Lenny Henry says he was used as a ‘political football’ after appearing in blackface minstrel show

Comic was the first Black actor to appear on ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’

Isobel Lewis
Saturday 09 October 2021 11:23
<p>Henry in 2017 </p>

Henry in 2017

Lenny Henry has said that he was used as a “political football” after appearing on a minstrel TV show.

The comic was the first Black performer to take part in The Black and White Minstrel Show, which aired on the BBC from 1958 to 1978.

The entertainment programme was known for its use of white singers and actors donning blackface to perform minstrel songs.

In a new interview with The Times, Henry, said that he regretted being persuaded by his family and management to work on the show, which was considered offensive at the time, for five years.

“People used to say Lenny was the only one who didn’t need make-up,” the comedian said. “It was half funny once, but to hear that every day for five years was a bit of a pisser.”

Henry then said that his inclusion was used as proof for the Race Relations Board that the show wasn’t racist.

“I had become a political football,” Henry said. “My way through all of this was to bury my head in the sand and let any controversy wash over me.”

Henry has previously said that he was contractually obliged to perform on the show and that he struggled in a ‘profound wormhole of depression” after it aired.