A Bit Of Fry & Laurie ( UK 1987–1994 )

neddy-and-jackCambridge graduates Fry and Laurie would, by their appearance and elocution, fit the bill of upper class twits perfectly. And certainly a lot of the humour on offer in this series does test your sense of subtlety to the limit. But these two pithy academics also seem to have an interest in lampooning the lower classes they seem to have less in common with, so the humour covers a wider section of society than those this might be slightly more aimed at. You can see where David Mitchell and Robert Webb got their idea of a sketch show from. These two chaps. The usual gripe, that is common to most sketch shows of the time, is the unnecessary inclusion of musical numbers, but that aside its a thoroughly enjoyable show.

But unlike the more recent ‘sketch show’ That Mitchell and Webb Look, the humour here is more mature and less politically correct. There are different set ups and scenarios for each new episode, with exceptions such as the people who seem to be stopped in the street and asked for their opinions from time to time. Many have commented on how ‘British’ the humour is, and this certainly rings true, but there also seems to be a deep affinity with America in a few of the sketches, such as ‘Kickin’ Ass’ and the air force commanders (“Jacobson, get your ass in here!”) that doesn’t let any of it get bogged down too much in Anglo culture. And they always assume you are as intelligent as they are.

If you love comedy that can be intelligent and frivolous at the same time, A Bit of Fry & Laurie is the perfect show to view. Stephen and Hugh each bring to the table their own form of comic genius which, when combined, becomes an explosion of guaranteed laughs. Fry is more fiery and assertive, Laurie more easy-going and musical.  Some of the permanent characters on offer are Tony and Control – Britain’s most undemanding spies,  the sinister ‘Jack’ – an elegantly dressed man with an eye patch who forces a quivering wreck to commit terrorist acts, Utoxeter’s John & Peter – 2 Scotch swilling businessmen who team up against the formidable Marjory, in an ever losing battle.  A character whose name we hear a lot but who is never actually seen, Mr. Dalliard, is another semi-regular on the show.

A kind of circular thinking permeates Fry and Laurie chucking in TV show pastiche, songs and quite a few traditional ‘shop sketches’ that simply leave Monty Python wheezing on the touch-line. What I mean is that random elements are seemingly clumsily adhered to tried and tested comedy formulae to create something quite striking and original. These men are spectacular together. The acting is beyond reproach. But it is the writing that deserves special note. It is sharp, funny, sly, silly and merciless in skewering the pompous and the ordinary alike. An entire sketch is usually funny, not just a punchline at the end. Verbal contortions and linguistic manipulation, mixed with a surreal imagination that would have pleased the late, great Peter Cook, who was the father of this kind of British comedy.




  1. Agreed, this is definitely a must-watch for all comedy fans out there! Utterly sublime stuff.


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