Born in Carmarthen to an English mother and Czech father, Lederer grew up in Eltham, south east London and was educated at the independent Blackheath High School and the Central School of Speech and Drama. She established a stand-up act at the Comedy Store in London and then won minor parts in episodes of The Young Ones, which had been written by her Comedy Store contemporaries Ben Elton and Rik Mayall. She would be linked with this scene for the rest of the 1980s, with a supporting role as housemaid Flossie in Happy Families and numerous appearances in related shows and live performances.
Lederer broke from the Comedy Store wing of the alternative scene in 1986 to take part in the BBC2 sketch show Naked Video, which had originated without Lederer on the radio in Scotland. Lederer played various roles, including that of a newsreader linking spoof headlines into clips which acted as punchlines, and a drunk Sloane who performed a monologue in each episode from a wine bar.
In the 1990s, Lederer was recruited by her old contemporaries Mayall and Adrian Edmondson to play supporting roles in two episodes of their sitcom Bottom, including a memorable part as a fallen millionairess on the make. Simultaneously, she played Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous, joining forces again with Jennifer Saunders. She had previously worked with Saunders and her comedy partner Dawn French in their sketch show French and Saunders, as well as Happy Families and the ITV sitcom Girls on Top. She also guest-acted in the Gregor Fisher sitcom The Baldy Man.
Lederer has always been a guest or supporting actress on programmes devised by or starring her alternative comedy contemporaries and as such has made a good, consistent career. She has branched out into many 'serious' acting roles too, and was reviewed favourably when she took part in The Vagina Monologues on the West End stage.
As a presenter, she has hosted and voiced lifestyle, religious and children's programmes. She has guested on numerous radio panel games and writes columns for newspapers and magazines.
Lederer is also one of eight celebrities chosen to participate in an intense week learning Welsh in an eco-friendly chic campsite in Pembrokeshire in the series cariad@iaith:love4language shown on S4C in July 2011.
In 2013, Lederer played Miss Bowline-Hitch in the children's television series Old Jack's Boat on the CBeebies channel. This role was alongside veteran actor Bernard Cribbins, playing the role of Jack, and supporting actors Freema Agyeman and Janine Duvitski.
In January 2013 she was a contestant on ITV celebrity diving show Splash!, but was eliminated in the first round.
Lederer has married twice and has a daughter, Hannah Lederer-Alton, who began her television career in the ITV series Echo Beach in January 2008. She is an ambassador for the Prince's Trust and also works with UNICEF.
- Debrett's biodata
- BFI biodata
- "Interview: Helen Lederer - My doc's my rock says funnygirl Helen; COMEDIENNE HELEN LEDERER TELLS SHARON FEINSTEIN HOW SHE `GIRDLED' HER LOINS AND WAS SWEPT OFF HER FEET BY A DASHING DOCTOR WHO PROPOSED WITH A pounds 30 RING. - Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. 2000-05-07. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- "Media Centre - Old Jack’s Friends". BBC. 2013-01-14. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Sunday Telegraph 13 May 2012