Tony Hendra began his career at Cambridge University with the famed Footlights as the comedy partner of Graham Chapman, and starred in the annual revue with Chapman and John Cleese. He came to the United States as a duo act with Nick Ullett, appearing multiple times on The Ed Sullivan Show and Merv Griffin, before splitting up and taking a job as the first editor hired by the founders of National Lampoon. While there, he made the Lampoon’s first album, Radio Dinner, with Michael O’Donoghue, and followed that up by giving John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest their first starring roles in the Lampoon’s off-Broadway hit, Lemmings. Hendra appeared in This Is Spinal Tap, playing the band’s manager, co-created and co-produced the British TV satire, Spitting Image, and served as Editor-in-Chief of Spy Magazine from 1993-1994. He has written four books, including the posthumous memoir of George Carlin, “Last Words,” and for the past several years has led a new satirical operation called The Final Edition. He’s just put out a new comedy album with the Lampoon, Are There Any Triggers Here Tonight?
Hendra talks to me about Graham Chapman, Christopher Guest, John Belushi, opening for Lenny Bruce the night he got arrested, what he learned from both Bruce and George Carlin, and how making fun of Donald Trump in 2016 is a far different proposition now than it was when his Spy first made fun of Trump’s tiny hands.
There’s a lot of great comedy history and stories to get to, so let’s get to it!