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Author: Lenny Henry
  • Video
  • 5 minutes

Lenny's welcome

Updated Friday, 1st June 2007
Lenny Henry introduces the BBC/OU series Lenny's Britain, and explains what you can expect to see - and learn - as the programmes unfold

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Hi and welcome to LENNY’S BRITAIN!

Over the past year I’ve been round Britain making a new documentary series for the BBC and the Open University exploring British humour.

Along the way we’ve looked at what makes us laugh, how we use humour, whether humour unites or divides us, if there’s anything particularly distinctive or special about British humour and why chambermaids are so grumpy?

Each programme looks at a particular theme: FAMILY, WORK, LEISURE and COMMUNITY. In each we explore humour in real situations and with real people.

My mate said it was a show where I was basically a comedic lab rat plunged into a variety of situations to see how I interact with the general public and how they in turn react to me. (No rotten fruit was thrown in the course of filming!)

Some of the more bizarre experiences I had during filming were used as the basis for material I was then able to use at a series of gigs where we brought back the folk featured in the documentaries to be in the audience.

This enhanced some of the funny and inspirational moments we’d shared together. You know it’s really strange for me to have the subject matter of my act sitting on the first few rows of the audience. I was like – “Yikes!”

We also had The Joke Booth (which is basically a box with a camera man in it – honest!) travelling around the country collecting people’s favourite jokes and funny stories.

This was really interesting because it shattered some of our expectations about there being a favourite joke or a particular regionality to the jokes told. I was astonished by the lack of political jokes for starters.

You can discover more about what we found out here on open2, along with some background on the place of British Jokes in our Global World, and selection of jokes from the Joke Booth which show the diversity of British Gags out there today.

The past nine months have been fascinating and living proof that humour is one of the most creative and imaginative human traits we posses. At the same time you can use humour to address serious issues and it’s that that gets us through the very worst and the very best of times.

It’s been an amazing journey making this series, hope you enjoy it.


  • Lenny Henry was introducing the series Lenny's Britain
  • The Open University's Marie Gillespie shares the results of her Joke Booth Joke analysis
  • The website Lenny mentions in his introduction merged with OpenLearn in 2010

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