Is There A More Loved Man In Britain?


The fortunately unsuccessful suicide attempt by Stephen Fry last week instigated a depressing note of surprise in the UK. What could have caused the most beloved man on British televison to try to end his life? The reason is that us Brits have developed a degree of attachment to the QI presenter, an attachment that belongs to few other people in Britain that we don’t know personally. So how did he achieve such treasured status and how did he make this journey?

Fry’s career started with a mix of deft comedy The Cellar Tapes was the door-opener for a long and exemplary career. Then a starring role in There’s Nothing to Worry About garnered further acclaim, starring alongside Hugh Laurie, with whom Fry had a particularly fruitful collaboration . In particular, A Bit of Fry & Laurie showcased his writing skills with great effect.

With his acting career blossoming, his role in a series of Blackadder dramas was particularly pleasing. Whilst on the big screen, Fry portrayed the role of Oscar Wilde in the film Wilde, and further excelled in roles such as his début in The Good Father, the lead role in Peter’s Friends and, not content with just acting, directed his first film in 2003 with Bright Young Things.

Perhaps when thinking of Stephen Fry, one first leaps to the thought of him wittily expressing his encyclopaedic knowledge on the comedy panel show QI. In fact he was awarded for his efforts on the show with the Rose d’Or award for best game show host. No surprise really, with the show’s blend of intelligence and humour gathering a loyal audience that goes as far back as 2003 and still carries on today.

So why has Stephen Fry, through the course of his career, become such a national treasure? It’s as if Fry has become the person we’d most like to perform a speech at our weddings.

Vanessa Thorpe wrote in the Guardian how Stephen Fry is “part of the mix that reminds us what country we are in. A bit like a seaside pier. Or an orderly queue.” Then in the same article, quotes television producer John Lloyd who said: “I wanted Michael Palin at first, but when Stephen sat in for the pilot show it became obvious it had to be him. He is supplied with tightly written research, of course, but all the jokes and anecdotes are his. You can tell him the answer is ‘isotope’, but Stephen will know what an isotope is and then make jokes about it.”

A key element is how his versatility is at no detriment to any of his qualities; an actor, comedian, author and poet to name a few. Yet in all of these roles the audience is rarely, if ever, disappointed. Listening to Stephen Fry is like listening to a human Google that doesn’t avoid taxes.

As the TV channel Dave describes Stephen Fry, “[he]isn’t just an institution. He’s a museum, a sprawling library, a veritable Big Ben of wit and wonderfulness beloved by all who know him (and who goggle at him on telly). He’s a pretty good comedian too.”

It’s a sure fire bet that the day-time procrastination channel isn’t the only one who holds this joyfully accurate analysis of a true British treasure.