Tony Hendra

Anthony Christopher "Tony" Hendra (10 July 1941 – 4 March 2021) was an English satirist, actor, and writer who worked mostly in the United States. Educated at St Albans School (where he was a classmate of Stephen Hawking) and at St John's College, Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge University Footlights revue in 1962, alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor.

Tony Hendra
Tony Hendra, photo taken in downtown New York City on 17 September 2014
Tony Hendra, photo taken in downtown New York City on 17 September 2014
BornAnthony Christopher Hendra[1]
10 July 1941
Hertfordshire, England, UK
Died4 March 2021(2021-03-04) (aged 79)
Yonkers, New York, US
OccupationSatirist, writer, actor
GenreFiction, non-fiction, satire, social commentary
Years active1961-2018
SpouseJudith H. Christmas (1964–1985)
Carla Hendra (1986–2021)

Hendra was probably best known for being the head writer and co-producer in 1984 of the first six shows of the long-running British satirical television series Spitting Image, and for starring in the film This Is Spinal Tap as the band's manager Ian Faith.

Hendra died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on 4 March 2021.[1]

Early life and careerEdit

Hendra was born in Hertfordshire. His surname is Cornish, and he also had Irish ancestry.[2]

In 1964, Hendra moved to America, with actor and comedian Nick Ullett. For the next five years they worked successfully as a comedy team, appearing at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York with Lenny Bruce, at the hungry i in San Francisco with Nina Simone and at the Shadows in Washington, DC, with various headliners, including Woody Allen. They were regular guests on The Merv Griffin Show and appeared six times on The Ed Sullivan Show. in 1969 Hendra broke up the comedy team and in 1970 began writing for National Lampoon magazine, from its inception. In 1971 he became the first editor hired by founders Doug Kenney and Henry Beard.

In 1972, Hendra co-created National Lampoon's first album Radio Dinner, with Michael O'Donoghue, on which Hendra performed a parody of John Lennon, titled "Magical Misery Tour". In 1973, Hendra produced, directed and co-wrote (with Sean Kelly) the Lampoon's off-Broadway revue Lemmings, in which Hendra cast John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Rhonda Coullet, Christopher Guest and Alice Playten in their first starring roles. Hendra continued as an editor of the Lampoon until 1975, when he became co-editor-in-chief with Kelly until 1978.

Freelance editorEdit

After leaving the Lampoon in 1978, Hendra began working as a freelance editor, writer and actor. During the New York newspaper strike of 1978, he edited and co-created the parody Not the New York Times with Rusty Unger, Christopher Cerf, and George Plimpton, and published by Larry Durocher and Josh Feigenbaum.

In 1979 he co-edited (with Cerf and actor Peter Elbling) The 80s—A Look Back. In 1980 he packaged and edited The Sayings of Ayatollah Khomeini aka The Little Green Book of Ayatollah Khomeini, a collection of the Ayatollah's actual teachings with an introduction by Clive Irving, which was regularly featured on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

In 1982 he was editor-in-chief of Off the Wall Street Journal and Off the Wall Street Journal II, which between them sold almost a million copies and featured such contributors as Kurt Andersen. Other parodies Hendra created and edited included The Irrational Inquirer, Playboy: the Parody and Not the Bible (1983). He was featured on the cover of Newsweek (25 April 1983) with Sean Kelly and Alfred Gingold. Hendra was a writer for and became editor-in-chief of Spy Magazine from 1993–94.[citation needed]

In the mid-1980s, he decided to devote himself exclusively to writing and in 1987 published Going Too Far, a history of "sick," "black," "anti-establishment" American satire from the 1950s to the 1980s, which featured interviews of some of the chief satirists.

Television and filmsEdit

In 1984, Hendra co-created, co-wrote, and co-produced the British television satirical show Spitting Image, for which he, Jon Blair, and John Lloyd were nominated for a British Academy Award in 1985. He was ousted from the production after the first six shows, being replaced by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. He played Ian Faith in This Is Spinal Tap.

He appeared in several other films and television programs, including Miami Vice, The Cosby Mysteries, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In 1997, Hendra and director Ron Shelton wrote The Great White Hype, a satire of racism in boxing, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Jeff Goldblum, and Peter Berg. He co-conceived and wrote the English dubs of three of the films created by Belgian animator Picha, including The Missing Link (1980), The Big Bang (1987), and Snow White: The Sequel (2007).

Family life and sexual abuse allegationsEdit

Hendra was married twice. His first marriage, to Judith Christmas in 1964, produced two daughters and ended in an acrimonious divorce in 1985. He and his second wife, Carla, lived in New York City with their three children.[3]

In 2004, at the time that his memoir Father Joe was achieving best-seller status, Jessica Hendra, the younger of Hendra's two daughters from his first marriage, submitted an op-ed piece to The New York Times in which she asserted that her father failed to include in his narrative of "deliverance through faith and atonement for his failings" that he had sexually abused her as a young child. The newspaper declined to publish the piece, but did assign a reporter, N. R. Kleinfield, to investigate her charges.

On 1 July 2004, The New York Times published Kleinfield's story,[4] including details of the alleged acts of molestation and interviews with two of Jessica's therapists, three friends, her mother and her husband. All said that Jessica told them at different junctures of being molested; in her mother's case, when she was 12. A former boyfriend told Kleinfield, however, that Jessica never spoke of it during their years together, that she was "very unstable emotionally" and that "I can't believe it happened."[5]

Hendra responded, "I can only just categorically deny this. It's not a new allegation. It's simply not true, I'm afraid."[3] In the wake of criticism of the paper's decision to publish the story in the absence of tangible proof,[6] New York Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent wrote a detailed examination of the procedures followed by the editorial staff prior to publication. While acknowledging that Kleinfield was convinced, based on information gathered during his reporting, that Jessica Hendra had indeed been molested, Okrent expressed concern over possible consequences should the charges prove to be false:

Even if the preponderant evidence indicates it's true ... doesn't the small chance that it's false outweigh the value of giving readers access to the private miseries of the Hendra family? Either way, Tony Hendra will bear the scars of this article forever. People who did not write a book claiming spiritual salvation will suffer as well: his three young children from his second marriage, for instance. In the face of this risk, what do readers of The Times (or of Father Joe) gain by believing Hendra guilty of abuse? There's a difference between the right to know and the need to know, and in this case, the need escapes me ... I don't mean in any way to diminish the gravity of Jessica Hendra's charges ... I can't imagine an accusation more serious, a transgression more detestable. If her story is true, Tony Hendra deserves punishment far greater than humiliation in the pages of The Times. As an editor, the verities of the profession might have led me to publish this article. But as a reader, I wish The Times hadn't.[7]

In 2005, Jessica Hendra wrote a memoir with USA Today journalist Blake Morrison, How to Cook Your Daughter, in which she repeated her accusations.[8]



  1. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (5 March 2021). "Tony Hendra, a Multiplatform Humorist, Is Dead at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  2. ^ "An Interview with Tony Hendra (Part One)". 1 December 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Daughter Says Father's Confessional Book Didn't Confess His Molestation of Her",, 1 July 2004.
  4. ^ Kleinfield, N. R. (2014). "The New York Times". Archived from the original on 27 April 2014.
  5. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (10 May 2011). "Tony Hendra, Satirist Behind New York Times Spoof Site, Molested His Daughter, New York Times Reported". Village Voice Blogs. Archived from the original on 26 April 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  6. ^ Not Fit to Print, column in The Washington Post by Richard Cohen, 20 July 2004.
  7. ^ When the Right to Know Confronts the Need to Know – New York Times ombudsman comments on the publication of Jessica Hendra's allegations,; accessed 7 December 2015.
  8. ^ Hendra, J. and Morrison, B. How to Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir. Harper (2005); ISBN 0060820993.

External linksEdit