcoming tussle with the government over its future – its world-beating nature programmes, its excellent TV channel, BBC4, Radio 3, its gloriously comprehensive Wimbledon coverage, some bits of Radio 4 (not to mention the even better Radio 4 Extra, which benefits from a total lack of current affairs nonsense), Andrew Neil's political interviews etc. Every reader will have particular examples of output they would consider worth preserving, and which wouldn’t be done as well – or not at all – by the private sector.  But one sure way of getting licence-payers' backs up is to organise a mass write-in by luvvies and presenters such as Lenny Henry who either got their big break thanks to the BBC, or, as in Henry’s case, practically owe their entire career to the corporation.

I’ll end with a joke in very poor taste, which I read on Twitter:

Q.  Has Lenny Henry ever been in anything funny?
A.  Yes – Dawn French.



  1. Actually, his name is "Lenworth", but Sir Tony Robinson is simply "Anthony". What would life be like without them? Every time you switch on the television there is Lenny in his bed or Tony running about in his trench.

  2. I'm not sure I'd fancy running around in Lenny's trench.

    I honestly thought you were making it up about "Lenworth" being his real name until I checked on Wikipedia. If I'm ever unfortunate enough to meet the man, I will be sure to address him as "Sir Lenworth".