Tony Hendra, National Lampoon Editor and ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Star, Dies at 79

British satirist died of Lou Gehrig’s disease

tony hendra
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Tony Hendra, a British satirist who worked as a top editor with National Lampoon and Spy magazines and is best known from “This Is Spinal Tap” as the band’s manager Ian Faith, has died. He was 79.

Hendra died on Thursday in Yonkers, N.Y., of Lou Gehrig’s disease, his wife Carla told the New York Times. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2019.

Hendra got his start at Cambridge University in the ’60s and worked alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman just before Monty Python hit it big. He eventually took his comedy act to the U.S. and partnered with comedian Nick Ullett to perform stand-up and work as a writer and editor for various publications. In that time, he and Ullett opened for Lenny Bruce at the Cafe Au Go Go, and Hendra became a frequent guest on “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He and Ullett disbanded as a duo at the end of the ’60s.

In 1970, Hendra joined National Lampoon magazine and became the first editor hired by the comedy magazine’s founders Doug Kenney and Henry Beard. Before eventually rising to co-editor-in-chief between 1975-78, he co-created the magazine’s first album, “Radio Dinner,” and co-wrote, directed and produced the off-Broadway revue “Lemmings” starring future comedy royalty John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Christopher Guest. After leaving National Lampoon, he served as a freelance editor for publications like Spy and the satirical Not the New York Times. He was also a writer on the series “Playboy After Dark.”

American fans probably best recognize Hendra as Ian Faith from Rob Reiner’s cult classic mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap.” Hendra played the band’s manager, who had stuck with the band long past their prime and would leave a cricket bat on his desk to intimidate people. Faith famously bungled Tap’s stage show when he commissioned a model of Stonehenge that was just a matter of inches tall, rather than a life-size model.

Some of Hendra’s other famous roles include a “Radio Dinner” parody of John Lennon called “Magical Misery Tour” and appearances on “Miami Vice, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the 1999 film “Suits.”

Hendra published a critically acclaimed memoir in 2004 titled “Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul,” which looked at his encounter with a Benedictine monk named Joseph Warrilow who he said guided him through personal hardships. But shortly after the book was released, Hendra’s daughter from his first marriage, Jessica Hendra, accused him of sexually abusing her on multiple occasions when she was a girl and said that the book neglected to mention those incidents. Though Jessica Hendra wrote an op-ed describing her accusations, her account was eventually reported in the New York Times as part of an independent investigation. Hendra later denied his daughter’s accusations.

In 2009, Hendra wrote the introduction to George Carlin’s 2009 memoir, “Last Words.” He also wrote a novel in 2006 called “The Messiah of Morris Avenue.”


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