Hendra, Tony 1941(?)–

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Hendra, Tony 1941(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1941, in London, England; married 1964; wife's name Judith (divorced, 1984); married 1986; wife's name Carla; children: (first marriage) Jessica, one other child; (second marriage) Lucy, Sebastian, Nicholas. Education: Attended Cambridge University.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Henry Holt and Company, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER: Writer, actor, screenwriter, comedian, producer, and director. Performed stand-up comedy act with Nic Ullett during the 1960s, toured Britain and the United States, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and other television variety shows. Actor in films, including This Is Spinal Tap, 1984; Jumpin' Jack Flash, 1986; Life with Mikey, 1993; The Real Blonde, 1997; and Suits, 1999. Actor in television shows, including Miami Vice, The Cosby Mysteries, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Producer of television programs, including Spitting Image, 1984.

AWARDS, HONORS: BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Program nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1985, for Spitting Image.


(With Dean Fuller and Matt Dubey) Smith: A Musical (play), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1972.

(With David Axlerod, Anne Beatts, Henry Beard, John Boni, Douglas C. Kenney, Sean Kelly, and P.J. O'Rourke) National Lampoon's Lemmings (two-act satirical review), first produced Off-Broadway at Village Gate, January 25, 1973.

(Editor, with Christopher Cerf and Peter Ebling) The Eighties: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade, 1980–89, Workman Publishing (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor of English translation) Sayings of the Ayatollah Khomeini: Political, Philosophical, Social, and Religious, selected and translated from Farsi into French by Jean-Marie Xaviere, translated from French into English by Harold J. Salemson, Bantam (New York, NY), 1980.

Le Chainon Manquet (screenplay), Pils Films (France), 1980.

Le Big-Bang (screenplay), Ministere de la Culture (France), 1984.

Going Too Far: The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor, Double-day (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor, with Peter Ebling) The Nineties: A Look Back, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

(Coauthor) Bob Saget's Tales from the Crib, Perigee Book (New York, NY), 1991.

Born to Run Things: An Utterly Unauthorized Biography of George Bush, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Brad '61: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, illustrated by Roy Lichtenstein, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1994.

The Book of Bad Virtues: A Treasury of Immorality: A Parody, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

The Great White Hype (screenplay), 20th Century Fox, 1996.

Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul (memoir), Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

The Messiah of Morris Avenue (novel), Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Vanity Fair, Harper's, New York, Men's Journal, Esquire, and Gentleman's Quarterly. Editor, National Lampoon magazine, 1971–78; coeditor, Not the New York Times, 1978; editor, Spy magazine, 1993–94; coeditor, Off the Wall Street Journal.

SIDELIGHTS: Tony Hendra first came to the United States as half of the comedy team Hendra and Ullett; he and partner Nic Ullett took their offbeat satirical comedy cross-country, targeting politicians (both British and American), the military, the media, and English literature (Hendra once performed a skit wherein he recited poetry written by a fictional ancestor, a lisping romantic known as "the Scarlet Pimp"). This early experience proved to be the perfect preparation for his joining the editorial staff of the legendary satirical magazine National Lampoon. With such contributors as Hendra, Doug Kenney, and Harold Ramis, the Lampoon produced parodic publications like Off the Wall Street Journal and Not the New York Times.

In 1979 Hendra teamed up with Christopher Cerf and Peter Ebling to edit The Eighties: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade. Written from the perspective of the 1990s, this collection of farcical essays "recollects" the preceding ten years. Some notable events include Ted Kennedy's election as president in 1980, followed ten days after the inauguration by his resignation; Disney's 1982 purchase of Britain, reopened as a theme park, the United Magic Kingdom; the declaration of 1983 as the International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm; the 1985 oil glut that toppled oil prices from 240 dollars a barrel to ten cents; and the surprising merger of the New York Times and Vanity Fair that created such headlines as "Afghan War Is Held Over for 6th Big Week." "There's something to offend everyone in here," wrote Newsweek reviewer Jean Strouse, who observed that, although "some of the jokes go on too long [and] others aren't funny … the gems outnumber the duds."

In 1989, the end of the "tumultuous decade," Hendra and Ebling once again looked to the future to compile The Nineties: A Look Back. "The 1990s are seen here as a bizarre parody of the 1980s," remarked Tribune Books critic Clarence Petersen, citing such bizarre occurrences as the Japanese purchase of Pearl Harbor, the popularity of do-it-yourself cosmetic surgery, the televised beheading of Queen Elizabeth by a power-mad Margaret Thatcher, and the election of Geraldo Rivera as president of the United States. "The most impressive achievement of this book is not that it causes you to laugh out loud," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "but that it makes you recall the '80s nostalgically."

As a comedic writer and actor (he was featured in the films This Is Spinal Tap and Jumpin' Jack Flash) and as an editor of the satiric magazines National Lampoon and, later, Spy, Hendra amassed a plethora of anecdotes, observations, and opinions regarding the state of American humor, many of which are voiced in his 1987 book Going Too Far: The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor. In it, Hendra cites 1955 as the beginning of the renaissance of American humor, ushered in by Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. Since then, he claims, it has been propagated in smoky bars and on college campuses, embodied by such comedic entities as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Mike Nichols, the Second City troupe, and National Lampoon. "Hendra is a passionate advocate and a provocative, if prolix, writer who argues that the [baby] boomers will, as they reach full maturity, generate new and exciting forms of comedy," observed Washington Post Book World contributor Ross Thomas.

At nearly five hundred pages, Going Too Far is an exhaustive study of comedy in America; perhaps too exhaustive, according to some critics. "Going Too Far does go too far in analyzing comedy to the point where it ceases to be funny," noted a reviewer for the West Coast Review of Books and Bruce Cook of Tribune Books expressed similar sentiments, calling a five-hundred-page book on humor "almost a contradiction in terms." However, even these two critics considered the book in the end to be well worth reading: Cook dubbed Going Too Far "easily the most ambitious and inclusive effort in this direction ever undertaken," while the West Coast Review of Books writer declared it to be "essential reading. Despite its excesses and shaggy construction, it is the best look yet at a whole generation of icon-smashing comedy."

Hendra turns from a consideration of comedy to a more serious subject in Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul. "This is a spiritual autobiography of Hendra," noted Kliatt reviewer Edna Boardman, a personal memoir that paints an articulate and deeply affectionate portrait of the Benedictine monk who served as Hendra's personal advisor and moral touchstone for four decades. Hendra relates his childhood and upbringing as a Catholic schoolboy. At age fourteen, he found himself in trouble after a dalliance with the wife of a local man. He was shipped off to Quarr Abbey, on the Isle of Wight, where he was to confess his adultery and seek forgivness for his sin. It was at Quarr that Hendra met Father Joseph Warrilaw, the friend and advisor who would guide Hendra through his next forty years.

Impressed with the lifestyle he saw at Quarr Abbey, Hendra originally intended to turn down a scholarship to Cambridge and enter the monastery. Father Joe convinced the young man to get his education at Cambridge. Afterward, he could present himself as a postulant if he was still inclined. Hendra did not, of course, and it was at Cambridge where he discovered and nurtured his talents as a writer, performer, and comic. Hendra's life grew more complicated, and his misfortunes included bad marriages, substance abuse, and career difficulties in the whirl of showbiz life. However, even during Hendra's worst times, when he was wracked by guilt over failing to live up to the standards he was taught as a child, Father Joe was there to nonjudgmentally offer comfort and advice, and as the comic matured, so did his relationship with his monastic friend. Their relationship endured until Father's Joe's death, but even after his passing, Hendra relates, the wise monk still had a surprise in store for his often-errant disciple. This "gentle memoir is elegantly written," commented Booklist reviewer David Pitt. Hendra, concluded Catholic New Times critic Phyllis Levert, "has written a powerful commentary on the modern obsession with success, but also he has given us an appreciation of the absolute necessity of the contemplative dimension of human existence."

In The Messiah of Morris Avenue, Hendra's satirical debut novel, a near-future America has experienced a veritable coup by the conservative Christians. Harsh new laws have made any criticism of religion illegal, blasphemy and witchcraft are crimes punishable with severe penalties, and Hollywood exists only to spread the message of the religious Right. Political careers hinge on the degree of religious fervor demonstrated by the politician, and oppressive Puritanism seeps deeply into every aspect of American life. To this sick and demented world Jesus Christ comes back, clad in the disguise of Jose Francisco Lorcan Kennedy, Bronx-born son of a Guatemalan immigrant. Jose is adamant about his identity, and even dispenses a few genuine miracles. His disciples comprise a cross-section of prostitutes, criminals, itinerants, and others undesirable to the Christian leaders of the country. Those in power do not believe Jose and find him to be crazy and dangerous, and Internet journalist Johnny Greco agrees, at first thinking Jose to be mentally unbalanced. As the story progresses, however, and Jose offers more and more evidence that cannot be dismissed, Greco and many others come around to believe that Jose is indeed the Messiah. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book an "alternately cynical and rapturous fable," and noted that "Hendra writes a heart-wrenching Passion story." The novel is "satire with a thoughtful heart, comedy with a serious message," commented Booklist reviewer David Pitt.



Hendra, Tony, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.


Booklist, February 15, 2005, David Pitt, review of Father Joe, p. 1087; February 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Messiah of Morris Avenue, p. 44.

Catholic New Times, June 19, 2005, Phyllis Levert, review of Father Joe, p. 16.

Kliatt, March, 2005, Edna Boardman, review of Father Joe, p. 59.

Library Journal, December, 2005, Barbara Hoffert, review of The Messiah of Morris Avenue, p. 96.

New Statesman, April 25, 1980, Nicolas Walter, review of The Eighties: A Look Back at the Tumultuous Decade, 1980–89, p. 24.

Newsweek, December 31, 1979, Jean Strouse, review of The Eighties, p. 70.

New York, November 30, 1987, Rhoda Koenig, review of Going Too Far: The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor, p. 80.

Publishers Weekly, November 10, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Nineties: A Look Back, p. 57; January 16, 2006, review of The Messiah of Morris Avenue, p. 35.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 29, 1987, Bruce Cook, review of Going Too Far, p. 7; November 26, 1989, Clarence Peterson, review of The Nineties, p. 8.

Washington Post Book World, October 18, 1987, Ross Thomas, review of Going Too Far, p. 10.

West Coast Review of Books, Number 5, 1988, review of Going Too Far, p. 38.


Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (March 25, 2006), biography of Tony Hendra.

Cinema.com, http://www.cinema.com/ (March 25, 2006), biography of Tony Hendra.

Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (March 25, 2006), biography of Tony Hendra.

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