There is really very little that Sir Lenny Henry cannot do.

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.

But now he is returning to his first love: live performance – with a show at the New Theatre, Oxford.

The show follows the publication last month of his memoir, entitled, Who Am I, Again? – also the name of the show. Rather than a conventional stand-up gig, the evening will see Lenny entertaining the audience with stories from his life.

“Live performance is just the best,” he says. “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.”

His show sees him sharing memories of growing up in the Black Country, school, friendship, family secrets and unabashed racism. He remembers how – with his mother’s mantra of “H’integration” ringing in his ears – he did his best to overcome those obstacles and make his way in the world.

The second half will see him interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, offering further insights into his life and career.

Read more: OMD look back on 40 years of electronic genius - and a brush with a tornado!

But he insists it is not a book tour. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to do the normal book tour thing’,” he says. “I’m not sure comedians are supposed to do book tours in the way other people do them.


“There is a weight of expectation about a book tour, and people would be severely disappointed if a comedian started to navel gaze and talk about how his parents beat him as a child.

“People are not going to get therapy on stage from me. They will get stories, character stuff and songs. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but It’s not going to be a Julian Barnes type evening, okay people? We don’t get down like that…”

Read more: Mock the Week's Geoff Norcott is SICK of people telling him what to do...

After he burst into the public consciousness in 1975 as the16-year-old winner of TV talent show, New Faces, Lenny enjoyed enormous success on such TV shows as Tiswas, Three of a Kind and The Lenny Henry Show.

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.”

He adds: “ “If you write a book about your early years, there is a palpable sense that the past is another country and that you’re looking at yourself from 1,000 miles away.


“You write with these words indelibly printed on your brain: ‘Well… that was a very interesting time… these were interesting experiences… they probably made me who I am today.’ This kind of reflection can make you realise why you are the way you are in the present day.

Read more: Stars of His Dark Materials bring Oxford blockbuster to life for BBC TV

“I’ve noticed that I now stick up for myself and also want to be an integral part of the creative process, which all stems from the experience of my first 10 years in the business.”

The comic, who has also starred in sitcoms 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,” he says.

“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!’”

He adds: “I hope people enjoy their evening out with me – but I also want them to feel at the end, that they’ve learnt something about who I am and how I got there. This is a Len they’ve never met before. The show is going to be loose, fun, insightful, and revelatory. Did I say ‘fun’ yet?”

  • An Evening With Lenny Henry: Who Am I, Again? is at the New Theatre Oxford tonight (Monday). Go to