Things I like: A Bit of Fry And Laurie

I admit, I have been ridiculously derelict in my updating of this blog. Blame it on what you will — poor time management, overcommitment, a near complete lack of interest — but this is something that will soon be remedied. Plans are in order, rest assured, that have been engineered to maximize the knocking off of socks. But until those come to fruition (if ever), there needs to be something here. Content. Filler, if you will. And so we come to this:

A Bit of Fry and Laurie. I believe I have discussed my adoration of Stephen Fry in the past. His “quiz show,” QI, is an ideal source of that precise sort of trivia that allows you to put others in their place and bore them at exactly the same time. His twitter feed is genuinely entertaining. And, he owns and operates his own biplane, a trait which essentially requires me to forgive any number of his potential flaws. If you are a fan of erudite, marginally silly comedy, Stephen Fry should be a subject of your utmost devotion, as in the following sketch from his Cambridge days:

And Laurie (who is also mentioned in the title) is Hugh Laurie, best known on this side of the ocean as House, the grouchy doctor who can diagnose your lupus like nobody’s business, but who has a long and storied career in British comedy (and an endearing fondness of bumper cars).

Together, they created a thoroughly wonderful sketch comedy show at the end of the 1980s, a show that I have been watching far too much of lately. The appeal of the show is actually a bit tricky to describe. The format is fairly standard of sketch comedy, with distinct sketches linked by “man in the street” interviews and the occasional direct audience address. More puzzling for a sketch comedy show, the content is often lacking in clear jokes — take the “Control and Tony” sketches, which feature conversations between two exceedingly polite secret agents. The climax of each of these sketches involves Tony leaving to fetch Control a cup of coffee. There is nothing funny about that, but there’s an underlying self-awareness that makes it work.

But what I like about the show, more than the wordplay, the metatextuality and the willingness to engage in unbridled wholesomeness (a vastly underrated quality) — what I absolutely love about A Bit of Fry and Laurie is the willingness to include long stretches that aren’t in fact jokes. They indulge in entire sketches that are more about poetic reflection than humour…

…or slip in an eloquent commentary on the gullible nature of society in general…

…instead of relying on any particular setup-punchline formula. The best comedy writing involves a certain sort of genius, and also a certain sort of stupidity. Few shows manage to achieve both better than A Bit of Fry and Laurie. And that is a truly wonderful thing.

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