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Tony Hendra, satirist and 'This is Spinal Tap' star, dies at 79

Amy Johnson
·3-min read
Tony Hendra speaks at Lapham's Quarterly, Decades Ball, 2019 at 583 Park Avenue on March 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Tony Hendra speaks at Lapham's Quarterly, Decades Ball, 2019 at 583 Park Avenue on March 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Tony Hendra, the humorist who starred as the inept manager in This Is Spinal Tap, has died at the age of 79. 

His wife Carla Hendra confirmed to The New York Times the cause of death was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which he had been diagnosed with in 2019.

Hendra attended Cambridge University and by 1961 was part of the famous Cambridge Footlights theatrical group along with a cast including future Monty Python stars John Cleese and Graham Chapman. 

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He and comedy partner Nick Ullett headed to the US in the 60s and worked together on the comedy circuit for a number of years before Hendra left the partnership to begin writing for humour magazine National Lampoon. 

Tony Hendra and Nick Ullett of the comedy duo
Tony Hendra and Nick Ullett of the comedy duo "Hendra and Ullett" hold up cards that read UK and USSR as they perform on "This Is Tom Jones" TV show in circa 1970 in Los Angeles, California . (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images)

Hendra was named the managing editor in 1971, establishing himself in America's satire scene. He produced, directed and co-wrote National Lampoon's Lemming, a revue that became an Off-Broadway hit. 

Chevy Chase and John Belushi were among the cast along with Christopher Guest, who would later cast him as the blundering Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith in the famous 1984 mockumentary. 

Hendra's writing included best-selling book, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul, which explored his lifelong bond with a Benedictine monk. However, in the wake of its release his daughter Jessica from his first marriage alleged he had sexually abused her as a child. 

Tony Hendra attends
Tony Hendra attends "Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead" New York Premiere at Sunshine Landmark on September 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by J Carter Rinaldi/FilmMagic)

She went on to publish her own memoir How to Cook Your Daughter in 2005 where she recounted the alleged abuse. Hendra denied the accusations.

He is survived by Jessica and his four other children. 

Tributes have seen Hendra remembered by This Is Spinal Tap's director Rob Reiner.

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He tweeted: "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."

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Meanwhile Michael McKean, who played lead vocalist David St. Hubbins in the fictional band, simply shared: "RIP Tony Hendra."

Watch: This is Spinal Tap actor Fred Willard dies aged 86