There is really very little that Sir Lenny Henry cannot do. As well as being one of Britain’s most celebrated comedians, he is also an acclaimed writer, radio DJ, TV presenter, co-founder of Comic Relief and an award-winning actor. He has a PhD in Media Arts – “Dr Henry, I presume?” – and in 2015 was awarded a knighthood for services to charity and drama. Phew!

But now, I am delighted to report, Henry is returning to his first love: live performance. Following the publication by Faber on October 3 of his memoir, “Who Am I, Again?”, the performer is about to start touring the country with a new show, “An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?”. And he will be rocking up at the York Barbican on the third date of that tour on October 22

This is not just your conventional stand-up show, however; rather, the performer will be aiming to (hopefully) dazzle audiences with stories from his life.

In the first half, he’ll treat us to a series of anecdotes - triggered by writing his memoir - which are both hilarious and poignant: growing up in the Black Country, puberty, school, friendship, family secrets and unabashed racism. He will remember 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.

He’ll then proceed to regale the audience with memories of his stellar career. After he burst into the public consciousness in 1975 as the splendidly gifted 16-year-old winner of the TV talent show, New Faces, he enjoyed enormous success on such TV shows as Tiswas, Three of a Kind and The Lenny Henry Show. Despite his huge popularity, however, Henry could not help himself wondering at every stage: Am I good enough? Is this what they want?

In the second half of “An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?”, he will be interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, offering further insights into his life and career. It should all add up to a tremendous evening, as you would expect from one of the most magnetic live performers this country has ever produced.

The performer says he can’t wait to be back on stage. “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.”

The performer, who has also starred in such sitcoms as 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.

“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.

“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!’”

“An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?” will be bolstered by the presence of his legions of loyal fans, who have followed him up and down the country for four decades. “It seems that people still want to come and see the show and be entertained,” says the performer, 61. “What is lovely is that my audience has grown with me over the years, they get me - I really cherish that.”

The other aspect of live performance that he adores is that he can improvise - live and direct in the moment. “With this show, the audiences are not just going to get a prepared, scripted presentation, but the bits in between, too.

“My favourite comedians are the ones that not only put in the hard work on their show, but can also (once the show is up and running), swim between sections of their script and fool around. Those are my favourite performances: where you’re allowed to improvise right, and the audience gets that.”

Even though his live show is tied to the publication of his memoir, the performer is swift to point out that “An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?” is very far from a conventional book tour. He discloses that, “I thought, ‘I’m not going to do the normal book tour thing.’ How can I do that? 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 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, OK people? We don’t get down like that…”

So what does he hope that audiences will take away from “An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?”? There’s a beat of perfect comic timing before he responds: “A book!”

And, no doubt, many, many laughs.

James Rampton

An Evening With Lenny Henry UK, York Barbican, October 22, 7.30pm. Tickets £22-£38 from

Lenny Henry’s autobiography Who Am I, Again? is published by Faber, priced £20