Greece is the word: Our Q to I of Stephen Fry
- Brian Donaldson
- 19 July 2019
This article is from 2019
As Fry prepares for an appearance in Edinburgh, we're sidestepping an A-Z malarkey to compile a Q to I in honour of that telly thing he hosted for many years
Stephen Fry is one of those intelligent folk who isn't afraid to get down and dirty in matters which are somewhat less hifalutin'. Like football or America. It's that sort of open-mindedness that has ensured he is a shoo-in for national treasure status.
Q is for QI
AKA Quite Interesting, the quiz show that asks obscure questions and rewards panellists for coming up with a fascinating answer even if it's not the correct one. Fry was the host from its pilot episode in 2003 until 2016 when regular guest Sandi Toksvig took the reins. Alan Davies, the show's 'resident dunce' (his own words) admitted to bringing out the schoolmaster side of Fry when he was being especially flippant.
Also: Queens' College, Cambridge, his alma mater
P is for Perrier
In 1981, the first ever Perrier Award was handed out at the Edinburgh Fringe. Cambridge Footlights were the winners featuring Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, Penny Dwyer and Paul Shearer. The winning revue show, The Cellar Tapes, was broadcast on the BBC the following year.
Also: Prime Minister Alastair Davies, Fry's character in the last ever series of 24 that featured Jack Bauer; the Pipe Smoker of the Year Award was handed out for the final time in 2003 (it started in 1964) with Fry scooping the gong: previous winners included Tony Benn, Magnus Magnusson and Eric Morecambe.
O is for Oscar Wilde
The Irish playwright and loquacious wit was the man Fry was born to play. In 1997 he got that chance taking on the title role in the UK movie Wilde, co-starring Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave and Michael Sheen.
Also: Old Vic Theatre hosted Fry's pantomime version of Cinderella in 2007
N is for Norwich
Fry is a lifelong supporter of Norwich FC. He joined the board of directors in 2010, leaving that post to become an ambassador for the club in 2016. Another celeb connected to The Canaries is Delia Smith who remains the joint majority shareholder and served alongside Fry on the board during his tenure. He's also a patron of the Norwich Playhouse.
Also: New England, the first stop in his 2008 BBC travelogue across America; Nikolai Genidze, the Georgian presidential candidate in one episode of Veep's sixth season
M is for Mythos
The reason Fry is in Edinburgh is for an adaptation of his bestselling book in which he brings to vivid life the gods, monsters and mere mortals of ancient Greece. Set out in three rotating parts across six performances, Mythos will cement Fry's credentials as a powerful storyteller and genial raconteur.
Also: Melchett, his toady character in Blackadder; Moab is My Washpot, the first part of his memoirs which covers his life up to 20 years old
L is for Laurie
Fry and Hugh Laurie were close collaborators for many years. They first teamed up in Cambridge Footlights before being a proper double act for BBC's A Bit of Fry and Laurie, later joining ITV for the hit series, Jeeves and Wooster. Ironically, in the year that Fry is on the EIF stage, Laurie will also be in town, receiving an Outstanding Achievement Award at the TV Festival.
Also: The Liar, his debut novel of 1991; Latin! Or Tobacco and Boys, his debut play which won a Fringe First in 1980
K is for Kirsty Young
The Scot was hosting Desert Island Discs when Fry became a willing castaway in 2015. Among his musical choices were classical bits from Bach, Beethoven and Schubert. His more leftfield picks included a track from his old mucka Hugh Laurie's band and the theme tune to The Archers.
Also: Kingdom was an ITV comedy drama that ran for three series in which he played a Norfolk solicitor
J is for JK Rowling
Fry narrated all seven of the Harry Potter audiobooks. When he read the first one, he had no idea that the author had plans for another six books until she told him over lunch. Legend has it that Fry struggled with the phrase 'Harry pocketed it' which appeared in book three. When he called Rowling up to ask if he could say 'Harry put it in his pocket' instead, she said 'no', hung up, and then wrote 'Harry pocketed it' once in each of the remaining books as a means of revenge on this perceived slight.
Also: JRR Tolkien is another author he's grappled with, playing the Master of Lake-town in two of the three Hobbit movies
I is for IQ
Somewhat squaring the QI circle, Fry appeared in the 1994 romantic comedy IQ starring Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan. Fry played an acerbic psychology professor who eventually loses his clever fiancée (Ryan, whose uncle is Einstein as played by Walter Matthau) to Robbins' garage mechanic. It received 'mixed' reviews.
Also: I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the long-running radio panel show which Fry co-hosted for one series in 2009 after the death of Humphrey Lyttelton; Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music which Fry presented on Classic FM over 20 parts
Stephen Fry: Mythos – A Trilogy, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 19 & 20, 24 & 25 Aug, various times, £25–£42.