Stand-up, music and Comic Relief

His new tour is called Pop Life and reflects how big an influence music has been throughout his life.

Music also played a part in his acting, particularly Othello.

“I used to listen to very loud, violent hip hop in the interval because I was aware I had to kill Desdemona in the second half.

“One day I actually missed the beginning of the second half because I was listening to Ice Cube. So the moral is never listen to gangsta rap in the interval because you’re bound to miss the beginning of the second half!”

Since winning the New Faces talent show in 1975 Henry has had a stellar career. An impressionist and writer as well as a comedian, he was listed by The Observer in 2003 as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy while the following year The Sunday Times rated him the 15th funniest black performer of all time.

The first person to manage him after his New Faces success told him: “You’re going to be as big as Max Bygraves one day”.

“Bygraves was pretty big at the time,” says Henry. “He had his own TV show, he had a recording career, he’d done movies and stuff.

“I ended up doing a movie, making records, I had a decade of doing my own TV show.”

He is now rebuilding his personal life, admitting that the past two years has been “quite rough”.

“I lost two of my family and my marriage (to Dawn French) broke up. But it’s like chapters in a book—they close and another one opens. I’ve had to move on from that stuff.

“A couple of friends have passed away as well. In the end you can’t let these things get to you.

“When I’m on stage nothing else matters. I love that element of entertaining an audience. In the end the fact of being on stage and making a crowd laugh and making people happy fuels your journey.

“Thankfully my work has been able to facilitate me surviving bad times and I think that’s good. Thank God for that.”

Next year Henry, one of the trustees of Comic Relief which has raised more than £1 billion since 1985, will be taking part in the fundraiser which he says will be “bigger, bolder, better”.

He has just returned from Kibera on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi which is benefiting from some of the money raised for Red Nose Day.

“It’s one of the biggest slums in the world—a million people camped into a space the size of Central Park, no electricity, no plumbing, no sewage. So we’re working there, trying to change people’s lives for the better.

“Comic Relief has been an amazing constant in my life and it’s a fantastic outlet for all the charity work that I do. I really love doing it and I think the British public are the most generous people in the world.”