Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lenny Henry

I love British comedy. From the low comedy CARRY ON films to the anarchist Python movies to the more sophisticated wit of Wodehouse’s JEEVES AND WOOSTER, if it’s British, I’ll probably at least chuckle at it. Thus I was more than a little pleased to see the number of British comedians who made it onto the initial list for the recently unveiled British Walk of Fame. One might quibble with names NOT present (Karloff, Peter Cushing) but there were very few in the first batch that might even be questioned as undeserving. Personally, I was happy to see that my favorite comedic performer for about the last decade, Lenny Henry, made the list!
If you’re in the US, you’re probably asking, “Lenny who?” Well, I first became aware of Lenny when I saw him in a 1991 movie on cable called BERNARD AND THE GENIE, which starred Alan Cumming (X2’s Nightcrawler) as an average guy (and if you’re familiar with Alan, you know that’s a stretch!) who finds a genie (Lenny).
That same year, Hollywood tried to make Lenny a movie star by billing him as “Britain’s Eddie Murphy” in TRUE IDENTITY, an improbable but entertaining comedy in which our hero is a struggling American (!!) actor who runs afoul of gangster Frank Langella. Lenny is great but nothing at all like Eddie Murphy.
Undaunted by the yawn that accompanied the film’s release in this country, Lenny soon began the first of two series of CHEF, my absolute favorite Britcom. CHEF is the story of the world’s most egotistical chef, Gareth Blackstock, and the tiny restaurant he and his wife buy in rural England. The plots revolve mostly around the kitchen (I’m shocked that the Food Network hasn’t picked this up!) or the marital problems caused by Gareth’s devotion to the culinary arts.
Married to VICAR OF DIBLEY’s Dawn French for many years, Lenny has become a beloved staple of British TV. Along with Neil Gaiman, Lenny co-created the TV series NEVERWHERE which starred an actor from CHEF. NEVERWHERE became a book by Gaiman and more recently a comic book. This past year, Lenny hosted a PBS tribute to the UK’s biggest male sitcom stars His most recent movie appearance was as the voice of the shrunken head on the night bus in HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. If you see his name on something…anything!...I guarantee you’ll laugh. He has the most infectious smile ever!Congratulations to Lenny on getting his name on the walk. Now if we can just get Boris on there…

Oh, almost forgot! Lenny himself has a neat website! Enjoy!

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