A Bit Of Fry And Laurie (BBC1, 1987 & 1995, BBC2, 1989-1992)
The comedy double-act Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie first appeared together on TV in the early-80s in various sketch shows including ITV’s There’s Nothing To Worry About! and Alfresco, and after that they went on to feature in Channel 4’s Saturday Live. In 1987 they were given by BBC1 a pilot episode of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, which was great and featured various sketches including a parody of Australian soaps, however it was shown at five to midnight on Boxing Day so hardly anyone saw it.
Also around this time Fry and Laurie made the radio sketch show Saturday Night Fry which featured more great comedy and has been repeated regularly on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and they also appeared in other things including several advertising campaigns, the most famous probably being the ones for Alliance & Leicester which were great and brightened up many a break. In 1989 A Bit Of Fry And Laurie moved to BBC2 and the first series was launched.
Over the series there wasn’t a huge amount of recurring characters, but a lot of the sketches featured a terrific amount of dazzling wordplay and bizarre characters. Fry and Laurie also appeared occasionally individually in sketches, with Laurie performing various odd songs at the piano such as the classic “Where Is The Lid?”, or Fry telling us a bizarre anecdote such as “I’ll never forget the time I lost my legs.” Also around this time Fry and Laurie were really going up in the world and being equally successful in the Jeeves and Wooster series on ITV.
Also featuring regularly in the show were voxpops where Fry and Laurie played various characters who gave strange responses to unheard questions. One thing that was great about the second series was that every episode would begin with Fry and Laurie walking on stage to perform the first sketch in front of the studio audience which would set up the rest of the show and was typically quirky, and there would be more great sketches in the third series, including some parodies of various shows including Countdown and Going For Gold which were popular with viewers. They also managed to make “I do not have an Opal Fruit on me!” a catchphrase.
The fourth and what turned out to be final series was moved to BBC1 and saw a change of format. Fry and Laurie would now be joined by various guest actors including Patrick “Is It Legal?” Barlow who would take part in the sketches, and every show would end with Fry making a daft cocktail whilst being accompanied by Laurie on the piano. Unfortunately this series wasn’t as well received by viewers and at this point Fry and Laurie decided to go their separate ways, although they have occasionally appeared together since such as when they reminisced about their favourite moments on the show in a special programme on Gold, and they have gone on to much more success separately.
When people think about Fry and Laurie’s style of humour, people often say “it’s more clever than funny”, with their sketches being a lot more satirical and unusual than what appears in most comedy shows, but they always seemed to enjoy portraying various British eccentrics (sometimes affectionately, sometimes not so much), and all four series which are available on DVD are definitely classics which can be watched over and over again.