Helen Lederer

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Helen Lederer
Born (1954-09-24) 24 September 1954 (age 69)
Carmarthen, Wales
Alma materRoyal Central School of Speech and Drama
Occupation(s)Comedian, writer, actress
(m. 1989; div. 1991)
(1 child)
Chris Browne
(m. 1999)

Helen Margaret Lederer (born 24 September 1954[1]) is a British comedian, writer and actress who emerged as part of the alternative comedy boom at the beginning of the 1980s. Among her television credits are the BBC2 sketch series Naked Video and BBC One's Absolutely Fabulous, in which she played the role of Catriona.

In 2015 her comedy novel Losing It was published by Pan Macmillan. It was nominated for the P. G. Wodehouse Comedy Literary Award and the Edinburgh Book Festival First Book Award.

Early life[edit]

Helen Lederer was born on 24 September 1954 in Carmarthen, Wales[2] to an English mother and Czech-Jewish father.[3] Her father was born in 1926 in Teplice, Czechoslovakia, and many of her relatives did not survive the Holocaust.[3] Lederer's paternal grandfather, Arnost, worked as a clandestine listener to German prisoners of war at Trent Park in North London during World War II.[4] She was raised in Eltham, south east London[5] and was educated at Blackheath High School (then a direct grant grammar school) and the Central School of Speech and Drama. She also studied at University of Hertfordshire.[6]

She has a BA in applied social science and received an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University.


Lederer was the only woman to write and perform in BBC Radio 4's In One Ear. Produced by Jamie Rix with Clive Mantle and Nick Wilton, it won the Sony Award for best comedy and progressed to the TV version called Hello Mum.

Lederer 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 1980s she reprised her Sloane role in a series of television adverts for Warninks Advocaat, with voice-overs by Stephen Fry.[7][8]

In the 1990s, Lederer was recruited by her old contemporaries Mayall and Ade 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 was one of the first female stand-up comedians to feature on ITV's Saturday Night Live with her own stand up set. She then took part in The Vagina Monologues on the West End stage. Following 'The House of Blue leaves' at the Lilian Baylis Theatre with the late Denis Quilley. 'Having a Ball' by Alan Bleasdale at the Comedy Theatre, she then appeared in The Killing of Sister George at the Arts Theatres and Calendar Girls with Kelly Brook at the Wyndham's Theatre.

As a presenter, Lederer has hosted and voiced lifestyle, religious and children's programmes. She has appeared on numerous radio panel games including Quote... Unquote, The News Quiz and Just a Minute and writes columns for newspapers and magazines. She wrote and starred in radio shows Life with Lederer[9] and All Change at BBC Radio 4.[10] In December 2009 Lederer appeared on Eggheads and went head-to-head against Kevin Ashman.

Lederer was one of eight celebrities who spent a week learning the Welsh language in an eco-friendly campsite in Pembrokeshire for the S4C television series cariad@iaith:love4language shown in July 2011. She appeared in the 2011 British live-action 3D family comedy film Horrid Henry: The Movie, as the title character's aunt Rich Aunt Ruby.

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.[11]

In January 2013 she was a contestant on ITV celebrity diving show Splash!, but was eliminated in the first round. In October 2013 she played the midwife Mariam in Hollyoaks who was responsible for a baby-swap scandal, a role she reprised in 2015 before being killed off by the "Gloved Hand Killer".[12]

In February 2015 Lederer appeared, as grieving widow Safia, in the BBC soap opera series Doctors.[13] She has also appeared on Celebrity MasterChef, Loose Women and Countdown.[citation needed]

In 2017 she competed in Celebrity Big Brother 20, eventually becoming the 7th housemate to be evicted. In 2018 the BBC launched the comedy podcast series Knock Knock, in which she talks with guest comedians from across the UK.[14]

Lederer appears in the 2018 short film To Trend on Twitter in aid of young people with cancer charity CLIC Sargent with fellow comedians Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, David Baddiel and actor Jason Flemyng.[15]

In 2019 she hosted the Women in Comedy panel at Wilderness festival.[16]

Comedy Women in Print award[edit]

In 2018, Lederer launched a new literary prize for comic fiction written by women.[17] The 2019 published winner of the CWIP award was The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven.[18] Kirsty Eyre was the inaugural winner of the unpublished prize with her comic novel, Cow Girl, which was published in 2020. The 2020 awards added a humorous graphic novel prize.[19]

The award was created because of dissatisfaction with the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, which was not awarded in 2018 and had up to that point only been won by a woman three times.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Lederer has married twice and has a daughter, Hannah Lederer-Alton, with her first husband, journalist and former editor of The Observer, Roger Alton. Her second husband is Chris Browne, a GP.[citation needed] Lederer is an ambassador for the Prince's Trust, Eve Appeal Gynaecological Cancer Charity and cancer charity GO Girls.

Her daughter Hannah Lederer-Alton played Abi (Jason Donovan's daughter) in the TV series Echo Beach.

Television and film appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Ms Helen Lederer Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today". debretts.com. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Helen Lederer". BFI. Archived from the original on 30 January 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b Sunday Telegraph 13 May 2012
  4. ^ Rocker, Simon; Lipman, Jennifer (10 May 2012). "The Germans who bugged for Britain". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  5. ^ "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. 7 May 2000. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  6. ^ "University of Hertfordshire". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Warninks advert (party) 1980s". 13 February 2008. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "Warninks advert from 1988". 10 December 2012. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "..: Life With Lederer :." www.britishcomedy.org.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  10. ^ "WHAT'S ON: Comedienne and novelist Helen Lederer in Shrewsbury on 14th March - Love Shrewsbury". www.loveshrewsbury.com. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Media Centre – Old Jack's Friends". BBC. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Hollyoaks reveals Gloved Hand Killer's third victim in E4 episode". Digital Spy. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Doctors: Helen Lederer to appear as grieving widow Safia". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  14. ^ "BBC Radio - Knock Knock - Downloads". BBC.
  15. ^ "Top Comics Join Short Film". Chortle. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Helen Lederer Women in Comedy Panel". Wilderness Festival 30th July - 2nd August 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  17. ^ a b Flood, Allison (10 August 2018). "Helen Lederer launches prize for funny female writers". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  18. ^ "Past Awards". Comedy Women in Print. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  19. ^ Flood, Alison (14 September 2020). "'Men still say women aren't funny': Nina Stibbe wins Comedy women in print prize". Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  20. ^ Timblick, Simon. "'Doctors' spoilers: Valerie Pitman in Wonderland!". What to Watch. Future plc. Retrieved 24 June 2021.

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