Soupy Twists!

By Jem Roberts

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

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Have Yourself A Very Soupy Twistsmas...!

The merriest of Soupy Twists Fridays – and indeed, Christmasses – to all, pledgers, readers, and F&L fans of all creeds and shapes and shades!

What delirious pleasure to have received an upward thumb from the slightly taller of our two colleagues the other week. Hopefully it caught the eye of many more potentially chuffed customers – and they, like you, may find a moment to leave a similarly aloft thumb on the usual online book review spots. Weird to admit, every star counts one way or another. Oh, and if you have yet to claim your pledge reward – a cocktail or two, and so on – do get in touch

No, yes, anyway, indeed, this blog is still here, despite SOUPY TWISTS now having over three months on the nation’s bookshelves – I think we can consider this lengthy but joyous campaign to be extended at least until the proper 30th anniversary of the first broadcast of ABOF&L S1E1 on 13th January 1989. The colleagues’ 30th was always the one real spur to release this history of their comedy outpourings, and although Unbound’s year delay meant that we missed the pilot’s anniversary last Boxing Day, at last, this year, we all have our copies of the official Fry & Laurie story to hand when the show proper’s birthday rolls around in a few weeks.

And on that score, we have an exciting double announcement to make, a brace of opportunities on that Sunday to get together with like-minded Stephen & Hugh admirers and celebrate the occasion with some awfully rare sketches and songs! In fact, I am, in the least disgusting way, somewhat ‘doing a Phil Collins’ on the day: not leaving my wife by fax, but traversing the globe – okay, southern Britain – to perform in The British Library in London at 2pm, and then SOUPY TWISTS LIVE 2 in Bath at 8!

When I was a schoolboy, my greatest pleasure was to stand in front of the class in Ludlow School library with a little friend, and perform sketches from one of the Fry & Laurie script books. And now I'm doing it AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY – and rare Fry & Laurie sketches, with Stephen's personal permission, no less! What a strange year it has been.

Anyway, the former show will reunite me with my erstwhile colleague-as-was Paul Gannon as part of the all-day Chortle Book Fest at the British Library. Very good of Chortle and the Library to host Fry & Laurie’s metropolitan 30th, I’m sure you will agree, though a shame that we’re up against Alex Horne talking Taskmaster, as I for one would be in there like a shot were it otherwise. There's more info on our show HERE.

Our afternoon ABOF&L birthday show will be a brief but fan-pleasing journey through the hidden comedy archives which have powered all my books. Well, okay, for my first book, just listening to all-but the missing handful of episodes of ISIRTA and ISIHAC made any search for unbroadcast rarities besides the point, but since Richard Curtis first handed me a fresh print-out of the unmade, incomplete planned festive special Blackadder In Bethlehem when I met him for The True History in 2011, my books have boasted wads of respectfully selected “unseen” material. Becoming Douglas Adams' official biographer with The Frood gave me the honour of being the very first writer to be given access to the Douglas Adams Paper Archive in Cambridge, resulting in that book coming with lost chapters of the first draft of ‘Life, The Universe and Everything’ amid a host of exciting extracts. The decision to publish things like this are of course taken with great solemnity in the spirit of sharing and enjoying, but for me the real debate-quasher on the subject of sharing private material in that case was Adams’ own wonderful introduction to PG Wodehouse’s ‘Sunshine At Blandings’ – the Master’s unfinished final novel.

Luckily, there was no such horn of moral quandary to accommodate for Soupy Twists, of course, as it was Stephen himself who very kindly volunteered to utterly dredge his ancient back-up hard-drives of all the Fry & Laurie material which never got to see the light of day. A third of it is in the book, and now Mr Fry has given express permission for certain bits and, if available, bobs, to be performed as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations. In the show, we’ll air some tiny extracts from both the lost ‘Blackadder’ and the planned ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ TV series 2 which never got off the ground, but the main part of our Chortle event at the British Library will see Mr Gannon and I performing these ‘lost’ Fry & Laurie sketches, with a few surprises for hardcore F&L fans expected.

You will definitely recall with crystal clarity that our original launch in London last September saw Gannon and I, brilliantly abetted by Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth, performing a whole hour of unused ‘A Bit of Fry & Laurie’ material, and here in Bath, at the very swish cocktail bar Walcot House, I will be joined by a fresh cast of talented comedians and actors – Sam Finn, Laura Ollerton and Gemma de Carteret – with a sequel cabaret, aiming to present a totally different hour of Fry & Laurie sketches which the colleagues themselves never performed. Together, these shows provide TWO WHOLE HOURS of Fry & Laurie we never got to see, and there’s a couple of hours remaining on my hard-drive. Albeit, most of the remaining stuff is along the lines of…

But rest assured, these shows represent the cream of the F&L archives, comedy any subsequent sketch act would slaughter their entire extended family to have written – finally brought back to life, 30 years after the show’s birth, and a quarter of a century after most of it was written. Drop me an email on jem@jemroberts.com to reserve a seat and a Soupy Twist cocktail for the Bath show, and there’s also, as part of a weird old habit, a Facebook Event page HERE.

So allow me to repeat the sentiments with an unctuous sincerity – a merry Soupy Twists Xmas to everyone who has come with me on this frankly spiffing journey, and I hope to see as many of you as possible in London and/or Bath in the New Year!

SOUPY TWIST to all, and to all a good gracious!

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