There is really very little that Sir Lenny Henry cannot do, writes James Rampton.
As well as being one of Britain's best-known and most celebrated comedians, he is also an acclaimed writer, radio DJ, TV presenter, co-founder of Comic Relief and an award-winning actor.
In addition, Lenny has a PhD in Media Arts and in 2015 was awarded a knighthood for services to charity and drama. Phew!
But this week Lenny is returning to his first love: live performance. He kicks off a tour of the country with his new show An Evenng with Lenny Henry, Who Am I, Again?
Following the publication by Faber this month of his memoir, also entitled Who Am I, Again?, Lenny will be touring to Sheffield City Hall on Monday, October 21 and Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on November 14 where he will be sharing stories from his life.
In the first half, Lenny will treat audiences to a series of anecdotes - triggered by writing his memoir – which are both hilarious and poignant. He recollects growing up in the Black Country,
puberty, school, friendship, family secrets and unabashed racism. He remembers how – with his mother's mantra of "integration" ringing in his ears – he did his best to overcome those obstacles and make his way in the world.
Lenny proceeds to regale the audience with memories of his stellar career. After he burst into the public consciousness in 1975 as the splendidly gifted 16-year-old winner of the TV
talent show, New Faces, he enjoyed enormous success on such TV shows as Tiswas, Three of a Kind and The Lenny Henry Show. Despite his huge popularity, however, Lenny could not
help himself wondering at every stage: Am I good enough? Is this what they want?
In the second half of An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?, Lenny will be interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, offering further insights into his life and career. There will be audience interaction throughout: perhaps their questions will help Lenny work out, Who Am I Again?
It all adds up to a tremendous evening, as you would expect from one of the most magnetic live performers this country has ever produced. The BBC has described his live performance as, "Rip roaring entertainment … Lenny Henry gave a class performance of the sharpest comedy banter … Superb!" Meanwhile, the Express & Star has dubbed him,"A master of his trade" and the Evening Standard has called him,"Absolutely hilarious."
The performer says he can't wait to be back on stage."Live performance is just the best," asserts Lenny, a captivating and compelling presence both on and off stage. "Being in front
of an audience is the best thing you can do. Films and telly are extra, but live is you unfiltered. It's just you stood there talking to an audience."
The performer, who has also starred in such sitcoms as Chef! and The Fosters, goes on to recall the greatest live show he ever witnessed. "What Morecambe and Wise did in front of
a live audience was very different to what they did on telly. Their TV show was brilliant, but Eric was probably 20 times funnier on stage than he was on telly. I worked with him in Bournemouth in 1979, and it was one of the most extraordinary live experiences I have ever had. It was so funny and loose.
"I try to get to the same space when I perform live, create real sense that this is unmediated and unmitigated. I attempt to communicate to the audience that 'We’re gonna have a great
time for the next 90 minutes, and then we're all off home! HOORAY!’”
An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again? will be bolstered by the presence of his legions of loyal fans, who have followed him up and down the country for the last four
decades. The performer, 61, who has also appeared in such top-class dramas as Broadchurch, Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, The Long Song, The Syndicate, Danny and
the Human Zoo and Hope and Glory, reflects on the amazing rapport he has with his audience. "People show up – sometimes not all at the same time! To be honest, it is a long
time since 'Katanga, my friends!’ or ‘OOOOOKAAAAY!’, but it seems that people still want to come and see the show and be entertained.
"What is lovely is that my audience has grown with me over the years, they get me – and what I’m trying to do – I really cherish that.”
Tickets for Lenny's show in Sheffield are priced from £34.99, go to www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk or call 0114 2 789 789; tickets for his Nottingham show are priced from £32, go to www.trch.co.uk or call 0115 989 5555.