Here's an old New Zealand Herald article about my personal god, Stephen Fry.
Some Fry quotes from the article:
"It takes a long time in our culture if you're 'successful' to understand why you're not happy because we so associate happiness with acquisition and achievement."
"It did take a bit of time for me to realise that it's all right to be unhappy ... It was quite a stunning revelation, as the most obvious things are. So now I am happy because I realise I can be unhappy."
Fry's at his hilarious best in the television program A Bit of Fry and Laurie. A Bit of Fry and Laurie is brilliant -- the funniest sketch comedy I've ever seen. I absolutely adore it. Fry and Laurie is at least as good as Monty Python's Flying Circus, if not better. Not to knock Python -- I love Python, too -- but if given a choice between Python and Fry and Laurie, I'd probably pick the latter most of the time. Their humor is incredibly smart and sophisticated, but, at the same time, just as silly as Python. What I love is the combination. For example, here's a monologue spoofing Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads" programs (which I've never seen).
In the sketch, which is called "Gossiping Heads," Stephen is dressed as a conservative, middle-class woman in her sixties. He plays the thing very straight -- not broad like the Python old ladies with their silly voices -- but if you listen to what he's actually saying, it's hilarious, and some of it is delectably surreal. For example:
Lovely boy he was. Teeth weren't his strong feature, of course, and his hair wasn't what you'd call Leslie Howard, but I always say, "Teeth is teeth, what does it matter so long as you've got your wealth?" He said, "I can't wait to get out of here, Auntie Ivy, and make my fortune down south." I said to him, straight, I said, "Alan," I said, "I may not be as cabbage looking as my tongue is a fisherman's doily, but what's London got that you won't find in the Arndale Centre in Todmodern?" Well, he was stuck for a reply.
As played by Stephen, the sketch is delicious. I mean, "I may not be as cabbage looking as my tongue is a fisherman's doily"? Where does that come from?
Here's another Fry monologue, this one perhaps even more absurd:
The Day I Forgot My Legs
I don't know if I ever told you about the day I forgot my legs. I can't remember which day it was: it was one of those ones that happened in 1987, I can't remember which exactly, there were so many. In particular there were quite a lot of Tuesdays then, I remember, so I've a feeling it might have been one of those. Anyway, I was on my way into work with Sir Peter Thorneycroft, no relation, one fresh June morning in early May and we took the shortcut across the fields. I stooped to pick a buttercup, why people leave buttocks lying around, I've no idea. The gentlest breeze and mildest Camemberts were packed in our hamper and all nature seemed to be holding its breath. We made good time by taking a back way across what was then the main Corpusty to Saxmundham Road. I was just remarking to Peter how still and peaceful everything was when he suddenly agreed with me and said how he thought everything was still and peaceful too. You know how if you half-close your eyes you can't see so well? I'd just discovered that it was equally true if you half-opened them. I was pointing this out when I suddenly noticed that I'd completely forgotten my legs. We had to go back and get them. The moment was spoiled and three years later almost to the decade, Margaret Thatcher was hounded from office. I sometimes muse on what might have happened if I had forgotten my ears as well. Never go back, ladies and gentlemen. Never go back.
There is a VHS tape available that contains some of my favorite sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie (though not the "Gossiping Heads" one quoted above, unfortunately). For example, it contains my favorite sketch in the history of sketch comedy, "Haircut." The tape can be purchased here.
Sadly, beyond that one tape, it is very hard to see A Bit of Fry and Laurie in the U.S. A PBS station around here (Seattle) used to run it, but they stopped years ago. If only the unwashed masses had better taste! (And better hygiene!)