Lenny Henry..he really is one of a kind as he looks back on his 50-year career

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Thursday: Lenny Henry: One of a Kind (ITV1, 9pm)

Sir Lenny Henry started his comedy career on the Midlands working men’s club circuit in the mid-1970s and doing impressions on TV talent show New Faces.

Since then, he has gone onto become one of the UK’s most recognisable comics, with a string of TV hits to his name.

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However, there is a lot more to the Dudley-born entertainer’s career than getting dressed up, putting on silly voices and shouting “Oooookay!”.

Lenny HenryLenny Henry
Lenny Henry

These days, 65-year-old Lenny is widely accepted as a brilliant serious actor, as well as a director, writer, broadcaster, charity campaigner and activist, and he has made a conscious decision to step away from stand-up comedy.

Three weeks ago, he appeared on Virgin Radio’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show, and explained his evolution as an entertainer.

“It’s almost as if I know what I’m here for now,” he said.

“I think being a stand-up is a noble profession and I loved it for 35 years.

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“But there was a moment when I just went ‘This isn’t all that I want to do with my life’. I still love it. I still like the idea of it. I think I kind of know what to do to put together a new show.

“But I think there’s other things to be doing. So when I was asked to do Shakespeare, when I was asked to be in an August Wilson play, I leapt at it because I thought ‘This is a new experience’, and I think it’s really good to do things that are new, that challenge you.”

Tonight’s special documentary, Lenny Henry: One Of A Kind, sees the trailblazing The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power star look back on his 50-year-career in the entertainment spotlight, as he takes viewers on a journey from the Midlands to Middle Earth.

Throughout the programme, which arrives a few days after the premiere of Lenny’s self-penned post-Windrush drama Three Little Birds (the story he’s “been waiting to tell his entire life”), fellow A-listers line up to pay fond tributes and share their own thoughts on the star.

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David Tennant, Ben Elton, Alesha Dixon, Richard Curtis, Sir Trevor McDonald and Mo Gilligan are among those celebrating his talents, while Hollywood superstar Whoopi Goldberg also champions the man she declares ‘a real-life superhero’.

Lenny spills the beans about the little-known collaboration between himself, Kate Bush and Prince, shares backstage secrets, offers insights into his life away from the camera, and reveals which of his beloved comedy characters he feels wouldn’t be allowed on-screen in 2023.

Lenny’s sister Sharon discloses his secret nickname among the family and how her ‘nerdy’ sibling with his passion for fantasy comic books ended up living his dream.

We also hear about Lenny’s fight for diversity in the TV industry both in front of and behind the camera.

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Of course, there are plenty of clips from across the decades, including footage from Tiswas, Three Of A Kind, The Lord Of The Rings, and Lenny’s time on stage in productions of Othello and King Hedley II.

From custard pies to Comic Relief, from Broadchurch to the Bard, this is a funny, fascinating and inspiring portrait of a true One of a Kind and national treasure.

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