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The full official story of the sophisticated silliness of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie

Comedy History shows quite convincingly that it is our funniest double acts who receive and retain the most love from the public, from Eric & Ernie and Pete & Dud to The Two Ronnies and Vic & Bob. But although all of the aforementioned partnerships have been celebrated in print (many, many times in the case of the former acts), it’s a bizarre oversight that one of the most beloved, successful and silly duos of all time, widely adored both together and apart – Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie – have not.

Of course, Fry’s autobiographies have been gratefully devoured by his admirers, but personal memoirs by their very nature seldom touch on the actual work, and the creative output of the individual. The criminality of there being no book to accompany Fry & Laurie’s oeuvre will be rectified with an all-new narrative guide to the partnership’s humour, timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the debut of their effortlessly superior sketch show, A Bit of Fry & Laurie.

With the full blessing, co-operation and active participation of the beloved colleagues Stephen and Hugh themselves, plus of course the troops of friends they have amassed over their four decades in show business, Blackadder chronicler and official biographer of Douglas Adams, Jem Roberts, will take a fresh look at the ampersand-defining colleagues’ entwining stories, from insecure Footlighters to international comedy heroes. Focusing on the humour they generated between them, exhaustive research will result in a fizzy comedy narrative taking in the excitement of being the first Perrier Award winners with The Cellar Tapes, the terrors of performing in Saturday Live, the collaborative warfare of Blackadder, the creation of four series of cult sketch comedy which have only grown in global acclaim year by year, the admirable promotion of Tidyman’s Carpets, and the ultimate depiction of Wodehouse’s most inimitable characters, Jeeves & Wooster. Beyond this, the trials and tribulations of their remarkable subsequent separate career paths, from QI to House, will be entertainingly explored for the very first time. The story will be authoritative, but never remotely dull.

Thanks to the generosity of both colleagues, the huge databanks of the A Bit of Fry & Laurie unseen material archive have been opened up, revealing a host of tantalising titbits for fans – including what happened next for Tony & Control, which other shops Mr Dalliard’s friend ran, and the lost Laurie number The Ballad of Neddy Muldoon – but above all, making Stephen & Hugh’s astonishing achievements all the more evident by instantly being freshly, gut-squeezingly funny.

Above all, this is the tale of a true friendship, a deep affection between two very funny men which has long been reflected back from an adoring public a thousandfold. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first TV pilot as a double act, Soupy Twists! will be an all-but overdue celebration of a unique comic chemistry, documenting the most outrageous, exciting and linguistically sublime comedy of a generation.

"You've been patient, you've been glossy, you've been surprisingly supple. I've enjoyed being fabulous with you."

"Bet you can't eat three!"


Jem Roberts has been a journalist since his teens, as well as a storyteller, dirty songwriter and above all, a devoted and proud comedy geek. Writing articles for the Peter Cook Appreciation Society’s fagazine, Publish & Bedazzled led to an in-depth feature on ISIRTA and ISIHAC for its follow up, Kettering – The Magazine of Elderly Comedy, and the Teams loved the result so much that Barry Cryer rang the author up and invited him to pen a full-length history of The Antidote to Panel Games, resulting in THE CLUE BIBLE in 2009, about which Graeme Garden insisted, “As Bibles go, I reckon The Clue Bible is among the top two.”

Given carte blanche by Preface Publishing to suggest a follow-up, the need for a celebration of the nation’s favourite sitcom, and his own personal obsession, Blackadder, set Jem on a course to rounding up some of the finest minds in British comedy. Rowan Atkinson had only ever set lawyers on previous authors who attempted to chronicle his career, but for 2012’s The True History of The Black Adder, historian J.F. Roberts managed to gain the approval and participation not just of Atkinson, but most of the show’s stars, including John Lloyd, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, Tony Robinson, Brian Blessed, and many more. The Times Literary Supplement said of the result, ‘J.F. Roberts’s lively, warm-hearted True History of The Black Adder is a celebration of this incredible feat of comedy production’, while The Telegraph insisted the book was ‘essential for any comprehensive comedy library’.

The warmth of the Blackadder history’s reception gave the Douglas Adams estate the confidence to give Jem the honour of becoming the great novelist’s new official biographer, the first to gain access to the Douglas Adams private archive. The updated biography The Frood arrived in 2014, published, like all the books in this range, by Preface. SFX magazine joined hordes of Hitchhiker fans in heaping praise on The Frood and its narrative approach to the creation of a comedy science fiction masterpiece: ‘Roberts's lively, conversational prose never tries to ape Adams's own style, but tells the story of his life in an accessible, compelling flow. A thoroughly absorbing read.’

Stephen Fry himself was kind enough to add, “Jem manages to write about popular cultural institutions with knowledge and affection, while avoiding the dismal traps of nerdy fanboyism on the one hand or grandiose cultural pseudo-intellectualism on the other. His research is flawless and the results are readable, illuminating and delightful.” And this may be why Fry has joined with his colleague to confer upon Jem Roberts the privilege of nosing into their own joint comedy careers, in Soupy Twists!

Besides penning works of comedy history, Jem has also written for The Independent, Edge, Total Film, BBC News, Geeky Monkey, The Telegraph and many more, toured the country giving talks on the Douglas Adams archives and comedy history generally, occasionally performs comedy solo and with his band The Unrelated Family, and is a trustee of The Bath Comedy Festival, creating and curating its annual award for achievement in comedy, The Bath Plug.

However, his greatest accolade, and a constant reminder of why he does all this, is the voluble support of Brian Blessed, who thunders: “Tell them, ‘Brian loves and trusts me.’ What you’re doing is so worthwhile, KEEP AT IT!”

JEMROBERTS.COM

TIME hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
A great-sized monster of ingratitudes!”

Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie collapsed in the rehearsal room for the 1981 Cambridge Footlights show, unfeasibly long legs asplayed, and groaned as one. The dark 24-year old English scholar and fair 22-year-old oarsman knew they were doomed, finished, fucked – the 1980s had arrived, kicking as well as screaming, and what kind of life form left standing on the face of the planet Earth gave the tiniest frig about the Cambridge Footlights' latest show? They were privileged throwbacks, suggested Hugh, lighting an outrageously high-tar cigarette. Outdated milksops, agreed Stephen, halfway through his twelfth of the afternoon. Pointless knobs, offered Hugh – which it was agreed seemed to be putting it a bit strong.

The pine-panelled dungeon which passed for a Footlights base under the Laurie regime was as far removed from the fishy opulence of the Petty Cury clubroom where Peter Cook, John Cleese, Graeme Garden et al played as this young bunch could fathom. “There were pictures of them on the wall in the clubroom,” Stephen recalls, “all in duffel coats, and that classic sort of sixties student look … It was very interesting, that whole sense of a connection, of the continuity of the Footlights all the way through. And of course, you believe when you’re there that it’s over.”

“Those were the glory days, and we’re just an embarrassment,” Fry & Laurie agreed, as fresh-faced Goodies and a sneering Wisty gazed down at them, obstinately monochromatic and unreachable. Of course, Emma was clearly destined for showbiz greatness from the second she was born, and young Tony Slattery might have a chance, but Britain did not need a couple of unnecessarily tall spindly public school boys to tickle its massed funny bones, no matter how base, how bizarre, how smart and how deliciously phrased their jokes may be. Nonetheless they would press on, and then flee to academia and the Hong Kong Police, as planned.

“Let’s press on, and go back to ‘TIME!’” suggested Jan Ravens, the director of the show that had already been written off as The Cellar Tapes. And so they pressed on.

A decade and a half later, David Mitchell & Robert Webb collapsed in the rehearsal room of their own Cambridge Footlights show, and groaned as one. They were doomed, finished, fucked. Charlotte was clearly destined for showbiz greatness from the second she was born, and young John Oliver might have a chance, but was the 21st century really going to give a couple of Footlighters like them a chance in comedy?

In the 1990s, the club had even poorer resources than ever, but there was one speck of its intimidatingly glorious past still showing: a torn old poster for The Cellar Tapes, the first and last Footlights show to win the Edinburgh Fringe award, the highest accolade in comedy.

“Those were the glory days, and we’re just an embarrassment,” the pair agreed. But they pressed on.

UNSEEN ABOF&L MATERIAL

TWO UNDERGRADUATES

STEPHEN AND HUGH ARE PART OF A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THEMSELVES.

STEPHEN: I remember when I met Hugh, I thought, "Wow! Like, this guy is seriously deranged. This is psychopathy taken to – what? – the nth like degree." He was really into this punting on the river and wearing blazers.

CUT TO:

HUGH: See, like the thing about Stephen at Cambridge, was like, he was this animal, you know? I met him when he was writing an essay on George Eliot's Middlemarch and I thought, this is weird, like weird-weird, you see what I'm saying?

STEPHEN: I mean the way he like spread butter on crumpets and poured a glass of Pimms. It just said "freak". Who is this guy? I don't want him near me. This is like angst in your pangst. Like look out Brother Karamazov and look out Kafka, this guy – just in the way he pays for a May Ball ticket – it's dangerous. Too dangerous. Is he for real?

HUGH: There was this whole existential anti-karma about his anger, his like TOTAL rage when he was busted for stepping out of line. I remember the senior tutor fined him for leaving a champagne bottle on the steps outside his rooms and he like literally he turned, on a sixpence, into this screwed up ball of like street fury.

STEPHEN: So much frigging pain, you know?

VOICE: (OFF) Do you like him?

STEPHEN: Like him? He's an event. He's a system, a force, a pathological state. I hate the bastard.

HUGH: I love him. Love him like you love a pizza. Hate. I hate him.

VOXPOPS

STEPHEN: I was born in 1917 and my grandmother, whom I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday, was born in 1848. Wonderful lady she was. Her advice to me was, "Remember this Rose," she would say, "all men masturbate. All of them. Without exception." I've never forgotten that. And now when I look at the Cabinet or some of those weathermen, I don't feel so queasy.

HUGH: I was expelled from my school for bad behaviour. What kind of lesson is that for later life, eh? Then a couple of years ago, I was banged up in Parkhurst. They let me out of there for good behaviour. I mean, where's the consistency? Our schools are teaching kids that they can be let out of school for bad behaviour, our prisons are teaching something else. Crazy. Now, give us that camera or I'll slice your neck open.

(END)

Read more...

Better To Be Sixty & Racy...

Thursday, 24 August 2017

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... Than sexist and racist! HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY, STEPHEN JOHN FRY!

We're a day early for Soupy Twists Friday, but what a momentous day to mark – wherever you are, on whatever continent takes your fancy, we send all our deepest love and gratitude for all your help making Soupy Twists a (nadmittedly delayed) reality!



Talking of the book's development, we're teetering on a certain disaster…

Hugh Laurie's Face

Friday, 4 August 2017

Giphy downsized large

Happy Soupy Twists Friday, FAL-fans!

This isn't much of an update, but it had been bothering me for a while that this sketch wasn't online as a standalone piece, and to my mind, this is the funniest 38 seconds of wordless comedy in the entire history of funny things. Even without the punchline.

And all down to Hugh Laurie's face... and, admittedly a very amusing wig. In fact, I feel it deserves…

DAMN, HELL AND CUSTARD

Friday, 28 July 2017

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Anyone seen a pithy, fascinating biography of Fry & Laurie anywhere...? Deborah Munnings...?

If you were to take a sky-diving course – and why wouldn't you? Life is dull enough – you would obviously be very keen to get out to feel the thermal currents filling your body with endorphins. But if your sky-diving instructor took a look at your parachute, and told the pilot they'd have to land…

Knickers Off Ready

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

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Listen to me, lovelets...

It is now far more than nigh on 8 months since my pilgrimage to Hugh Laurie's Oxford, at which time I had no belief that I would be able to get as far out as Norwich, despite Stephen's Norfolk background, and there was plentymuch written about the county's metropolis in Soupy Twists.

Well, as you know, I delivered the completed ST manuscript back in the spring, but…

You Got It! (I don't think I have...?)*

Friday, 19 May 2017

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I bring momentous news, which is very much of the moment. 

Today, Friday 19th May, the full manuscript of Soupy Twists, the official Fry & Laurie story, has been digitally posted over to the good people of Unbound for editing, fixing, and making into one of those books which I hear are very much not all the rage. What a birthday present for company co-founder John Mitchinson! And yet, the pain…

All My Life It's Been A Mystery...

Friday, 5 May 2017

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YOUR FACE MY ARSE.



No, sorry, that's no way to impart information, is it? Let's begin again.



I'm very well aware that I promised the last update would be the penultimate before the handover of the Soupy Twists manuscript, but well, it's a dismal Friday, given the Local Election results, and any source of levity is welcome on a day like today. Despite the mammoth challenge I face preparing…

No Point Going At It Half-Cock...

Friday, 14 April 2017

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... Whereas, going at it full-cock is for me a lifetime's habit. Hello, a very warm Eostre to you, and welcome to what will almost certainly be the penultimate entry in our SOUPY TWISTS series of blogs, before the full draft manuscript is bicycled off to the Unbound experts in their Islington offices for editing, enjoying, and generally squeezing between chunks of paper.

Because, oh! but what a…

Soupy Red Nose Day!

Friday, 24 March 2017

As a special treat for pledgers, I've uploaded the two occasions on which our colleagues Stephen & Hugh manned the Gunge Tank on the first and third nights of Red Nose Day fun at TV Centre in 1989 and 1991 (Little & Large took over for 1989, which with the very best will in the world, gold-embossed and leaving all your money to amazing ponies, is no replacement).



The clips feature two victims,…

The Producer Said To Me...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Sfdedication

Okay, wrong double act catchphrase, but I hope you'll forgive me for this mini-update: it's been a busy week of harvesting the memories and opinions of the two men who shepherded Stephen & Hugh through ABOF&L at the beginning and at the the end.

I'm indebted to Louis Barfe for putting me on to Roger Ordish, this lovely chap...

... Who has of course had to field many far less pleasant questions…

Well, I wouldn't suck it!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Abofl3soup

Now then, then, now, now, now, then now. Now then.

It has been a considerable number of hours since last this Shed was updated, so although there is no cataclysmic event to be detailed here, I just thought I'd fill in the faithful on what's been happening with Soupy Twists!

Despite Stephen popping by North-West Europe to hand out a few BAFTAs earlier in the month, and Hugh being over here doing…

Happy Friday 13th, If You'll Pardon The Pun*

Friday, 13 January 2017

Honour1

Well, fusk the Friday 13th naysayers, what a truly remarkable anniversary today is, and how eerily lucky I am that I only happened to notice this due to reaching the first ever broadcast of A Bit of Fry & Laurie series 1 episode 1 in my Soupy Twists narrative yesterday.

Because it was 28 years ago to the superstitiously dodgy day, Friday 13th January 1989, 9pm on BBC2, that ABOF&L debuted …

Felicitations of the Gorging Season!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Sun92

TALLY HO, PIP PIP, AND MAY THE YULETIDE LOG SLIP FROM YOUR FIRE AND BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN!

Who's that at the door on a cold Christmas night? It could be a robin...?

I won't spoil the Xmas atmos by mentioning that cove who ended up a cropper on top of a hill in jolly arab land, but 2016 has been a remarkable year, so it would be remiss not to wish every last pledger to SOUPY TWISTS a very…

"Quite right, Oxford's a complete..."

Monday, 21 November 2016

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... Well, of course I wouldn't go that far, not by a long walk. My only previous experience of Oxford was a very brief stopover to watch Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden remember The Goodies about a decade ago, so my recent pilgrimage to Hugh Laurie's hometown really constituted my first experience of that fine historic city and its infamously dreaming spire collection. And it is a handsome…

Happy Hallowe'en (THIS *IS* AMERICA)!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

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HAPPY HALLOWE'EN, SOUPY TWISTERS!

https://twitter.com/JemRoberts/status/792080187324334080

I am actually IN America (The States) as the holiday comes around (so don't throw me out of a window, Stephen and Hugh), and sadly, with that reference, I've already used up the best Fry & Laurie video for Hallowe'en in the text above, but to celebrate us hitting a wonderful 111%, here…

HUGH LAURIE: Hollywood Star!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

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Well, I was always painfully aware of what a truly extraordinary story I was telling here... but never moreso than on this spectacular day, as I sit on the coast of the opposite shining sea of the United Stated of America and watch the great and the good of Hollywood prostrated at Hugh Laurie's Union Jack socks, as his well-deserved star on the Hollywood Boulevard (fittingly just outside the British…

Since You Have Been Kind Enough Never To Be Peter Sissons...

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

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Sirs and Madams, I am chastened and bowed – ever the men and women of affairs, you have reminded us all, ALL, of our duty.



A Fry & Laurie book for you.



This shed has become slightly derelict since the glorious surge over 100% that the dear colleagues Stephen & Hugh engineered for us all – this is largely due to the necessity of earning currency for living purposes, as this book is written entirely…

SOUPY TWISTS IS GO: REVOLUTION!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Revolution

Ladies and gentlemen, bear with me, bear with me, don't stop bearing with me...

Soupy Twists, the official story of the sophisticated silliness of Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie, is now... ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FUNDED!

©GARY

I cannot thank any of the kind, discerning, clever pledgers enough – and nor can Stephen or Hugh, because they're both on TV sets over in the western half of the USA right…

Cheer Oh, Cambridge! Plus PORKY BOY!

Friday, 26 August 2016

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Happy weekend eve, kind Stephen & Hugh-philes!

Biggest news first, the latter hero has admitted his participation in this project to the world:

... Five months after promising to do what he could to me in person – at the time, we didn't know this would be an Unbound book, so nobody thought so much early publicity would be necessary, so it is extraordinarily kind of him, and allowed…

69% funded!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

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SOUPY TWISTS is now 69% funded!

As that number obviously has no connotations of any kind, here's a Fry & Laurie sketch to celebrate: CONSENT https://new.vk.com/video7575647_163917896



I have mixed memories of performing this sketch for a Comic Relief show in 1999. With full approval from their agent Lorraine Hamilton, of course. I played the male silent client, and am no Robert Daws. Plus, it…

Archives & Endives*

Friday, 1 July 2016

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Dear "A Bit Offers", as literally nobody ever calls fans of Fry & Laurie,

Funding has slowed at 45% so everyone out there who wants this incredible laugh-packed celebration of Stephen & Hugh's careers in their stockings next year – please do keep spreading the word, tell anyone who loves quality British comedy, and any and all help is gratefully received! I've just been in touch with Stephen and…

BFI: Sale Now On

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

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It's coming up to nine or ten years – nigh very much on – since I first began writing books on comedy history, and yet, disgusting though the fact is, I've never been here before. It's taken the Fry & Laurie story to bring me to famed haunt of cultural historians the world over – the BFI. The BBC Written Archives have long been a second home, and I've seen many a mind-blowing rarity thanks to the…

Scott Thomas
Scott Thomas asked:

I've only just had this passed on to me and see, to my frustration, that I've missed the chance to pledge for a F&L signed copy of the book.

I don't suppose there is any chance of squeezing en eleventh one, is there? How far are you from your total, is cash terms, out of interest?

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

It's not hugely likely, I'm afraid – we've already extended the signatures we've asked S&H to provide, and they're not easy to convince. But I'll talk to Unbound and see what we can do.

Scott Thomas
Scott Thomas asked:

Not sure if my last message got through so apologies for any repeat.

I've only just found out now about the book and, to my frustration, have missed out on the chance to pledge for a F&L signed copy. Is there any chance of squeezing an eleventh one out?

How far are you from the total, in cash terms, out of interest?

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

Answer above!

Cory Foster
Cory Foster asked:

Will the rare unseen Fry & Laurie material be available in a digital format? I'm sad to have shown up too late to get the hardcopy, but I'm hoping I'll at least be able to read it.

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

Certainly not in digital format (the only thing that won't be), but I wasn't aware that that option had been totalled – it costs no more to do extra copies, so I will speak to Unbound about extending that option!

Scott Thomas
Scott Thomas asked:

Thanks for the previous response. Unless you think it makes it complicated I'll pledge for something further down the scale but if the £100 F&L signed option does become available I'll upgrade.

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

We've just had a chat, and extended it by 5 copies – we just hope Hugh and Stephen don't harrumph too much when the time comes to get their signatures!

Fenneke Gonggrijp
Fenneke Gonggrijp asked:

Content removed by Moderator.

Jem Roberts
Jem Roberts replied:

It would if it was an autobiography.

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