Would you like Fry with that?
I probably spend as much time reading and watching British news and entertainment as I do our native distractions. Coincidently, quite a few of our favorite shows were direct rip offs of UK counterparts – The Office, Antiques Roadshow, Dancing with the Stars, Hell’s Kitchen, Three’s Company, American Idol, Junkyard Wars, Undercover Boss, What Not To Wear, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Whose Line Is It Anyway, to name just a few.
So why do I thank for my parents for my love of our former overlords? Four words – Are You Being Served? The beloved 1975-1982 British sitcom that was replayed on WHYY in Philadelphia every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. during my teen years. Our household loved it. We also watched the British drama series’ with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, and the rest of the great British mystery series’ on our local PBS affiliate.
Once I left home my anglophilia subsided a bit, kept alive only through movies like Howards End, Much Ado About Nothing, The Remains of The Day, Four Weddings and a Funeral, In the Name of the Father, Richard III, and Love Actually, among others.
Then, about four years ago, came British nirvana when we switched our cable provider to Verizon FiOS and were blessed with BBC America. I now have 24/7 access to the accents, royalty, class system, deadpan humor and most importantly Top Gear. With its worldwide broadcast, the irreverent car show claims a viewership of reportedly 350 million. It would appear my love of Brits and cars is more common than I thought.
In addition to Top Gear, I now also have access to some UK chat shows, which paved the way for me to become clued into British comics, entertainers, statesman and thinkers that never really migrated to U.S. airwaves on their own. Chief among these newfound angloloves is Stephen Fry, actor & director, blogger, twitterer, tech lover, activist, journalist, and apparently all-around good chum. I believe you could call him the quintessential raconteur.
Somehow, in the prior 25 years of my anglophilia I had missed out on coming across Fry. I never got into watching the Blackadder series and I never saw any of this Fry and Laurie shows (with House‘s Hugh Laurie), both shows that elevated his status on home soil, but didn’t do much on these shores. Ironically, my wife was clued into him before me, he has a recurring character on the TV show Bones, as the former shrink and current chef Gordan, Gordan Wyatt.
So why, now that I’ve made you read 447 words, am I talking about Stephen Fry? I suppose I want to make sure you don’t miss out on him any longer than I have. Does he have politics that may differ than yours? Oh yes. For one thing he’s a gentlemanly, lefty Brit. He makes our left-wing tree huggers look almost Palin-like. And yet, I find myself quite charmed by the big fella. You get the impression that it’s not so much that he has an agenda, but rather he just goes through life saying either “Hey, that’s cool!” or “You know, that’s probably not the best way to handle that situation.”
The tech companies love him because he’s truly enamored with every new technological advance, showing his love for even the smallest electronic advancement and his disdain where designers may have shorted the consumer. As a documentarian when he travels abroad he takes the time to look around and appreciate the differences he sees in other cultures, sometime critically and sometimes appreciatively. While certainly not a stand-up comic, he regularly sells out one-man shows where his self-described verbosity locks in the audience with colorful and well-constructed descriptions of whatever is strolling through his mind at the time. On this note, I highly recommend you check out his performance at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
So here’s the deal, if you’re curious about opinions and perspective other than your own, you could do worse than reading Fry’s blogs and following him on Twitter (or you can always download his iPhone app – mFry – because that’s how cool he is). Perhaps that’s why I find this Brit’s perspective so appealing, I’m tired of the lefty/righty battle for attention in the U.S. and it’s just nice to hear what a neutral party has to say about things.
- Stephen Fry on language (guardian.co.uk)
- A sadly ordinary night with Stephen Fry (theglobeandmail.com)
- Stephen Fry: The know-all who is everybody’s friend | Profile (guardian.co.uk)
- Public intellectuals on Twitter – where are the Brits (or even the Europeans)? (jonworth.eu)