Lenny Henry pens new BBC One drama, ‘Danny And The Human Zoo’

A fictionalised account of Lenny’s rise to fame

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Comedian Lenny Henry has penned a new 90-minute drama, Danny And The Human Zoo – a fictionalised account of his life as a working-class teenager in 1970s Dudley.

The story centres round Danny Fearon, a talented impressionist, and his working-class Jamaican family, as he rises to fame as a stand-up comedian.

Lenny Henry says: “I’m so excited about bringing my fictional teen memoir to the nation!  I’ve crammed the first two years of a very long career into 90 minutes – it’s gonna rock. I think , although it’s not exactly what happened, that we’ll get  a strong sense of what it might have been like for a young black kid from Dudley to be suddenly hurled into the maelstrom of this business we call show… Can’t wait!”

Danny’s world is a series of complex minefields which he has to negotiate.  His home life – which his ebullient mother rules with an iron fist in an iron glove; his love life – where the white Irish girl he’s in love with won’t give him the time of day until he wins his first competition – and finally the ups and downs of his emerging career.

When Danny wins a talent competition at the local club he soon finds himself working the comedy circuit. Audiences can’t get enough and applaud Danny as he effortlessly morphs into Mohammed Ali, Tommy Cooper and Frank Spencer; eventually hitting the big time on TV, an unheard-of achievement for a young black boy. But an unscrupulous agent takes advantage of Danny and forces him to star in a show, which even by Seventies’ standards, was a byword for racism – The Black And White Minstrel Show. Danny hits rock bottom. Having made his name by becoming other people, Danny has to save himself by finding out who he really is.

RED Production Company’s founder and executive producer Nicola Shindler says: “I’m extremely excited to be making Danny And The Human Zoo with Lenny whose skill as a writer has been so impressive and assured. This is a funny, moving and important script about growing up as a black, comic talent in a white, crazy world – in the not too distant past.”

The drama is made by RED Production Company for BBC One. The executive producers are Nicola Shindler for RED and Polly Hill, BBC Head of Independent Drama for the BBC.