Stephen Fry Live: More Fool Me finds the brilliant comedian, writer, television host, raconteur, etc. holding court for roughly 90 minutes in support of his 2014 autobiography of the same name. Actually, this is the third volume of autobiographical writings from Fry, following 1997’s Moab Is My Washpot, and 2010’s The Fry Chronicles.
Stephen Fry may very well be a name most of you don’t know. If you do, it’s most likely through his comedic work with Hugh Laurie. Yes, the same Hugh Laurie who played the titular doctor in the TV show House. Personally, I came to my love for Fry through the BBC panel show QI, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and watching this is part of that effort.
In order to promote the new volume, Fry took to the stage of London’s Royal Festival Hall for a one man show which was also broadcast throughout the world (though, interestingly, apparently not in America – I suppose he’s just not well enough known here to be considered enough of a draw), and the show actually begins with him listing the different countries in which the show is being broadcast, accompanying each with an anecdote about his travels in each country or his meetings with people from them.
From there he settles into talking a bit about his childhood, spurred on by a question that was once asked of him regarding whether, had he grown up today with access to all of the technology and instant information that today’s youth have, he feels he would have turned out to be the same person, and his answer is an emphatic “no”.
It’s at this point that Oscar Wilde enters the picture, and that everything about Fry suddenly clicked into place for me.
I don’t know how much, if anything you might know about Wilde. Most likely if the name is familiar to you, I suspect it’s through his 1894 play The Importance of Being Earnest, or through his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. For Fry it was Earnest – or actually a television broadcast of one of the movie versions of the play – which brought the author into his life, and from there, there was no turning back, because it was Wilde who greatly influenced Fry’s early life and helped him to come to an understanding and acceptance of who he truly was.
From there Fry segues into what apparently is a major topic in this part of his autobiography, his use of drugs and their effect, nd he also uses this section of the show to discuss the legalization of certain drugs along with the deleterious effects of prohibition and a comparison of the effects of these drugs with alcohol, which he contends, if it were being introduced today instead of being thousands of years old would certainly be shut down before it could ever have gained the foothold that it now has.
Finally, he comes to the real reason for the event, a reading from More Fool Me, and, I am sad to say, this is definitely the weakest part of the show. It’s not that the section that he has chosen to read -a gossipy section discussing his first and subsequent meetings with the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana – is a bad one, and it is well written, it’s just that I was much more entertained by Fry’s largely improvised and off the cuff observations.
In the end, however, I thought that watching this was time extremely well spent, and definitely worth a watch, whether you are familiar with Fry or not. He is a man with an incredibly broad pool of knowledge and experience to draw from, and a keen and quick wit which he uses to great effect here, and though the show may not have succeeded in it’s intended purpose – to make me want to go out and buy his book – it does make me want to watch some of the other shows he has been involved with, including one that I ran across on YouTube while gathering information for this review, Stephen Fry in America, a six-part travelogue chronicling one of his visits to this country.
Oh, and here’s a bonus for you: I mentioned that I came to know Stephen Fry first as the host of the BBC panel show QI, so I thought I’d share an episode of that with you also, so here he is in an episode from last season: