Fun guy Lenny is on sparkling form

Charity stalwart: Lenny Henry jointly founded Comic Relief
Charity stalwart: Lenny Henry jointly founded Comic Relief
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Award-winning comedian Lenny Henry promises more bucks for your bang when he hits our region on Bonfire Night.

Music idols and an obsession with playing piano have inspired Lenny’s latest comic creation which comes to Doncaster’s Civic Theatre on November 5 as part of an extensive tour.

“I’ll be the dude wearing the Ozwald Boateng suit up on stage pretending to be Ne-Yo,” he said.

“I’ve always done impressions of people I love – like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Tina Turner, Cee Lo Green, Out Kast etc.”

The ethos behind his one-man show Pop LIfe is that music sounds better with everything. “There’s lots of laughter and audience interaction and that’s what makes every show different for me,” said Lenny.

“I love music and always think it’s the perfect ice-breaker or linking device or climactic event for a show.”

Lenny’s own musical talents come under the spotlight in Pop Life. “I do sing (after a fashion) in the show. I’ve been having singing lessons since the mid-80s My voice is a puzzling thing. Sometimes it works just fine, other times it just… goes to the beach and chills out.”

A grade 4 pianist, he said: “I’ve been playing for 14 years (due to the fact that I don’t practise enough, being a father, actor, comedian and student all at the same time) which means that I won’t pass grade 8 until I’m 114.”

Pop Life, which is also heading for Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre on November 14, takes spectators through five decades of Lenny’s time on Earth – so which does its creator think spawned the best music?

“The Seventies was pretty much the decade to beat with its invention of glam rock, Bowie, Ferry, Prince, James Brown moving into his Cold Sweat/Sex Machine phase, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the evolution of the reggae sound system allowing the birth of hip-hop.”

Lenny’s discovery on television talent show New Faces, which he won nearly 40 years ago, led him to becoming a household name. His decade-long gold run started in the mid-80s and his last self-named programme aired in 2008.

He said:. “I’d done a TV series of some kind every year since I first started in 1975. When I didn’t get picked for a further series of Lenny Henry TV I was saddened.”

He consoles himself that one of his greatest triumphs is still supported by television moguls and the public. Lenny and Richard Curtis founded Comic Relief in response to a famine in Africa in 1985 and to date the charity has raised over a billion pounds for projects at home and abroad.

Services to charity earned Lenny a CBE in 1999 and four years later he scooped the lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards. In 2009, he was awarded best newcomer actor for his role as Othello. He’s planning a return to acting with Northern Broadsides next year, as Macbeth.