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Lenny Henry: Some girls wouldn’t dance with me because I was a black guy

Sir Lenny Henry kept his impressions a secret from his family when a youngster (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Sir Lenny Henry kept his impressions a secret from his family when a youngster (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sir Lenny Henry has said that, as a young man, some girls would not dance with him because he was “a black guy”.

The comedian, 61, recalled attending discos while growing up in the West Midlands, where he would try to slow dance with girls.

He told the Grounded With Louis Theroux podcast: “If you wanted to meet members of the opposite sex you’ve got to go to a place where they might be and where they might be was St Thomas’ disco next to the church…

“You would spend nearly all evening ignoring them and then in the last five minutes, there would be this rush to the dance floor to try and slow dance with a girl.”

He said the boys would “try to cram the whole dancing with the girl thing” into the last minutes in the hope they would “get a snog”.

Sir Lenny added: “I would ask anyone to dance, I didn’t want to be left out and my friends would be dancing with girls…

“Some girls wouldn’t dance with me because I was a black guy.”

Asked by Theroux how he knew, he replied: “They would say.”

Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention
Sir Lenny Henry (Richard Kendal/RTS)

The veteran comic also discussed initially keeping his interest in impressions a secret while at home.

Asked why he kept his parents unaware, Sir Lenny said: “Because this wasn’t something you did in the house, that was pure ‘hintegration’ park life stuff.

“That was something I did with my white friends … they had no idea … my mum was the main funny person (in) our house.”

Sir Lenny said making “wise jokes” as a child prompted “a slap round the head”.

He said: “There was no wise-cracking from a child in our house because that was seen as being cheeky and overstepping the mark.

“So, if you cracked wise jokes in earshot of your parents, you would get a slap round the head of something … in our house, my mum was the funny one, end of story … it was like a little secret I held in my heart for quite a long time.”

Grounded With Louis Theroux is available on BBC Sounds every Monday and also broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesdays at 8pm.

Upcoming guests include actor Miriam Margolyes, YouTuber and rapper KSI, presenter and actor Gail Porter, footballer Troy Deeney, Chris O’Dowd, and actor and activist Rose McGowan.

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