Tony Hendra

Tony Hendra

Tony Hendra, photo taken in downtown NYC, 17 September 2014

1941 (age 7475)

Hertfordshire, England, UK

Occupation Satirist, writer, actor
Nationality British
Genre Fiction, non-fiction, satire, social commentary
Spouse Judith H. Christmas (1964–1984; divorced; 2 children)
Carla Hendra (1986–present; 3 children)

Tony Hendra (born July 10, 1941) is an English satirist, actor and writer who has worked mostly in the United States. Educated at St Albans School (where he was a classmate of Stephen Hawking) and at Cambridge University, he was a member of the Cambridge University Footlights revue in 1962, alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor.

Hendra is probably best known for being the writer for the first six shows of the British television series Spitting Image, and for playing Ian Faith, the band's manager, in the film This Is Spinal Tap.

Early career

In 1964 Hendra moved to America, where he worked as a comedian. He sometimes teamed with comic actor Nick Ullett as "Hendra and Ullett," appearing on the Merv Griffin Show multiple times and six times on The Ed Sullivan Show. Hendra wrote for National Lampoon magazine from its beginning in 1970. 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 and Christopher Guest in their first starring roles. He was an editor of the Lampoon until 1974, and was co-editor-in-chief with Kelly from 1975–78.

Freelance editor

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 helped create the parody Not the New York Times featuring Christopher Cerf, George Plimpton, and Rusty Unger, and published by Larry Durocher and Josh Feigenbaum. In 1982 he was editor-in-chief of Off the Wall Street Journal and, in 1983, of Off the Wall Street Journal II. Other parodies Hendra created and edited included The Irrational Inquirer, Playboy: the Parody and Not the Bible (1983). Hendra was featured on the cover of Newsweek (25 April 1983) with Sean Kelly and Alfred Gingold. Hendra was editor-in-chief of Spy Magazine from 1993–94.

Television and films

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 controversy

Hendra has been married twice. His first marriage, to Judith H. Christmas in 1964, produced two daughters and ended in an acrimonious divorce in 1985. He and his second wife, Carla, live in New York City with their three children.[1]

In 2004, at the time that 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 Times published Kleinfield's story, 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, and that she was "very unstable emotionally"—adding, "I can't believe it happened."[2] Hendra responded, "I can only just categorically deny this. It's not a new allegation. It's simply not true, I'm afraid."[1]

In the wake of criticism of the paper's decision to publish the story in the absence of tangible proof,[3] 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," he wrote, "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," Okrent continued. "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."[4] In 2005, Jessica Hendra wrote a memoir with USA Today journalist Blake Morrison, How to Cook Your Daughter, in which she repeated her accusations.[5]



  1. 1 2 "Daughter Says Father's Confessional Book Didn't Confess His Molestation of Her",, 1 July 2004.
  2. 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.
  3. Not Fit to Print, column in The Washington Post by Richard Cohen, 20 July 2004
  4. 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.
  5. Hendra, J. and Morrison, B. How to Cook Your Daughter: A Memoir. Harper (2005). ISBN 0060820993.
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