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Lederer in 2014
Helen Margaret Lederer
24 September 1954
Roger Alton(1 child)
(m. 1987; div. 1989)
Chris Browne (m. 1999)
Helen Margaret Lederer (born 24 September 1954) is an English 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 BBC Two sketch series Naked Video and BBC One's Absolutely Fabulous, in which she played the role of Catriona.
Helen Lederer was born in Carmarthen to an English mother and Czech-Jewish father. Her father was born in 1926 in Teplice, Czechoslovakia, and many of her relatives did not survive the Holocaust. 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. She was raised in Eltham, south east London 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.
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 Sloan role in a series of television adverts for Warninks Advocaat, with voice-overs by Stephen Fry.
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 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 and All Change at BBC Radio 4. 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 Welsh in an eco-friendly chic 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.
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".
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.
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.
In 2019 she hosted the Women in Comedy panel at Wilderness festival
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. Helen Lederer is an ambassador for the Prince's Trust and the Eve Appeal Gynaecological Cancer Charity.
Television and film appearances
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- Pointless Celebrities (2018)
- Celebrity Big Brother (2017)
- Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)
- Hollyoaks (Mariam) (2013, 2015)
- Old Jack's Boat (2013, 2014)
- Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012)
- Horrid Henry: The Movie (2011)
- The Kid (2010)
- Agatha Christie's Marple (2009)
- Hotel Trubble
- Big Brother's Bit on the Side
- Fat Slags
- Casualty (1992–2011)
- Love Soup
- Girls on Top
- The New Statesman
- Naked Video (1986)
- Sooty Heights
- French and Saunders (1988–1998)
- Heart Beat
- Virtual Murder
- Filthy Rich & Catflap
- Saturday Night Live
- One Foot in the Grave (1993)
- Bottom ;1991–1992)
- The Jack Dee Show
- Harry Enfield's Television Programme (1992)
- Hello Mum (1987)
- Happy Families (1985)
- The Young Ones (1984)
- Murder Most Horrid
- A Day Full of Animals & Songs
- "Ms Helen Lederer Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today". debretts.com. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Preview: Helen Lederer at the Book Festival".
- "Now or never".
- "Helen Lederer". BFI. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- Sunday Telegraph 13 May 2012
- Rocker, Simon; Lipman, Jennifer (10 May 2012). "The Germans who bugged for Britain". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
- "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.
- "University of Hertfordshire". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- "Warninks advert (party) 1980s". 13 February 2008 – via YouTube.
- "Warninks advert from 1988". 10 December 2012 – via YouTube.
- "..: Life With Lederer :." www.britishcomedy.org.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
- "WHAT'S ON: Comedienne and novelist Helen Lederer in Shrewsbury on 14th March - Love Shrewsbury". www.loveshrewsbury.com. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
- "Media Centre – Old Jack's Friends". BBC. 14 January 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
- "Hollyoaks reveals Gloved Hand Killer's third victim in E4 episode". Digital Spy. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "Doctors: Helen Lederer to appear as grieving widow Safia". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "BBC Radio - Knock Knock - Downloads". BBC.
- "Top Comics Join Short Film". Chortle. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
- "Helen Lederer Women in Comedy Panel". Wilderness Festival 30th July - 2nd August 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
- "Now I'm slim my daughter steals my clothes says Helen Lederer". The Daily Express. Retrieved 8 February 2015.