Cambridge Footlights Revue (BBC2, 1982)
This is yet another comedy show that features the talents of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, so I want to review this one, and then I promise I’ll stop going on about them (for a week or two at least). This is a show that was included as an extra on the DVD of the second series of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, and it’s rather significant as I’m fairly sure that it’s just about the first thing that they did together on TV.
This wasn’t their first TV appearance though. I think that Laurie’s was when he was part of a team that performed some sketches on BBC2’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning in 1979, and the following year of course he participated in The Boat Race. I presume that Fry’s TV debut was when he appeared as a contestant on University Challenge in 1980, so they already both had a few years’ experience of fame.
The Cambridge Footlights has been a famous breeding ground for up-and-coming comedy talent since the 19th century. Many big names started out here. Occasionally the shows that were put together for the stage were adapted for TV, and this one was a performance of 1981’s The Cellar Tapes. As well as Fry and Laurie, also taking part were Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery (who also went on to much more success), Paul Shearer (who appeared in a few other comedy shows), and Penny Dwyer (who was just about never heard of again).
Cambridge Footlights Revue was written by the cast, and was a one-off special that was 45 minutes long. There were several sketches, along with some musical numbers. Among the highlights were Fry and Laurie as actors trying to perfect their trade, and Thompson as an actress making a gushing speech whilst accepting a prestigious award, which turned out to be rather prophetic. She didn’t turn into a robot at any point though.
Whoever did watch this at the time would be lucky enough to see the beginnings of a remarkably rich crop of talent. Not long after this, some of the cast went on to There’s Nothing To Worry About and Alfresco, and they never looked back really. This show is almost four decades old now, and little did they realise how many TV shows, films, adverts, and so on, they would go on to appear in, along with the large amount of awards that have been won between them.