British satirist Tony Hendra, known for his work with National Lampoon and film This Is Spinal Tap, has died aged 79.
As the New York Times reports, Hendra died on Thursday (March 4) from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which he was diagnosed with back in 2019.
Hendra began writing and performing comedy while studying at Cambridge University. There, he joined the Cambridge Footlights theatrical group, doing comic routines at the annual revue alongside a cast that included Monty Python founders John Cleese and Graham Chapman, as well as Tim Brooke-Taylor.
He ended up moving to the US with his comedy partner Nick Ullett, trying their hand in the New York scene. Following a moderately successful career, and a brief move to the west coast to work in TV writing, Hendra began working for National Lampoon magazine as their managing editor.
National Lampoon transformed into a franchise under Hendra, and included the successful National Lampoon Lemmings revue, starring a cast of Chevy Chase and John Belushi, who were relatively unknown names at the time.
A decade on, Hendra played band manager Ian Faith in Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. The cast also included actor Christopher Guest, who starred in the Lemmings revue earlier in his career.
Hendra became the final editor-in-chief of the initial incarnation of satirical magazine Spy before its closure in the ’90s.
In 2004, Hendra was accused by his daughter, Jessica, of sexual abuse allegations, which he denied. The allegations were detailed in an article published by the Times, following the release of Hendra’s best-selling book Father Joe.
Cleese paid tribute to Hendra on Twitter, saying they reconnected recently after losing touch.
My old friend Tony Hendra died yesterday
We were in the 1962 Footlights Revue together, along with Graham Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor
We were pals in New York in the 60s and 70s, and then lost touch, but we reconnected recently
My heart goes out to his wonderful wife Carla
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) March 6, 2021
Upon learning of Hendra’s passing, Reiner described him as “a brilliant satirist who when learning that the band’s Boston gig had been canceled, told them not to worry that Boston wasn’t a big college town”.
Tony Hendra who played Spinal Tap’s manager, Ian, has sadly passed away. A brilliant satirist who when learning that the band’s Boston gig had been canceled, told them not to worry that Boston wasn’t a big college town. R.I.P.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) March 5, 2021