THE comedian and charity campaigner Lenny Henry yesterday compared the offer of a knighthood to “being filled with lemonade,” describing it as a “wonderful” moment.
The star, who has been a mainstay of Comic Relief’s fund-raising efforts, is expected to be one of the highest-profile names in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, due to be published later this week.
While it is tradition for recipients to stay quiet until an official announcement is made, an overjoyed Henry described the accolade as a “fantastic thing” that was equally deserved by his colleagues at Comic Relief.
The popular comic, who started out working on the controversial Black and White Minstrel Show before getting his big break as an impressionist on talent show New Faces, told BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans that it was a “lovely feeling, like being filled with lemonade for 10 or 15 minutes.”
The knighthood, Henry said, was for “services to charity,” but he insisted: “That’s not just me, that’s everybody that works for Comic Relief.”
The West Midlands-born entertainer also poked fun at the reaction from those closest to him, explaining: “I’m being pummelled from all sides by my family, saying, ‘Do we get some land? Do we get a castle now? Do we get 100 men in plate armour following us around Dudley? What’s going on?’
“It’s not something you think about really when you grow up in Dudley. But it’s a fantastic thing; I’m very pleased and my mum would have loved it, my mum would have absolutely been chuffed.
“When we were at the Royal Variety Performance she was sat on the same balcony as the Queen and she kept waving to her so this would have sent her into fits of joy.”
Although the Queen is “fountain of honour” in the United Kingdom, honours are actually awarded on the advice of the Cabinet Office, with nominations handled not by Buckingham Palace but by the Honours and Appointments Secretariat, part of the Cabinet Office.
Under the historic protocol surrounding honours, the names of recipients are strictly embargoed until the day before, but the individuals in question are informed in advance that should they wish to receive an honour, they will have to formally accept it.
It is tradition for the recipients to maintain a respectful silence until the official announcement is made, but Henry, clearly delighted at being recognised, decided to speak out.
Henry, whose full name is Lenworth Henry, also told Evans that his new title made him sound like “an old blues singer,” joking: “Sir Lenworth Henry sounds like I’m making a very grand rock ’n’ roll record.”
Henry’s career as a stand-up comic led to him joining children’s TV show Tiswas alongside Chris Tarrant, and its late-night adult sister show OTT before he went on to work on BBC1’s Three of a Kind.
He also fronted his own series, appeared in films and starred in the successful sitcom Chef! before receiving critical acclaim for his stage performances.