In Conversation with Lenny Henry: Who Am I Again?

I had waited a long time for this moment and was glad of the chance to see a living legend. Lenny Henry in conversation.

Wooph
I had little expectation of what an evening would be like spent with Lenny Henry and Romesh Ranganathan. Perhaps it would be 2 brilliant men one-upping each other. Laughing at the loops wound around the audience and themselves that the other tried to vault over. Clumsily failing and falling. It wasn’t like that at all. I came away from the evening feeling lighter. Like after a therapy session. Wooph describes the reaction in energy that Lenny would get at a show when an audience laughed uproariously at a piece in his set.

Without Me
Arriving a few minutes after the show began, due to train cancellations and me not being able to run for the 18:36 train (another loss MS has had me suffer. It’s either MS or age. I just don’t feel old in my mind, at all. I want my body to know and hold on to that fact too).

The Train pulled off, with me looking on, deflated. Shaking my head then looking up at the board for the next one. Hither Green Monday evening – the choices were limited. 2 Choices I was invited to take. Wait for the train that might get me to there on time or try and hop skip and jump at London Bridge to get a connect for a faster train to Waterloo East?

Selection
The choice I made was to wait and hope. Hoping and waiting got me there late and frantic. I eventually walked in and Lenny was mid flow through the end of his set introducing Romesh. He was finishing with something about the physical abuse he experienced at the hands of his mum. Had I made it on time I would have been laughing too, like the already seated audience.

Sit Down
I took my seat in the Royal Festival Hall and for the hour and 25 minutes I had left sat and was amazed by Lenny’s and Romesh’s mutual appreciation of what they had contributed to the cannon of British comedy and to reversing the march to an un-coloured comedy and TV scene.

Context
My moment I had not anticipated came when after a flurry of mutual appreciation both men took stock of where they were and fist bumped like two men on the street. Only these two men were some of the funniest, most daring, Black and Brown men sat on stage at the Royal Festival Hall watched by several hundred people. Taking stock of how far they had come and what it had taken for them to get there. Both men could scare you with their intense observations and perspective and have you crying with pain and laughter as their on point humor bit.

Represent
I was saddened by the number of Black and Brown people that I did not see there. I had wanted the theater full to the rafters of people that looked like me and Romesh. Lenny was our champion. A winner of a fight, he won by not throwing punches with his fists, but with the wisdom of a sage.

That fight – won – has enriched him and lightened the hearts of many. I was saddened that Lenny’s brilliance, his story may have been
too political,
too sad,
too funny,
too hard to accept for many to make an effort to be there for a wet Monday night attendance.

Those that were there laughed and laughed hard at some of the memories Lenny shared. The fight at school, with the bully where Lenny beat him with words and had a crowd turn on the aggressor. Another story was of having things thrown at him by his mum, that always found their mark – even around corners.

No. They. We. Missed this. Him talking about his new book. Who Am I again? About the process of writing being like therapy. About his experiences of playing at clubs around the country and being racially abused and slowly winning these difficult crowds round. I was saddened because I would have wanted the under represented to be over whelmed by his story’s show of strength. That even through his saddest times, success and challenging adversity became towering achievements.

Pull Up
I was saddened that for the ‘community’ not to have come to support and show appreciation for a sage that has worked hard at his craft and worked at demands of the BBC and ITV to make. The face of British TV and the widening scope of achievement and attainment of BAME communities has been altered. Those that may want to make a career in the media, either in front of the camera/mic or more importantly behind the camera/mic will pay attention to what Lenny has pointed at. He has called it ‘Rubbish’ and said ‘this thing here, needs changing. NOW!’

Shouldering
For me, what I came to see, what I was waiting to see was Lenny’s passion at wanting to change the culture and face of British media. His deft, clever brilliance and memory of both his ups and downs of his career showed his resilience and how he has put his weight behind wanting to shift the colour line to be more representative of the young, the forgotten, the talented and the Black.

Who Am I Again is his 1st Autobiography available at all good book stores. With luck there will be others. My only CTA…

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