Comic Relief 2024: Sir Lenny Henry to host for final time

Sir Lenny Henry
Sir Lenny has been honorary life president of Comic Relief since 2017

Sir Lenny Henry is to host Comic Relief for the final time when the BBC fundraising telethon returns in March.

The comedian, who co-founded the charity with director Richard Curtis in 1985, said it was time for "new faces" after nearly 40 years at the helm.

This year's campaign will culminate with the Red Nose Day broadcast on BBC One on Friday 15 March.

"I'm not going to be hosting any more Comic Reliefs after this," he told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday.

He said he would continue to make special appearances and documentaries, but that it was "time to hand on to the new generation".

"There's all these new, wonderful comedians with podcasts and nine million followers, and those guys or women should be hosting Comic Relief now so that the young people and the new influx of viewers can plug into the next stage of Comic Relief, because there will be a next stage, and because we want to continue tackling issues of poverty and injustice.

"It's time to hand over the reins, as it were," he added.

Lenny Henry wearing his red nose in 1991
Lenny Henry wearing his red nose in 1991

Sir Lenny co-hosted the inaugural Comic Relief show in 1988. It raised £15m in eight hours of TV comedy with the top stars of the day.

Donations have since surpassed £1.5bn, with money raised each year helping to tackle poverty, provide food, healthcare and safe shelter for people in the UK and around the world.

Sir Lenny, 65, said in a statement he knew people were struggling, particularly during the cost of living crisis. "But we also know that the British public are brilliant - you're so kind and generous, if somebody has a problem, you always want to help out," he said.

Sir Lenny, David Tennant and Alesha Dixon in 2022
Sir Lenny, David Tennant and Alesha Dixon were among the hosts in 2022

This year's events will include a comedy night at the London Palladium on 26 February. Aisling Bea, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Joel Dommett, Mawaan Rizwan, Rosie Jones and Sara Pascoe will appear alongside Sir Lenny.

And a new sketch sees Sir Lenny asking celebrities - including actors Jonathan Bailey and Dame Joan Collins as well as TV personalities Gemma Collins, Davina McCall, Simon Cowell and Alison Hammond - about their fundraising plans.

The show raised over £34m in 2023 thanks in part to The Traitors and Eurovision sketches. For the first time in the fundraiser's history, Sir Lenny did not appear as a main presenter due to commitments with another project.

Instead, a pre-recorded scene saw Sir Lenny feeling sick in his dressing room and pleading for a "doctor", before regenerating into Doctor Who star David Tennant, who went on to host.

Charlotte Moore, chief content officer at the BBC, thanked Sir Lenny for his "incredible contribution" over the decades.

"This year's Red Nose Day will be his last on screen but it promises to be extra special as we take the opportunity to mark his remarkable achievements on the night," she said.