A Bit of Fry and Laurie


A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Infobox Television
show_name = A Bit of Fry and Laurie


caption = Title screen from the first series of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie"
format = Sketch comedy
camera =
picture_format =
runtime = approx. 30 minutes
creator = Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
developer =
executive_producer =
starring = Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
narrated =
opentheme =
endtheme =
country = UK
language = English
network = BBC2/BBC1
first_aired = 13 January 1989
last_aired = 2 April 1995
num_episodes = 26
list_episodes = List of A Bit of Fry and Laurie episodes
website = http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/b/bitoffryandlauri_7770745.shtml
imdb_id = 0101049
tv_com_id = 12013

"A Bit of Fry and Laurie", commonly known as ABOFAL, was a British television series starring former Cambridge Footlights members Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, broadcast by the BBC between 1989 and 1995. It ran for four series, and totalled 26 episodes, including a 35 minute pilot episode in 1987. Both Fry and Laurie have expressed interest in working together again, but this has not yet taken place, due to both men's busy schedules.

The programme was a sketch show cast in a rather eccentric and at times high-brow mould. Elaborate wordplay and innuendo formed the cornerstone of its material — some sketches deliberately threatened to cross the line into vulgarity, but would always finish just before reaching that point.

It was a progressive show, playing with the audience's expectations. For example, it frequently broke the fourth wall; characters would revert into their real-life actors mid-sketch, or the camera would often pan off set into the studio. In addition, the show was punctuated with non-sequitur vox-pops in a similar style to those of "Monty Python's Flying Circus", often making irrelevant statements, heavily based on wordplay. Laurie was also seen playing piano and a wide variety of other instruments, and singing comical numbers.

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Broadcast details

The 36-minute pilot was broadcast on BBC2 on Boxing Day 1987, although it was later edited down to 29 minutes for repeat transmissions (including broadcasts on the Paramount Comedy Channel). The full version is intact on the Series 1 DVD. It was the first pilot Fry and Laurie had produced for the BBC since 1983, their previous attempt, "The Crystal Cube", not having met with the BBC's approval.cite episode|title=A Bit of Fry and Laurie|series=Comedy Connections|serieslink=Comedy Connections|season=3|number=7|airdate=2005-04-04]

The first three series were screened on BBC2, the traditional home for the BBC's comedy sketch shows, while the fourth switched to BBC1, the mainstream entertainment channel. Some believe this last series to be the weakest, for a number of reasons: BBC1 was not the best place to showcase Fry and Laurie's arch humour; it featured celebrity guests in all but one episode, an addition of which neither Fry nor Laurie approved; and it was shown not long after Stephen Fry's nervous breakdown in 1995, which cast a shadow over the series. One reviewer says that, perhaps owing to this, Fry got more of the laughs, while Laurie was increasingly relegated to the "straight man" role. [ [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/comedy/fryandlaurie.htm OH CHRIST, I'VE LEFT THE IRON ON ...] ]

Politics

The show did not shy away from commenting on issues of the day. A sketch in the second series, in which a Conservative government minister is strangled while Stephen Fry screams at him "What are you doing to the television system? What are you doing to the country?", is an attack on the Broadcasting Act of 1990 and the perceived motivations of those who supported it. The pair would later attack what they saw as the Act's malign aftereffects in the sketch "It's A Soaraway Life", a parody of "It's a Wonderful Life" evoking a world in which Rupert Murdoch had not existed.

The series made numerous jokes at the expense of the Tory prime ministers of the time, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and one sketch depicting a televised "Young Tory of the Year" competition, in which a young Conservative (Laurie) recites a deliberately incoherent speech consisting only of nonsense political buzzwords, such as "family values" and "individual enterprise".

Catchphrases

"Please Mr. Music, will you play?"Each episode of Seasons 3 and 4 ends with Stephen Fry preparing a ridiculously named and even more ridiculously concocted cocktail. Fry entreats Laurie to play the closing theme by saying, “Please Mr. Music, will you play?” He then shakes the cocktail while dancercising and serves it to the guest performers, while Laurie plays the piano and impersonates a muted trumpet.

In Season 4, Fry precedes the question with increasingly silly introductions:
*"I say, as I like to on these occasions, the six words which open the door to sophisticated habits:” (Season 4, episode 3)
*“And now into the cocktail shaker of my mouth I throw these six words: You Please Music Mr Will Play. I give a brief shake [he shakes his head and makes “brr” noises] , and I pour out this golden phrase:” (Season 4, episode 4)
*“And as I prepare your Swinging Ballsacks, I ask this question, in accordance with no principle:” (Season 4, episode 5)
*“While I mix these, I turn to the debonair doyenne of the dance and I ask as askingly as I might this ask:” (Season 4, episode 6)
* [Preparing a “Modern Britain”] “But perhaps, somewhere, you might be inspired to add one small, tender, caring cherry of hope. I wonder. While you decide, I will entreat for the very finalest of last, last times, this entreaty of m’colleague, Britain’s very own melody man, as I say to him, please, please, oh please Mr. Music:” (Season 4, episode 7)

"Soupy twist"The catchphrase "soupy twist" was uttered by Fry at the end of each episode of series 3 and 4, and is believed to be a phrase, likely meaning 'cheers', from the language Strom (invented by Fry and first used on his BBC Radio 4 series "Saturday Night Fry"). Strom comprises nonsensical single-syllable words often meaning different things in the same sentence, even shorter words that can only be expressed over a full sentence in English, and vulgar " faux amis".

Recurring characters

Though the programme mostly consisted of one-time situations and sketches, a few characters appeared over several episodes and series.

Alan

Alan (Laurie) is hired as a secret agent by a mysterious organisation known only as 'The Department', before which he was a gun-runner, supply teacher and Home Secretary. The character is a parody of several television shows of the 1970s, most prominently "The Professionals".

The Bishop and the Warlord

The Bishop (Fry) and the Warlord (Laurie) first appear in series 1. They are the world's leading light-metal band (as opposed to heavy-metal). The Warlord (guitarist) is dressed as a typical rocker, whereas the Bishop (vocalist) is dressed in his normal vestments, and one black fingerless glove. He sings (or rather speaks) his songs from a pulpit.

Control and Tony

Control (Fry) and Tony Murchison (Laurie) are two excessively nice secret agents who first appear in series 1 of the show. Control is head of SIS, the British secret service. Tony Murchison is Subsection Chief of the East Germany and Related Satellites Desk, who brings Control his morning coffee. The characters seem reluctant to discuss issues of national security, and when they do the topic is covered with almost childish simplicity. Much of the humour in these sketches arises from the stilted, amateurish and inappropriate performance style. They parody the grim, oppressive Cold War television dramas such "Callan"; "The Secret Service"; "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; and "The Sandbaggers". There were two written, but unaired, sketches featuring the pair, entitled "Spies Five" and "Spies/Twin" - the latter revealing that Control (whose real name was, in fact, Control) had a twin brother also named Control, who painted erotic murals in Earl's Court. . The script for these sketches are available in the script-books (see below) and [http://www.geocities.com/mmemym/bits1/fal0063.htm here] / [http://www.geocities.com/mmemym/bits2/fal0104.htm here] .

Gelliant Gutfright

Gelliant (Fry) is the host of short-horror program "The Seventh Dimension", who presents stories such as "Flowers for Wendy" and "The Red Hat of Patferrick". He is depicted as an older gentleman who takes great joy in using elaborate wordplay and double negatives whilst seated in his improbably large gold-buttoned leather chair. The stories told were often in the style of "The Twilight Zone".

Jack and Freddy/Neddy

Freddy (Laurie; character later renamed 'Neddy') is a meek, quiet man with a noticeable overbite. Jack (Fry) is an eyepatch-wearing, imposing man who belongs to an unnamed organisation. He recruits Freddy to participate in several of the organisation's efforts for the 'cause,' which he states to be freedom, although this may be hyperbolic. The characters stopped appearing after 'Neddy' became Prime Minister; while he was being force-fed information from Jack, it became clear that Jack's organisation was a group of Nazis who were bent on ruling England through Neddy. Jack then stabbed Neddy in the back with his own knife.

John and Peter

Perhaps the best known of the series' characters, John (Fry) and Peter (Laurie) are hard-driving, hard-drinking executives, with a different business in each episode, ranging from a health club to the Diocese of Uttoxeter (John as Bishop, Peter as Executive Vice-Bishop). The characters are a parody of high-powered businessmen of the time, with their loud catchphrase 'Damn!' or 'Dammit John!'. Their plans are usually derailed by the casual interference of the diabolical Marjorie, John's ex-wife. The sketch also drew inspiration from boardroom soap operas such as "The Power Game", "Man at the Top", and "Howards' Way". There was one written, but unaired, sketch featuring John and Peter, entitled "Dammit 3" - those actually shown in the program went straight from "Dammit 2" to "Dammit 4". The script for this sketch is available in the script-books (see below) and [http://www.geocities.com/mmemym/bits2/fal0088.htm here] .

Mr Dalliard

Mr Dalliard is a non-appearing character in various sketches, all taking place in a shop environment. Though Dalliard never appears, and is implied to be a creation of Fry's character's imagination, he is referred and spoken to several times in every sketch.

Tony Inchpractice

Tony (Laurie) first appears in series 2. He is the host of several talk shows, each one devoted to an odd action performed by the host and the guest during the course of the interview. The different shows are: "Trying to Borrow a Fiver Off...", "Introducing My Grandfather To...", "Photocopying My Genitals With...", "Realising I've Given the Wrong Directions To...", and "Flying a Light Aeroplane Without Having Had Any Formal Instruction With...". The character was originally modeled upon a similar figure named Peter Mostyn whom Laurie had earlier portrayed on "Saturday Live". There was also a similar sketch called "In the bath with..." on the radio series Saturday Night Fry.

Episode guide

*Pilot : 26 December 1987 (36 minutes)
*Series One : 13 January 1989 – 17 February 1989 (six episodes)
*Series Two : 9 March 1990 – 13 April 1990 (six episodes)
*Series Three : 9 January 1992 – 13 February 1992 (six episodes)
*Series Four : 12 February 1995 – 2 April 1995 (seven episodes)

Two compilations were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 11 August 1994.

DVD releases

After much fan-driven petition, the first series of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie", plus the pilot, was released on DVD on 3 April 2006 in Region 2. Series two was released on 12 June, with as a bonus feature a 45-minute "Cambridge Footlights Revue" (1982) in which Fry and Laurie appear with Emma Thompson, Tony Slattery, Penny Dwyer and Paul Shearer.

The third series followed in October 2006. Amazon UK released a complete box set (all 4 series) on 30 October 2006, along with series 4 itself.

Series 1 was released on 6 July in Region 4. Region 1 versions of the first two series were released in the United States and Canada on 22 August 2006.

There is a copyright-related music edit on the Series 1 DVD during the final sketch of Episode 6 ("Tony of Plymouth (Sword Fight)"). In the broadcast version, the music was from the soundtrack of "The Sea Hawk" but instead a new piece of music has been used, drowning out most of the dialogue in the process. In Series 2 Saint-Saens is not credited for the end music ("Finale" from The Carnival of the Animals) until the second half of the series. On the series 3 DVD for region 1, the sketch which features Laurie and Fry singing The Beatles' "Hey Jude" has been omitted for unknown reasons.

Music

Laurie is an accomplished musician and this talent was often featured on the show in the form of plot points in a sketch and satirical songs. It was also a chance for Laurie, who often played straightman to Fry's antics, to show his own comedic abilities. The first such song, 'Mystery', parodies a mournful love song from a lounge singer (Laurie mimics the vocal mannerisims of Sammy Davis Jr.) and presents the obstacles to a relationship between the singer and the object of affection, which become more outlandish every verse: he/she lives in a different country, would probably have a problem with the singer's job ("with the Thames Water Authority"), has never actually met the singer, and has been dead since 1973 ("fifteen years come next Jan-u-ary"). This segment of the show quickly became one of its most popular. Laurie still plays this song when appearing as a guest star on television shows, such as "Saturday Night Live" and "Inside the Actor's Studio". Among the most famous tunes are:

*"Mystery" (see above)

*"Little Girl": Wearing a false pencil mustache and overly-oiled hair, Laurie, in the role of a child pornographer/celebrity photographer, tells in the style of Noel Coward of how he made an underaged girl famous by seducing and taking wildly erotic pictures of her. As the paparazzo continues to photograph the girl throughout her lifetime, she becomes a singing sensation, marries and divorces a pop singer, and fades out of the public eye. The photographer ends his song by mourning that the 'little girl' is no longer little or a girl, but on the bright side, has a young daughter whom the photographer would very much like to meet.

*"America": Laurie dresses in what was, at the time, the 'standard' American rock star uniform – flannel, white t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and a bandana headband in the style of Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix. Laurie dramatically sings the song, the lyrics of which consist of "...America, America, America..." and "...the States, the States, the States...", until Fry comes on stage, quite annoyed, and punches him.
*"The Sophisticated Song": Laurie, in a white and black suit, plays guitar, accompanied by a back-up band, singing about how normally he is very cool until he needs to talk to his true love, at which point he becomes so speechless, he begins to drool.

*"The Polite Rap": Prancing around in neon gangsta clothing, Laurie parodies the hip-hop culture with this rap telling people to be nice, rather than bad, and that he's a "good-ass motherliker", rather than "bad-ass motherfucker".

*"Where is the Lid?": Laurie announces that he has written a "savage, angry" song about "jars that become separated from their lids." Playing the piano, he sings "Where is the lid?" mournfully and repetitively. In the background, Fry finds a stray lid, and tries it on an open jar sitting on the piano; it fits, and he pleads with Laurie to stop singing as the lid has been found and restored to its jar. Laurie ignores Fry and continues to play until Fry punches him. (This is immediately followed by a mini-feature about Laurie's "death".)

*"There Ain't But One Way" :AKA "kicking ass": Laurie and Fry, dressed as two rednecks, introduce the song. A jibe at American Southern patriotism, Laurie sings about how the only way to solve the world's problems, from the hole in the ozone layer to poverty, is to kick some ass, while Fry, playing his mentally challenged brother ("the victim of an unfortunate musical accident"), shouts out "yee-hah!" and repeats "kickin' AY-ass!" when sung by Laurie and stomps around, eventually falling offstage.

*"I'm in Love with Steffi Graf": Laurie once again has a back-up band while he plays the acoustic guitar, and makes a play at the depressing grunge music of the 1990s. He overdramatically flips the hair out of his eyes in the style of Robert Smith of the Cure and, affecting an effeminate lisp, proclaims his love for tennis player Steffi Graf. He goes so far as to proclaim that he stalked her during her tournaments and finally reveals himself as the man who stabbed Monica Seles as revenge for her defeat of Graf, a big news story in 1993. While the tune is performed, a slideshow of Steffi Graf playing tennis is shown on a projector screen.

*"Too Long Johnny": Laurie appears dressed completely in black and wearing a red fedora. He plays slide guitar on a dobro and, affecting a bluesman accent, he sings, "Too long, Johnny, it's long, it's way too long," then proceeds to sing/explain how he wants to cut "it" (presumably wood) down to a perfect length. Unfortunately, though Johnny does get "it" down to the perfect length, he makes "its" width much too thin, and must now start all over.

*"Hey Jude": Laurie plays his grand piano and sings "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, in a voice reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Fry eventually joins him on stage and begins to sing along in an impossibly deep voice. Fry then holds up cue cards so the audience may sing along with the "na na na na" of the refrain. Hugh Laurie pre-recorded his own voice slowly and sped it up, which he was lipsynching to during the show.

*"Love Me Tender": Laurie once again covers a famous musician, this time Elvis Presley. He even adopts a Presley-esque voice for the song. However, Laurie's attempt at seriousness becomes decidedly skewed after it is made clear he is singing to Nicholas Parsons sitting on a stool, who becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Laurie's intimate love song. Laurie finishes up the song then tenderly kisses the shoulder of Parsons, who is shocked and dismayed by the gesture.

*"What I Mind": Laurie on piano and accompanied by a back-up band sings a country song about hard times with his girl, who will not stop referring to him as an inanimate object, such as a hoover, a key, and a garage.

*"The Protest Song": Laurie again provides himself with a backup band and plays acoustic guitar as well as harmonica. He spoofs American college activist rock, singing about how everyone can make the world a better place. Much like his cover of "Love Me Tender", this song appears to be Laurie's attempt at seriousness, at least until he reaches the part when he must actually sing what everyone is supposed to do to build a better society. Every time he reaches this part, as if unable to think of an actual course of action to save the world, he mumbles incoherently in to the microphone. When he reaches the end of the song, he repeats the line "All we gotta do is..." several times, and then resumes playing the harmonica. He also performed this song on BBC's Comic Relief telethon in 1993, and in 2006 alongside his hosting duties on an edition of Saturday Night Live.

Hugh Laurie did not write the closing theme. It is, in fact, "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" by Professor Longhair.

Publications

Four collections of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" scripts have been published.
* "A Bit of Fry & Laurie" (1990) ISBN 0749307056
* "A Bit More Fry & Laurie" (1991) ISBN 0749310766
* "3 Bits of Fry & Laurie" (1992) ISBN 0749317019
* "Fry & Laurie Bit No. 4" (1995) ISBN 0749319674

References

External links

*bbc.co.uk|id=comedy/guide/articles/b/bitoffryandlauri_7770745.shtml|title="A Bit of Fry and Laurie" Comedy Guide
*imdb title|0101049
* [http://www.bennink.info/corien/frylaurieintro.pdf Piano sheetmusic of the intro ]


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