R.I.P. Tony Hendra

Tony Hendra has died at 79.

His wife, Carla Hendra, told The New York Times the cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which was first diagnosed in 2019.

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, which led to him downplaying Boston as “not a big college town” and completely miscalculating the size of Stonehenge.

He also 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.

That photo above is Hendra with the cast of Lemmings. He was their director and producer.

I sat down with Hendra in September 2016. Hendra shared stories with 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.

Please enjoy Tony retelling me stories about his life and comedy career, in his own words. Rest in peace, Tony.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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