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16th Mar 2024

Sir Lenny Henry delivers tearful goodbye during last ever BBC Comic Relief appearance

Ryan Price

The comedy legend is stepping away from hosting duties after almost 40 years.

Sir Lenny Henry kicked off the Comic Relief telethon for 2024 last night for what is likely to be the final time.

The 65-year-old entertainer opened the show with an emotional message, and for many viewers it was the first time they were learning of his plans to step away from the spotlight.

Henry explained that he felt the time was right to hand over the baton to a new group of comedy stars to oversee the show.

The TV icon was joined during last night’s broadcast by Davina McCall, David Tennent and Joel Dommet, who all took the opportunity to tell Henry that he was “irreplacable” and would be sorely missed.

 “Listen, thank you,” he said in response. “I don’t make too much fuss. It’s been an honour and a joy. It’s about the mirth and the money, the comedy and compassion.”

Sir Lenny founded the charity behind the annual comedy broadcast with filmmaker Richard Curtis in 1985, and originally hosted the annual money-raising event alongside his ex-wife Dawn French.

Speaking on his former partner’s podcast recently, he said: “We were like a little gang. But for a few years I’ve felt, ‘Where’s the new gang?’ [Comic Relief] is a baton to be handed on to a new group of people who are going to take on Comic Relief.”

(Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Since launching in the 80’s, Comic Relief has raised more than £1.5bn from donations – money which has reached more than one hundred million people.

Sir Lenny was left “speechless” during Friday’s show when dozens of people in the audience revealed themselves to be beneficiaries of Comic Relief projects over the years.

Later in the show, the Dudley-born comic was reduced to tears as he watched archive footage of some of his past trips to Africa to help those in need – and was then sent messages from those he helped in the past as they are today.

Among those returning to the telethon to thank Sir Lenny for his work was Aberash from Ethiopia – who Sir Lenny met in the 1995 where she was battling health issues caused by HIV and her young son was desperately trying to help her.

Aberash recalled Sir Lenny had made her son bread and was thrilled to re-introduce him to the star, showing he is now an adult himself.

Crying at the scenes, Sir Lenny said: “They survived because of everybody, mums, cab drivers, cub scouts all donating” Of seeing Aberash and her son again, he gasped: “I am speechless, thank you so much for organising this.”

The news of his resignation from the show led to a wave of messages and tributes from fans on social media.

One woman on Facebook wrote: Well done Sir Lenny. It won’t be the same without you on red nose hosting.”

Another commented: “He’s a very good comedian & actor too. It’s sad to see him host for Comic Relief for the very last time.”

One other person said: “Being funny for money and supporting #RedNoseDay2024 on @BBCOne. A *huge* thank you and best of luck to Sir @LennyHenry who has done wonders for this event, helped raise millions over the years to support children in need in the UK and around the world.”

Last night’s show ended with the announcement that a whopping £38 million had been raised for the charity so far this year.

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