Posts Tagged ‘a bit of fry & laurie’

SOUPY TWISTS: Fifth and Final Bit

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42) Soupy Twists, and GOODBYE!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Weeeeeeeeell, my dear old Soupy supporters, as the old adage goes, all finite things must come to an end, and the Soupy Twists odyssey has gone on far longer than anyone could have predicted back in MAY 2016 FOR GOSHNESS’ SAKE when the crowdfunder was first launched. We have passed the original 30th anniversary for which the book was intended, Boxing Day 2017, and last Sunday also marked the other crucial anniversary – the first broadcast of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie S1E1 on BBC2 at 9pm.

As a final hurrah, hurray and hurroo, and to mark the glorious occasion, I rose from my sick bed to take part in two events for ABOFFLERS the world over, flying between London and Bath like a kind of unseen-comedy-sketch-performing Phil Collins…

First of all, I was chuffed to stage a return to the Chortle Book festival after a few years away, especially as this time it took place at the British Library – a gig venue anyone should be glad to add to their performer CVs – where I reunited with my one-time comedy colleague Paul Gannon to perform a few bits and pieces from the unseen comedy archives which have appeared in my books.

We merrily mangled a SNATCH of Blackadder In Bethlehem, the opening sequence from the unmade Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV series 2, but above all, of course, there were lashings of sketches from the Fry & Laurie archive, including a couple of exclusives not performed elsewhere – the odd squib Oster Milepiece and a lost Spies sequel. It was a raucous and unrehearsed hour, and a few highlights, as recorded by the wonderful Denise Hoelandt (as are all photos here) have been uploaded to YouTube for you to thumb down – just see above. Thanks to everyone who came along, and indeed to Paul, and his dancercising.

It was great to get to meet some of you and sign some books, and see a bigger stack on sale outside, right up against Taskmaster – and we managed to hold our own against little Alex Horne’s event anyway, despite that being the biggest draw of the day. After all, our show also featured a large, cruel overbearing Salopian with a hairy little more likeable sidekick too, so screw ’em.

Anyway, having zoomed across England’s lap back home to the Sou’-West, it was off to the sophisticated locale of Bath’s Walcot House cocktail bar (NINE QUID for a mojito?), for the sequel to last September’s live book launch – this time with a brand new cast, including superb stand-up Laura Ollerton (one of the original members of The Unrelated Family, the comedy sketch troupe-cum-ukulele rock orchestra I set up in 2006 after parting brass rags with the aforementioned Gannon and going solo), and fine local actors Sam Fynn and Gemma De Carteret, both regulars in my very strange theatrical pursuit Unrehearsed Theatre.

This time we had rehearsed, a bit at least, and despite my flu-ravaged voice tearing itself to bits by the end, a lovely time was had by all. Oh, and of course let’s not mention my massive over-acting when getting shot in the drug dealer sketch, which resulted in my falling on my precious beloved electric uke and snapping it in two, which was both an expensive misfortune and a bit of a show spoiler given that there were two more songs to perform before the end at that point. When you hear me say ‘let’s have some satire’ halfway through the recording below, that is the sound of a broken-hearted performer doing his best… But yes, let’s not mention that.

Aaaanyway, with careful editing, please find below a condensed version of the evening’s entertainment, complete with dubbed-on uke, and I have to thank Stephen Fry for giving us express personal permission for staging both events – of course, all shows were free, so there was no direct profiting from performing Stephen and Hugh’s material, and we’re not about to make this a regular thing, it was a one-off 30th anniversary shindig… though do keep an eye on the Unrehearsed Theatre page for future unconnected shows, with some fun plans in place for a Comic Relief special in March…

Here’s both live shows in audio, over two hours of unperformed Fry & Laurie material, brought to life after over 20 years’ mouldering in the archives, and I couldn’t be more proud to have led this officially endorsed romp through the two colleagues’ archives – thank you Stephen, Hugh, Paul, Toby, Samantha, Ness, Sam, Laura and Gemma!

SOUPY TWISTS LIVE 1

SOUPY TWISTS LIVE 2

So there, if you have it, you have it. My work here is pretty much done – a few pledge rewards remain unclaimed, but you know where to find me should you wish to honour our agreement. There will of course be a paperback out this autumn – and whether it will require any updating, we shall have to wait and see, I would hope that if Stephen and Hugh were to reconvene in any meaningful way in the next several months, I may be allowed some kind of insider view…

But whether that happens or not, I can now proudly say, with tears streaming down my mug, that once upon a time there was no book celebrating the wonderful sophisticated silliness of A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and now, there is. Stephen & Hugh’s books were always a source of the greatest pleasure for me, and now I have personally added to them. And though the book’s cover may have been a bit of a departure, here’s a thing – if you slip off the dust jacket, and put the book alongside the other Fry & Laurie offerings, they have the exact same pleasing white-with-gold lettering, making them undeniably part of the official set:

But tragically this will be the very final Soupy Twists Friday, and the final blog – how far we’ve come, from that Brexitless land where first we put our best foot forward, embarking on this comedic odyssey together. For any further updates, please do check out my personal blog over at JemRoberts.com, where you will also be able to find out about my next work of comedy history, which I’m 7,000 words into writing, and planning to launch as another crowdfunder later in the year, when all ducks are in a row and ready to be shot through the face. And if you’ll forgive me being perfectly gross, it would be remiss of me not to add that if you have enjoyed my prose in Soupy Twists, my brand new book with Unbound, TALES OF BRITAIN, is released ANY DAY NOW, and though it’s a bit of a world away from comedy non-fiction, this is the first British folktale collection to be released in over 30 years, and is in tribute to the great storyteller Terry Jones, and infused with the Grim Tales spirit of Rik Mayall, so hopefully it is packed with laughs anyway. Maybe I’ll see you when performing these tales up and down our fine island.

If you have been, farewell. You’ve been gorgeous, you’ve been supple, you’ve been surprisingly well-lubricated, and as a wise man once said, you will never understand how much I love you.

Thank you for coming along with me on this very silly journey, and of course, SOUPY TWISTS!

41) Have Yourself A Very Soupy Twistsmas…!

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The merriest of Soupy Twists Fridays – and indeed, Christmasses – to all, pledgers, readers, and F&L fans of all creeds and shapes and shades!

What delirious pleasure to have received an upward thumb from the slightly taller of our two colleagues the other week. Hopefully it caught the eye of many more potentially chuffed customers – and they, like you, may find a moment to leave a similarly aloft thumb on the usual online book review spots. Weird to admit, every star counts one way or another. Oh, and if you have yet to claim your pledge reward – a cocktail or two, and so on – do get in touch!

No, yes, anyway, indeed, this blog is still here, despite SOUPY TWISTS now having over three months on the nation’s bookshelves – I think we can consider this lengthy but joyous campaign to be extended at least until the proper 30th anniversary of the first broadcast of ABOF&L S1E1 on 13th January 1989. The colleagues’ 30th was always the one real spur to release this history of their comedy outpourings, and although Unbound’s year delay meant that we missed the pilot’s anniversary last Boxing Day, at last, this year, we all have our copies of the official Fry & Laurie story to hand when the show proper’s birthday rolls around in a few weeks.

And on that score, we have an exciting double announcement to make, a brace of opportunities on that Sunday to get together with like-minded Stephen & Hugh admirers and celebrate the occasion with some awfully rare sketches and songs! In fact, I am, in the least disgusting way, somewhat ‘doing a Phil Collins’ on the day: not leaving my wife by fax, but traversing the globe – okay, southern Britain – to perform in The British Library in London at 2pm, and then SOUPY TWISTS LIVE 2 in Bath at 8!

When I was a schoolboy, my greatest pleasure was to stand in front of the class in Ludlow School library with a little friend, and perform sketches from one of the Fry & Laurie script books. And now I’m doing it AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY – and rare Fry & Laurie sketches, with Stephen’s personal permission, no less! What a strange year it has been.

Anyway, the former show will reunite me with my erstwhile colleague-as-was Paul Gannon as part of the all-day Chortle Book Fest at the British Library. Very good of Chortle and the Library to host Fry & Laurie’s metropolitan 30th, I’m sure you will agree, though a shame that we’re up against Alex Horne talking Taskmaster, as I for one would be in there like a shot were it otherwise. There’s more info on our show HERE.

Our afternoon ABOF&L birthday show will be a brief but fan-pleasing journey through the hidden comedy archives which have powered all my books. Well, okay, for my first book, just listening to all-but the missing handful of episodes of ISIRTA and ISIHAC made any search for unbroadcast rarities besides the point, but since Richard Curtis first handed me a fresh print-out of the unmade, incomplete planned festive special Blackadder In Bethlehem when I met him for The True History in 2011, my books have boasted wads of respectfully selected “unseen” material. Becoming Douglas Adams’ official biographer with The Frood gave me the honour of being the very first writer to be given access to the Douglas Adams Paper Archive in Cambridge, resulting in that book coming with lost chapters of the first draft of ‘Life, The Universe and Everything’ amid a host of exciting extracts. The decision to publish things like this are of course taken with great solemnity in the spirit of sharing and enjoying, but for me the real debate-quasher on the subject of sharing private material in that case was Adams’ own wonderful introduction to PG Wodehouse’s ‘Sunshine At Blandings’ – the Master’s unfinished final novel.

Luckily, there was no such horn of moral quandary to accommodate for Soupy Twists, of course, as it was Stephen himself who very kindly volunteered to utterly dredge his ancient back-up hard-drives of all the Fry & Laurie material which never got to see the light of day. A third of it is in the book, and now Mr Fry has given express permission for certain bits and, if available, bobs, to be performed as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations. In the show, we’ll air some tiny extracts from both the lost ‘Blackadder’ and the planned ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ TV series 2 which never got off the ground, but the main part of our Chortle event at the British Library will see Mr Gannon and I performing these ‘lost’ Fry & Laurie sketches, with a few surprises for hardcore F&L fans expected.

You will definitely recall with crystal clarity that our original launch in London last September saw Gannon and I, brilliantly abetted by Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth, performing a whole hour of unused ‘A Bit of Fry & Laurie’ material, and here in Bath, at the very swish cocktail bar Walcot House, I will be joined by a fresh cast of talented comedians and actors – Sam Finn, Laura Ollerton and Gemma de Carteret – with a sequel cabaret, aiming to present a totally different hour of Fry & Laurie sketches which the colleagues themselves never performed. Together, these shows provide TWO WHOLE HOURS of Fry & Laurie we never got to see, and there’s a couple of hours remaining on my hard-drive. Albeit, most of the remaining stuff is along the lines of…

But rest assured, these shows represent the cream of the F&L archives, comedy any subsequent sketch act would slaughter their entire extended family to have written – finally brought back to life, 30 years after the show’s birth, and a quarter of a century after most of it was written. Drop me an email on jem@jemroberts.com to reserve a seat and a Soupy Twist cocktail for the Bath show, and there’s also, as part of a weird old habit, a Facebook Event page HERE.

So allow me to repeat the sentiments with an unctuous sincerity – a merry Soupy Twists Xmas to everyone who has come with me on this frankly spiffing journey, and I hope to see as many of you as possible in London and/or Bath in the New Year!

SOUPY TWIST to all, and to all a good gracious!

40) Permission To Shout BRAVO…

Friday, 23 November 2018

Two months after release, winding down on author duties, I find one reviews the stacks of research data amassed on the old harddrive, and feels duty bound to be a little more generous with some of the rarities one has happened upon. So please find attached a sample of highlights from the two episodes of Friday Night Saturday Morning helmed by the Cambridge Footlights team in 1979 and 1980 (leaving out the wife beater sketch and the blacking up, I just don’t need the Comment battles). I do hope I don’t get into trouble for uploading this meagre footage, but it’ll soon be whipped offline if so; it’s intended purely as an early Christmas present for my very attractive readers.

Perhaps this blog should have folded in on itself and disappeared up a particularly tight aperture by now, but we missed a rather important update. You know, just one of those near-silent but seismic Soupy Twists which come too late in the tale, and somewhat leave one looking pret-ty silly…

Well, quite – FRY & LAURIE… REUNITED.

When The True History of the Black Adder was released in October 2012, it ended with a detailed summary of all attempts to bring Edmund back to life, and a lengthy wondering what the future might hold. And within weeks of the book hitting the shops, Rowan and Tony were performing a new Blackadder sketch by Ben, BANK ADDER, for charity, live on a London stage. And then, to add further embarrassment to the first edition, shortly after, Bladder and Balders were at Buckingham Palace to pick up shock Honours.

Here’s proof that the same shit can happen to the same guy twice.

No, shush, obviously, that would be churlish, and it was all for a good cause – as reported on Hughlarious – the colleagues teamed up for their first public sketch performance of the century in aid of the charity Children’s Network, at a live London show called Serious Fun, of which I was utterly unaware, or obviously I’d have been there with my hair in braid (or as best I could braid it). I claw back some comfort also in that they performed their traditional drop-of-a-hat-oh-and-a-counter-with-telephone-is-also-essential charity item, The Hedge Sketch, as shown in Soupy Twists. And so the deep disappointment of not witnessing the exact reunion that the last few pages of Soupy Twists ache for is at least hugely tempered by not really missing any fresh F&L material. The two of them going through those old familiar motions does bode well for a proper reunion though, and if plans are firming, I only hope they become firm enough to mention – or perhaps even witness – before I can update the text for next year’s paperback release.

Oh, and then this very week, there were further developments. It’s been a week of miraculous, comradely good news, so of course we had to share at last…

Yes, dear Soupy Twists pledgers, this week, James Hugh Calum Laurie POSTED OFF HIS SIGNATURES TO ME!

Those of you who pledged for the signed copies of the book can now expect to complete your autograph collection ASAP, Unbound are posting them as I type. I think I’m relatively right in saying that concludes all of our pledge promises – besides those of you still to claim your cocktail meeting with me, you gluttons for banality. (Just jest, I will prepare some rare material to share with you when you visit – let me know when you’re ready to come and have a drink!)

Oh yes, and also apparently the dear chap picked up a gong from ultimate comedy fanboy Prince Charles this week too – a CBE is one rung below Sir Tony Robinson, and on a par with Rowan Atkinson CBE, so top hole all round. It’s always jolly to see Hugh smiling when the pleasure he’s feeling is clearly uncontrollably sincere, shining through his natural embarrassment at receiving any form of honour, so this is a truly gladsome sight. As for Mr Stephen Fry’s feelings about Honours… well, that’s in the book, if you have yet to purchase one…

AOB for ABOF&L – no matter what their subject matter, even a podcast agnostic like me wouldn’t flinch from recommending the learned and friendly RULE OF THREE cast, presented by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, who chat to a professional comedy-type about their own comedy loves, and this week Margaret Caybourn-Smith revealed her teenage obsessions with ABOF&L, sensible person that she is. They were kind enough to slip a modicum of cred Soupy Twists’ way near the start of the second half – and it was a great pleasure to hear elements of my weave of the colleagues’ combined story influencing their chat as it developed; I definitely recommend a listen.

Finally, although I have yet to request any tacit nod from Fry & Laurie – which I obviously always would do – plans are afoot for a Bath book launch at a swish cocktail bar to mark the 30th anniversary of the very first broadcast of ABOF&L S1E1 on Sunday January 13th. As with the London launch, the hope is we can give a reading of unperformed Fry & Laurie material as part of a free cabaret, but with books on hand to buy and get signed. It won’t be a commercial event, we’re not aiming to make money out of the colleagues’ material, just to mark the anniversary with a private cabaret of songs and sketches for F&L geeks and Soupy Twists readers, details of which should spring up on social media arenas in the coming weeks. There will be cocktails, of course.

Bring me lobster on a clean plate.

39) He’s Just A Child Really…

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Sound Name! My Favourite Sketch! (EDIT: And deleted by some scumball claiming copyright either on behalf of the BBC or Dave – either way, fingers crossed that villain already caught a juggernaut in the small of the back while bending over to pick up a penny mid-motorway.)

… Actually, it isn’t *quite* my favourite sketch, not when Berent’s Cocoa and Gay and Marmalade and the Dalliards all exist, but it is a sketch dangerously close to my heart.

But first of all, a hello and a welcome to this slightly awkward and unnecessary #SoupyTwists Friday update, which was inspired by seeing an all-time hero, Bob Mortimer, officially one of the two or three funniest human beings alive, FINALLY give Stephen and Hugh some respect, several episodes into Gold’s fun but flimsy TV nostalgia fest, ‘My Favourite Sketch’. I did try to interview Vic and Bob for Soupy Twists – they being such close buddies in the early 90s, and co-stars of Christmas Night With The Stars and so on – but received the reply that they didn’t think they had anything to add. Not that I took that as any kind of slight, but having Bob prioritise ABOF&L in his favourite sketch list was a lovely consolation, so I couldn’t resist mentioning it here, and uploading it (for as long as it lasts!).

Even more astounding was his choice of sketch (which he admitted at the top of the programme was off the top of his head), as the vignette about Mr Nippl-e and his missing vehicle was the very first comedy sketch I ever performed. The worst part of 30 years ago, at Ludlow C of E School, a charity show was staged on the day of the STONKER – Friday 15 March 1991 – perhaps the best Comic Relief Red Nose Day ever. As my three-years-older brother and his mates had claimed sketches like ‘Jewellery’ and ‘Psychiatrist’, I had to force my then best mate Steven Cox to join me in this pick from the first ABOF&L scriptbook.

And then, more horrifyingly, I remembered my brother had sent me a VHS with an early camcorder recording of that lunch break, and so I pressed ‘Play’ on a video for the first time in years, and there we were. Small, round, piping-voiced, and thoroughly shit, but performing Stephen & Hugh’s words (albeit, a lighter was too small for stage, so we made it a shoe, and we had no Policeman uniform, so I dressed as a yuppie taking down Mr Nippl-e’s details for charity work). I have an avertion to personal nostaligia, so sharing something like this is anathema to me, but here’s a brief bit of us doing it anyway, aged 12 3/4:


(He’s just a kid really)

And if that’s not weird enough, here’s a GERMAN REMAKE of the same sketch!

The point of this oversharing is, at this age the most supreme pleasure I knew in life was to be allowed to stand in front of the English class with a little friend and perform a sketch – sometimes Python, sometimes Absolutely, but most of all, the sketches in the ABOF&L books were always the best. It breaks my heart that the books are out of print – even if someone has digitised the oeuvre and put them online. I specifically begged Michael Joseph, Fry’s literary agents and controllers of the copyright, about the chance of editing an all-new collection  of F&L sketches, bringing together all the previous books, plus missing sketches from Saturday Live, Cellar Tapes, Hedge Sketch and suchlike. But they quite deliberately encouraged a flea to take possession of my internal ear cavity, and metaphorically kicked me out of the email equivalent of the door.

The hope is/was that SOUPY TWISTS would do well enough to change their minds and encourage S & H to back us up in this desire to bring their work back onto the market, as it were, but we’ll just have to see. We’ve run out of publicity, sadly – BBC Radio Shropshire last week was a boon and a pleasure, but the last interview we had lined up – and although there is a hope we can stage an event to mark ABOF&L’s 30th anniversary in January, and although I have spoken to Unbound about creating an audiobook version, and although there is a chance of a proper USA release at last… there is little else to do now but keep hoping the nice reviews continue to rack up in the usual online retailing areas, and that we may get some good mentions in the newspaper Xmas round-ups. In private, Stephen’s sister Jo has said kind words, as have a number of his close friends including the wonderful Kim Harris, but Stephen has been so busy with Heroes, we’ve yet to receive our promised ‘release tweet’, and Hugh has gone entirely off the radar… but we have no doubt the colleagues’ kindness will bring us back into their ken eventually… And no cricket bats will be required.

If you have been, that’s nice.

38) The Ballad of Neddy Muldoon

Friday, 12 October 2018

Happy Soupy Twists Friday (Yes, that’s still a thing), ABBOFFLERS!

Folk keep asking me how the book’s doing, but in real terms, authors only find this out once every six months, when royalty statements arrive and depression sets in. So far we have five positive Amazon reviews, lots of lovely feedback, and only one disgruntled pledger annoyed about the lack of Hugh’s signature (please realise, it’s due to a change in Hugh’s personal management, and there’s nothing I nor Unbound can do but keep faith and nudge Hugh’s PA as often as possible, in the hope of delivering eventually). Besides an interview with Talk Radio next Tuesday, we’ve run out of publicity, so anyone out there with a relevant podcast, or radio producers, or indeed any way you may have of amplifying our cries of ‘THIS BOOK IS QUITE NICE AND YOU MAY ENJOY IT’ – please get in touch at jem@jemroberts.com.

As for those in the book, Stephen’s sister Jo has been lovely, and even moreso his wonderful student partner Kim Harris has been in touch with the most moving praise. Kim’s submissions to the book were so glorious, I have advised him to expand them into a full memoir, and I believe Stephen agrees. Kim had read the ebook twice before I could send him a proper copy, and it would be conceited to repeat his praise, but it means the world to me. I don’t expect Stephen or Hugh to read the book, it’s an ego minefield, so although Fry and Laurie have always been on board this official project, the opinions of their closest friends is the closest I can get to full approval of the finished product. Of course, neither colleague has yet acknowledged the release, but Fry’s Twitter profile in particular is under non-stop seige, and he has ‘Heroes’ to promote too… as his official joint biography, surely our time will come.

However, Kim also enthused about the book to Nick Symons, one-time ABOF&L producer known to you perhaps as ‘man in glasses’ in the studio audience for the Strom sketch. Nick has also been full of pleasing praise for Soupy Twists… but in addition, blue-pencilled his way through in a sadly belated fact check. I’m glad to say this largely resulted in just a few tiny issues which almost nobody would notice – Hugh lived in Tufnell Park for a while, not Camden, and so on. But he did also point out two ridiculous mistakes on one page, in the plates. The photo section didn’t go through half the rigorous checking of the main body of the book, but that’s no excuse, and I take full responsibility for this worst brain-belch of all:

HOW DO THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN? And why, of all people, did it have to be the lovely, underappreciated Paul Shearer whose name was mistaken, directly beneath an archive photo which specifically names him correctly? I’m sure I had been discussing fellow underappreciated comedian John Sparkes when writing the captions, and the totally random, heartbreaking, self-sabotaging brainwrong just jumped in there. And nobody caught it, but it’s still my fault. I’m so sorry, Paul. This, and a few other small glitches have already been sent to Unbound for fixing for every edition from now on, and eBook. It could of course have been far worse, but you will never know just how this kind of completely inexplicable mistake is a dagger to my guts. It’s one thing to make an error through lack of knowledge, but when it’s something you know perfectly well, and yet somehow your internal gremlins have just fucked something up for you… that’s the one that really stinks. Mea very culpa.

On the other hand, that does mean the real meat of the book is as flawless as you can get, plus, just as I was weeping into my wound about all this yesterday, I watched Richard Herring interview Alex Horne about his new book, and both shared their agonies of first edition typos and errors RIGHT HERE – and as they are both better men than me, I felt a little better.

Whether this will ameliorate my error I do not know, but here’s a wee something for you all which may raise half a grin. Hugh Laurie, it need hardly be said, is very much alive, which is lovely, but he’s now so divorced from his own comical songwriting, the discovery of his old ABOF&L-era song lyrics feels as exciting to me as discovering lost Lennon lyrics. And so, as Billy Bragg was to Woody Guthrie, I have been moved to fit music to Hugh’s abandoned songs. In particular, I have always had a soft spot for the Muldoon brothers, Freddie and Neddy, murdered by the villainous fascistic ‘Cause’. And so, finding an unfinished ‘Ballad of Neddy Muldoon’ in the ABOF&L archives was an astonishing treat, and inspired the construction of a few folky, bluesy chords to let the sad tune sing out 25-odd years after Laurie abandoned it, in tribute to the shortest-lived Prime Minister in British history. It was missing a line, but rather than add to Hugh’s words, I thought I’d borrow one of his lines from another song…

And so, with Fry a safe punching distance away, I give you my interpretation of The Ballad of Neddy Muldoon. We shall not forget. Although most of us do not remember.

HOWZAT?!

37) Soupy Twists LIVE!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Hello, ladies and non-ladies, and to a certain extent also, HELLO!

I’m not entirely certain of how long we can go on having extra blogs added, now most of you have probably already read the entire book, but it’s been a busy time introducing the world to Soupy Twists, and so we have a great deal of housekeeping to do. But at least we can do it with vim.

Yes, on Wednesday 12th September I was aided and abetted by Paul Gannon, my comedy colleague for many a year of yore, and now noted podcaster with @Cheapshow and more – plus the magnificently talented Torchwood and Hitchhiker star Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth, whose credits include starring with Stephen Fry in Extras, and radio show Fry’s Planet Word. Together, we convened in London’s occasionally fashionable Clerkenwell to present a virtual episode of ‘A Bit Of Fry & Laurie’ that wasn’t, to launch our wonderful book amidst delightful pledgers and fans. In fact, the hour-long show and subsequent sticky cocktail-glugging presumably formed the closest thing there has ever been to a Fry & Laurie fan convention – and there was much rejoicing.

And you can listen to the audio of the event RIGHT HERE! I’ll keep the link up for a few months, so grab it while you can!

Folk kindly also uploaded the odd bit of video for those who like to use eyes as well as ears, and you can find them HERE and HERE (Thanks, Trevor!) and also HERE (Thanks, other Paul!).

Early feedback on the book is thankfully glowing, though no word yet on professional reviews – unless I’m being protected from them. Never mind, your opinion will always count for more, so PLEASE if you enjoyed the book, speed to those tax-dodging types at Amazon and share your stars and reviews (you can buy it more ethically HERE), it means an annoying amount that it’s well received, if I am to write further books. You can do the same on Goodreads, but the place terrifies me.

And as for further coverage, if you are tired of life enough to hear me talk more about A Bit of Fry & Laurie on BBC Bristol, I was first guest up on Monday’s show HERE!

(Oh, and as a Froody aside for Hitchhiker’s Guide fans, my Great Lives episode, in which I nattered with the great Mark Carwardine about Douglas Adams is on Radio 4 HERE or as an extended podcast HERE!)

I have podcast interviews ahead, and something on Talk Radio, but we’re still keen for any kind of word-spreading we can manage, so if you hear of any opportunities, do get in touch at jem@jemroberts.com!

But for now, and best of all, to further my radio adventures, my 4xtra natter with the comedy deity who is Arthur Smith starts later tonight at ten to eleven…! Should be somewhere in this region: HERE. Mr Smith may not be the first name you think of in connection to everyone’s favourite Footlighters, but it was a real pleasure to spend more time with such an Alternative icon, and we’re both on the Bath Comedy Festival board, so it was good to catch up…

Oh, and on the subject of pledge honouring – if you pledged to get copies signed by me, Stephen and Hugh, it’s true that Hugh has lost himself in a new movie project and sadly not yet supplied his signatures – nobody’s fault, least of all mine or Unbound’s – but we’re doing all we can to get them, and won’t give up, but may send your copies without Hugh’s signature first, and as there are only 15 or so, we can post them off when we do get them. Some of you also pledged to come to Bath and have cocktails with me, you mad lot – just get in touch when you’d like to sort that out and I’ll do all I can to not waste your time! Thank you so much to everyone who did pledge extra for any reason at all, though…

Oh, and finally, if you’re concerned that neither Fry nor Laurie has yet commented on the release of their official joint biography… well, now I finally have my box of books and two minutes to rub together, it may help when I get a moment to post their copies off to them. To the Post Office I go!

See those faces. You can hardly blame them…

36) SOUPY TWISTS PUBLICATION DAY! As I live and close a sale!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Listen to me, lovelets, don’t stop listening to me…

The year long extra wait is finally over, in good time for the 30th anniversary of the first series of “A BIT OF FRY & LAURIE”, Stephen & Hugh’s official joint biography SOUPY TWISTS is finally headed to shops all over the British Isles – and available all over the world, though we hope that UNBOUND USA will give it a proper release over in the American regions sooner rather than later.

Above is my totally author-made video (what do you mean you could tell it wasn’t professional?) which I’ve had brewing away for over two years now – some of the shops featured don’t even exist any more! I know it’s a little ropy, but hopefully it will be received in the jolly spirit it was intended.

Anyway, I’m holding it now, as they say, and this is a beautiful chunk of tree. It brings to mind this passage from ‘Paperweight’, which has always stayed with me – this may be my 4th book, but this sentiment of Stephen’s must remain paramount:

Your supporter copies will be with you very soon – Unbound have been moving warehouse so there’s a slight delay in sending these out. For anyone who ordered a copy to be signed by me – the wait will be a little longer I’m afraid due to a rather busy schedule.

For those who haven’t pledged, you can buy this gorgeous book in any decent shop – obviously Amazon already has plenty of money, but whether you get it from them or not, if you enjoy the book, PLEASE take the time to leave a nice review on there, as these things really, really matter to publishers and the like. Same goes for Goodreads, and indeed word of mouth. Show your love for Stephen and Hugh by supporting this official book, and if it does well enough, who knows whether that may be a trigger to bring the colleagues back together in full comedic reunion, even if for one night only…?

And for an extra consumer tip, let’s turn to the colleagues themselves…

Stephen: Any particular advice on how to carry SOUPY TWISTS, when travelling abroad?
Hugh: Yes, I would say it’s definitely worth getting a proper travelling SOUPY TWISTS  bag.
Stephen: A travelling SOUPY TWISTS bag?
Hugh: Yes. You can buy one of these at most big High Street travelling SOUPY TWISTS bag shops.

Perfectly sofa factory. As they say in Strøm, Hifty bewn-hate, happy hip-wipe, weethle-fwisk prenty arse.

I look forward to baffling many of you in person on Wednesday, when I and my once-colleague Paul Gannon will be joined by Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth for the London launch, with an hour-long virtual ABOF&L show made up of entirely unperformed sketches, and a few beloved Hugh tunes to boot! And of course, cocktails galore…

I never expected an honour of this magnitude, even as the official biographer of Douglas Adams, Blackadder and ISIHAC. Not least due to Hugh’s rightful embarrassment at this kind of thing, an official print Fry & Laurie celebration seemed beyond imaginings. But here it is. This is all thanks to Stephen’s kind support, and Hugh’s unexpected graciousness, and I will be eternally grateful to them both (any sign of those signatures, Hugh?).

Enjoy. Bathe in the verbiage. Wallow in the sophisticated silliness. Admire the trousers. And let the world know if you love it, as I do. If not, keep schtum, you pempslider.

35) Fry Birthday Fun: MAGIC EYE

Friday, 24 August 2018

Happy 61st, Mr Casilingua!

It seems bizarre that we have had three birthdays come and go for our colleagues in the making of this official biography – it’s been like an unpaid job which has gone on far beyond any imaginings, but from which I will soon be fired.

But I say, here’s fun: this probably penultimate blog after all these years allows me to share something with you which didn’t fit in the book, as a special birthday treat for Stephen – the colleagues’ entry in the 1995 Comic Relief book:

Actually, in truth, it was one of those tiresome ‘Upper Class Wits’ affairs which I know irked Hugh in particular, pigeonholing them both as toffs, but as they were pretty much done as a double act when the book came out, I’m not sure if they ever even really acknowledged it, let alone were able to actually make out the hidden image on their spread:

Does Magic Eye work digitally, on a screen? I know it never even worked for me on the page, I could never quite position my eyes in the right place, but in case it works for you, here’s the page:

… And a touch of doggerel probably not written by Richard Curtis.

And for those, like me, who have normal eyes, here is the solution.

Well, I mean to say. Something. Or other.

Less than three weeks until our launch party at Bloomsbury’s Museum of Comedy, where I’ll be performing some of the unused Fry & Laurie sketches Stephen sent me in a special hour-long show with comedian and podcaster Paul Gannon and special guests, Hitchhiker’s Guide stars Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth. We’re getting it ready for you now, along with all the other promises. Slight nightmare at the moment, in that Stephen has kindly provided his signatures for the signed copies you may have pledged for… but Hugh has gone AWOL without doing so, and may be disappearing into a character on the other side of the world. We’re doing all we can…

Anyway, may a lovely day for Stephen unfold, and everyone else share in it. Tinkerty-tonk.

34) Actual Cocktail Time This Time

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Ladies and boys, bear with me please, bear with me, don’t stop bearing with me…

We have reason to raise a glass and celebrate, my dear Soupy pledgers – this week, the official story of Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie’s friendship and comedic partnership, has FINALLY gone off to the printers, only a year late! If ever there was cause to shake a cocktail shaker, that must be it.

In addition, the 40,000 word bundles of hitherto unseen ABOF&L material is ready to PDF (note: some of the material is also in the book, but pledgers have more than DOUBLE the amount!), Mr Fry has provided the signatures for the signed editions (just waiting for Mr Laurie to snap out of his understandable Dickensian funk), and for those three remaining MAD PERSONS who have pledged to come to Bath for cocktails and a snoop at my comedy rarities folders… just get in touch!

But the main remaining pledge reward is of course THE BOOK LAUNCH ITSELF – the closest thing there has ever been to a Fry & Laurie fan convention, I suppose, where we will offer drinks and hubbubbery and signings, and above all, an hour’s private cabaret, in which I and a small group of exciting professional comedy performers will be bringing a seclection of sketches and songs, both well-beloved, and rare stuff from the book never performed before – and even EXCLUSIVE Fry & Laurie sketches not even in the book, nor the pledge material bundle, which will only be shared via this one event! Sadly we have no piano, so ukulele will have to suffice, but believe me, this will be a unique and must-attend event for all lovers of Stephen & Hugh’s sophisticated silliness…

Now. The nub, point or thing is – we had 14 pledges for this event, plus a +1 each, and Unbound say that generally half of such pledges are seen through, so that may be fewer than 20 attendees. There will also be some Unbound staffers, friends, and maybe Stephen & Hugh’s close friends in attendance – though undoubtedly neither colleague themselves will be there: imagine the embarrassment for them! And the terror for us, performing their lost material in front of them! Doesn’t bear thinking about.

Anyway, the chosen venue can fit about 80 folk in, and we’re currently looking at maybe 20-30 people or so being there. So it seems a shame not to open it up somewhat, what? THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY PLEDGED CASH FOR THIS, please be assured, you will be given VIP treatment, a drinks tab, and if you still feel short-changed, have a word with me and I will send something else to make up for it. But we do want a nice big crowd, so anyone who wants to buy a book on the evening can come along and join the throng, I’m sure. Best to get in touch at jem@jemroberts.com if you want to be sure of a seat.

The Soupy Twists Launch Event – an hour of completely un-performed Bits of Fry & Laurie, plus book signings and celebrations aplenty – will take place at The Apollo Room, The Crown Tavern, 43 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0EG, on WEDNESDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER at 7.30PM. Put it in your diaries, see you there, and let’s all raise a toast to a brace of the finest funnymen in the history of British Comedy. Bet you can’t eat three.

33) Cocktail Time

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Hello, good July, greetings, and a merry Soupy Twists Friday to one and some others!

The book MS has just gone off to our wonderful Indexer, which allowed me a fresh look at the latest state of the text. One thing which struck me when I first saw the designed version, was that something was missing – a dollop of pizzazz somehow, to lift the story off the page at particular key moments. What I wanted was a series of cocktail designs to mark each section. I could picture them in my head, like neon cocktail bar signs, pertinent to the following wodge of story, but not being the greatest artist in the history of the Earth, this was obviously something I thought Unbound would be able to do in a far more professional way…

Sadly, that never came to pass, and so I have been forced to do it myself after all, and I’m pleased to see at least that *one* of my designs have been included, at the very end of the main text. Not quite what I’d hoped for, but I’m learning to accept these tiny victories as some indication that I am still alive, which surely counts for something.

With the Index underway, there’s no more room for changes, though the constant march of Stephen & Hugh’s careers means that the endpoint of our story can only get more and more out of date. I alluded to the unlikelihood of a second series of The Night Manager, and now there are whispers that the script is already in the works. But tush, if I may tush, we have to call it a day somewhere, and hopefully the end of our story will serve as a fitting testimony to the Fry & Laurie partnership for years to come nonetheless.

Small world, by the way, if not minute: up in Shropshire this weekend, my cousin-in-law in Craven Arms – a brilliant carpenter – informed me that all his wood is provided by one Ran Laurie; Hugh’s cousin, it seems, who has become a Salopian like myself.

Anyway, it may only be of interest to a few, but it seemed a shame to waste all these designs, so extra content coming up – my cocktail icons, and where they were roughly meant to be. As you can see, the glasses were slightly anthropomorphised, and were supposed to reflect the stage of Stephen & Hugh’s careers at each juncture. Perhaps you can print them out and stick them to the top of each chapter, as intended.

On the other foot, if you think ‘Jesus Meddlicott, is this what I pledged my money for, this infantile scrawl?’ then I would say to you, firstly, that you’re unnecessarily rude, secondly, that I did intend for a better designer to re-do my work, and thirdly – only one of my images has made the finished version anyway, plus one by the gifted Darrell Maclaine-Jones.

Oh, and PS: A few folk have started to ask about the launch party. I would rather like to get some idea of what the blinking flip the deal is myself. My hope is that ‘we’ can find a central London venue for cocktails and a small cabaret, perhaps on a Saturday evening in late September, but perhaps I’m expected to actually book the venue and so on… which is unwise, but we shall see.

Chin chin, anyway…

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

THE INTRO BIT

THE FIRST BIT

THE MAIN BIT

THE LAST BIT

SOUPY TWISTS!

32) Hello, and Welcome To ‘Judging A Book By…’

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Or perhaps, ‘How I Learned To Stop Torturing Myself and be a Froody Author’.

As it’s Towel Day, I should have blogged about Fry & Laurie’s friendships with Douglas Adams, in the hope that some of you who haven’t yet blessed your bookshelves with my last book THE FROOD (which mentions both colleagues a fair bit) can finally make up for it. But you’ve all been waiting so long for this dear and blessed book by now, I probably already have, at least once, and besides, it’s quite a big news day for me, because…

I say, here’s fun – the Soupy Twists cover has finally debuted to the world.

Well gosh, look at those fellows. And their strange faces.

With the best will in the world… you could bequeath THE MOON to ALL THE WORLD’S CHILDREN! … Sorry, I mean to say, with the best will in the world, I am deeply proud of Soupy Twists, and obviously want as many folk as possible to buy and enjoy it, but this is not quite how I personally envisaged the Soupy Twists cover. I had originally hoped for a colour image of Stephen & Hugh (in an ideal world in full ‘Soupy Twists’ mode, raising a cocktail glass to the reader, inviting them to pick up the book and have a good time), against a plain white background with gold lettering, and in general, for this book to fit perfectly alongside the existing ABOF&L books as seamlessly as possible.

And yes, dearies, I am aware that the colleagues are the wrong way round. But shush. Snark hath no place here, this is the cover of my 4th book, it’s a tremendous treasury of comedy brilliance, and it’s a book I will be doing all I can to sell and publicise and massively enthuse folk about wherever and whenever I can throughout this year, and particularly in September, when it hits the shops (If you can help with publicity, by the way – local radio, newspapers, any chance to discuss Fry & Laurie’s official story, email jem@jemroberts.com and I’ll be there).

But I have one overriding reason for embracing this quirky cover, presented to me as a fait accompli as it was, and even though I did have an ambition not to write a book which was largely grey, and that is… I HAVE A HISTORY OF BEING GRAVELY WRONG.

You see, my first three books were all published by Preface/Arrow, an imprint of Penguin/Random House and ironically, that huge conglomerate of commercial publishing gave me all the input and power I desired to shape the look of my books. Here follows a little breakdown of how the design of each of my books was at first amateurishly suggested by myself, then a different look was presented to me by the company, then I worked with them to reach a compromise which made us all happy…

THE CLUE BIBLE:
Originally ‘I’ll Read That Again’, then ‘The I’m Sorry Bible’, the Last Supper image my first book ended up with was not my idea, but I suggested all sorts of changes, adding ferrets, streamers, kazoos and the like into the image – I also battled to get Bill Oddie on the cover, with no luck. But it was a very pleasing bit of work by the time the book came out:

THE CLUE BIBLE EVOLUTION

THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE BLACKADDER:
I had several rough ideas of how I’d like my Blackadder magnificent octopus to hit the shops, as you can see, but then Preface wanted it to look totally different, i.e. like this:

But I said no, ‘Goes Forth’ was not the focus, and I wanted something more in keeping with the Olde Worlde title, a Blackadder II cover, and those kind designers came up trumps for me, both in hardback and paperback:

THE TRUE HISTORY EVOLUTION

THE FROOD

My official Douglas Adams biography perhaps involved the most wrangling before its release in 2014. My very first image was, admittedly, something I never expected to actually get onto bookshelves, pretty though it was:

But as the following link shows, after a rather lacklustre original suggestion from Preface’s designers, I worked very hard to tug the cover design over to my way of thinking – the very least, I begged, was that Douglas’ face should be on his own official biography. And so, you can see how it evolved into something which pleased us all – and again, all the moreso by paperback:

THE FROOD EVOLUTION

And now, here we are with the official Fry & Laurie book, published with an author-led publisher… and I have to say, the cover is something entirely other to me, I have had no hand in it at all, it feels like another person’s child I am having to work to send to Eton and I’m not that sure about their smell…

But here’s the kicker – all my previous books failed to reach even 30% of their audiences. And now Preface is no more, anyway. The Frood still has to make back my 2013 advance, after a third of a decade of sales, and was only translated into Portuguese. I have been trying to get a publisher to reprint the Blackadder book for the 30th anniversary of ‘Goes Forth’ – using the exact original Preface cover design idea – but all entreaties on that score have been ignored by BBC Books and others, even though there’s a huge Blackadder audience out there who missed the book first time round, and would snap it up in 2019. I am constantly meeting people who claim to be the biggest Blackadder fan… who had no idea his True History had been told.

Now, I would never be so paranoid as to assume that the poor sales of these books was down to my vision for the book cover. I remain endlessly proud of all three books, just as I am vehemently proud of Soupy Twists – all three were well-reviewed (where they were reviewed, that is), and I know they are good stuff, comedy history you can stick a spoon into and guzzle. It’s just that each one all-but evaporated when let loose in the insane world of book marketing, and many many people who would love them still don’t know they exist.

So here’s a thought, what if this book, Soupy Twists, having had nugatory input from me in its outward presentation, finally bucked the trend and sold admirably? Stranger things have happened, and indeed do happen every day, not least in the seamier suburbs of Crawley.

So I’ve chosen to adore and cheer on this strangely grey and yellow cover, and I dearly hope you do too. If this book does well enough, maybe I will keep my oar out of book cover discussions forever more, because I’ve learned the very very hard way indeed that it’s better to have a book that actually sells than a cover over which I have had authorial control. Or rather, that sounds nice anyway, but it’s never happened to me as yet. Fourth time lucky…?

If you have been, that’s your look-out.

And as I love you, I’ll leave you with this entirely gross demolition of one of Hugh’s best songs in this Trump-stained world. KICKIN’ ASS:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GjB7Q9ZkgQ

31) The Jeeves & Wooster Family Tree

Thursday, 10 May 2018

 

Tally ho, long-fingered young Soupy pledgers, with a bing and a bong and a buzz buzz buzz!

Happy Soupy Twists Friday. It has been an awfully long time since last I collared you, but then, little has happened – and September remains the apparent date for holding this book to your bosoms. The plate section is curently taking form, I am battling to include some text decorations which I feel will really add pizzazz, and as for my future, I have still not found a home yet for my planned next wonderful work of comedy non-fiction… and that’s about the size, shape and girth of it.

Meantime, Stephen and Hugh have not failed to ceaselessly make their official story out of date, naturally – Hugh’s confirmed as part of Armando Iannucci’s new David Copperfield movie and Stephen has embarked on a new podcast project, which you can access HERE as if you haven’t already.

But I have made an amusing discovery which I thought pertinent to share with you. The book above was maybe my third or fourth Wodehouse purchase, my interest in the Master originally wholly due to Stephen and Hugh and their agreement to personify Bertram Wilberforce and his brain-weighted valet. I was 11 when Jeeves & Wooster began, and over the following decade I ravenously tracked down and revelled in every single one of Wodehouse’s 100+ books (though his early school stories have always been a grey area, and are by and large a challenge to enjoy, learning his craft as he was at the time). Anyone who knows anything about the great man’s ludicrously fecund output will recognise the achievement here, especially as this was managed without access to Amazon, eBay and various online book emporia, it was purely through visiting bookshops and the like that I totalled the oeuvre, and of course a certain sadness entered my non-existent soul from the moment I realised I would never again read a Wodehouse novel for the first time.

Anyway, the reason for this impertinent bloggage is a testament to my adolescent obsession with the World of Wodehouse. At the age of 18, I embarked on a year out before attending university, at UWA Aberystwyth in 1997. The plan was to work in various factories, save up several grand, and survive all the better at uni. Sadly, it did not work out this way, and before I finally nepotistically landed a job writing Prima videogame guides at the end of the year (do check out my guide to Mortal Kombat 4, it’s a doozy), I had many months of JSA-funded unemployment.

What does a glum teenager do in the Shropshire countryside when denied the ability to earn some of the necessary? Does he hang around on the Buttercross steps, swigging White Lightning and terrorising the populace? Does he stay in bed watching… what would daytime TV have been in 1996? I shudder to think.

No, he does not. He spends days painstakingly collecting all the canonical info he can from the Jeeves books, and puts together a vast family tree, covering the genealogy of both Bertie and, surprisingly, Reginald Jeeves, all in one. I mean, just look at it:

This is only an iPhone pic of the enormous piece of card I used, but it should just about be legible, to interested fans. I discovered this, unexamined for decades, rolled up inside a load of old posters, and couldn’t resist allowing other eyes to see it for the first time ever.

Perhaps a few literary inaccuracies crept in here and there, but stringent attention to detail was shown in my younger exertions. Of course, it’s 88% fan fiction, all dates totally surmised or imagined, and by bringing the bloodlines right up to date (to 1996), mixing in all manner of Wodehouse figures and dynasties – not to mention linking Jeeves and Bertie’s ancestry AND combining their families via marriage in the next generation – perhaps I got carried away. My Latin on the family crest designs also no doubt sucks sizeable ones, but I had no classical education, unlike Bertie (and Jeeves, and Stephen and Hugh).

This may seem like an eccentric waste of any young man’s time, but I did at least get to revisit the experience professionally, with a far greater devotion to canon, in my second book, THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE BLACK ADDER:

True, absolute purists may spot a few cheeky punts here and there even with this published genealogy – assuming the father of Captain Blackadder and so on, but generally this one is far more based firmly on the existing research on the Blackadder family carried out by Richard Curtis, Ben Elton and John Lloyd. It’s probably in my Top 5 proudest moments in my career, I don’t mind admitting.

But as you can see, we’re nearing 30 years of devoted PG Wodehouse fandom from me, and as a member of the Wodehouse Appreciation Society and an avid reader of all books about him and his work, I have long wanted to fill a crucial gap in the market, by writing a lovely big glossy book all about the many adaptations of Wodehouse to the screen. Soupy Twists contains the most detailed history of the Granada Jeeves & Wooster series ever released, with new input from Brian Eastman as well as S&H, but just as my Blackadder book contains the seeds of Soupy Twists, with a potted Fry & Laurie history which I have now finally been allowed to explore in more detail, so Soupy Twists’ J&W narrative could be fleshed out massively in my planned book, ‘Wodehouse’s World’. It’s not just about J&W, or ‘Blandings’, or the surprisingly few other attempts to bring Wodehouse to the masses, it’s also all about the adverts, the ornaments and knick-knacks, musicals, basically every element of Wodehouse’s universe, OFF THE PAGE. There was one very dry academic book on ‘Wodehouse on Screen’, which I found a pain to get through, but I aim to cover that territory in a juicy, fizzy, entertaining way.

If there are any sane publishers of comedy/literary non-fiction out there… Pip pip!

30) Oh Lordy! It’s…

Friday, 16 February 2018

An oleaginously indulgent Soupy Twists Friday to all!

Lovely news for all – the tweaked-and-perfected-to-jiggery Soupy Twists proofs have just been sent back to the editor for the next phase of production (we’ll get one last check for errors), and I’m trying, via a gifted designer friend, to add a few sprinkles of extra gorgeosity to the contents, we’ll see if our attempts bear any kind of fruit and veg.

This is just a compact and bijou blogette to expand on a minor element of the Soupy Twists book which it wasn’t possible to explore in much detail, and that’s the relationship between Stephen and Hugh – well, Stephen mainly – and Viz comic, the UK’s venerable source of comic strip filth for four decades now.

Whether this doltish Voxpopper was meant as a tribute to or an attack on Viz, via San and Tray the iconic Fat Slags, the comic has not been backward at coming forward with skewering everyone’s favourite interestingly-nosed polymathematician. Viz has always presented itself as a hard-as-nails Geordie working class periodical, so it’s no surprise that two Footlighters were going to get lined up for some rough treatment now and then…

I could only refer to the strips they have run in the book, but this blog is here to show you what I’m on about.

The first Stephen Fry strip (with a cameo from Hugh) was back in 1993, and just pleasingly whimsical really, a testament to Fry’s popularity, albeit presented as a Cambridge undergraduate 12 years after graduating:

And similarly, this cartoon is as offence-free as it gets (unless you’re a thick sheikh):

But when they gave Stephen a second strip many years later in the 21st century, his character began to reflect his place in British society as a then-incessant tweeter, with an extra smack at his occasional displays of sensitive flower behaviour, when the Internet’s bottom line has bitten back. But the fact that he’s presented as a lovable pet is further testament to Fry’s development as the nation’s cuddliest brainbox…

On the other hand, Hugh has been pilloried by the comic only once. But as that one really was rather nasty, I won’t include the advert for Hugh ‘Lemon Sorbet’ Laurie’s album, ‘I Got Them Highest Paid Actor In Showbiz Blues’, partly because Hugh’s own self-flagellation is quite enough, but also because it may rile so many House fans I may get it in the neck just for pasting it.

Instead, I’ll leave you with this charming idea of how Hanna-Barbera may have presented the colleagues for their own cartoon, courtesy of DeviantArtist, Cool Hand Mike:

There, that’s much nicer, isn’t it? And we know how important it is to Be Nice.

If you have been, happy weekend.

29) Jolly Well Done, Hugh CBE!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

HAPPY 2018, the year of SOUPY TWISTS!

Admittedly the book’s delay does mean we’ll hit shops not on the 30th anniversary of the ABOF&L pilot, which was on Boxing Day just passed, nor on the anniversary of the start of series 1, which will be on 13 January next year – but we will be equidistant between the two, and hopefully that will suffice.

The hardest part of any author’s job, however, is always PUBLICITY, and so when this wonderful book is finally out this coming summer, the real challenge is going to be telling the world all about it. Surely any radio or TV producer worth their salt or indeed pepper will see the obvious fact that banging on about how wonderful Stephen & Hugh are makes for great (excuse the tidal wave of sick, but I’m going to use the word) CONTENT!? We will need newspaper coverage, local, national, international, I will be available for radio interviews, TV interviews, live author events… in short, if you or anyone you even vaguely know has any ideas of events or possibilities for publicising this book, PLEASE get in touch and let me know, as I can only presume that I will be entirely on my own when it comes to publicity. It’s where a book falls or rises, and we all want SOUPY TWISTS to rise.

And talking of rising, of course, ARISE HUGH LAURIE CBE! A lovely spot of New Year news since last we blogged, everyone’s favourite Hugh Laurie is now a Commander of the British Empire! Which means we now have to do whatever he says; as if we wouldn’t have done so already.

By ALMOST AMUSING coincidence, just before Xmas I cleared two squibs from the Fry & Laurie archive with Stephen to share with you all – bits which won’t be in the book at all, and this is your one exclusive chance to get your eyes on them. I chose the Russell-Grant-skewering Astrology sketch, and put this to one side, but as it’s all about the Honours system, it seems uncannily suitable as a New Year gift for all you lovely patient pledgers.

Especially as many of you are already thinking of ways to get Soupy Twists some high-profile media exposure this summer… aren’t you…?

28) SOUPY CHRISTMAS AND A TWISTY NEW YEAR!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

A SOUPY, TWISTY XMAS/MITHRAS/SOLSTICE/SATURNALIA TO ALL YOU LOVELY PLEDGERS!

I must admit, when posting last year’s Xmas blog, I never expected to have to follow it up a year later, with further assurances of Stephen & Hugh’s official story being in the offing. I’m a good boy, I am, and after over a year’s hard composition, I delivered the manuscript in April, which means our heroes’ story is paused in early 2017 forever more – which presents the interesting dichotomy of always looking forward to whatever Fry & Laurie might have going on… and terror that they will make some big announcement before the book is out. A pledger tells me that Amazon has the book listed as ‘September 2018’, a full 17 months after delivery, and as Unbound have promised me that the wait will be worth it – hopefully a decent publicity drive will be put in place, and the book will be supported to the extent of being entered for prizes, and maybe translated into other languages, for House fans around the world… – well, I have to keep the faith just like the rest of you.

We’ll also have to arrange a whizzy, jolly launch party for the end of summer in London! Once again, I already know for sure we can put on a great show for pledgers, packed with ABOF&L music and laughs, but hopefully we won’t have to book the place ourselves, etc. We can only arrange so much!

In fact, this is a good time to put in a heartfeltt plea to all of you right now – if you know of ANY comedy/literary event or festival, a book fete, a library, a cool bookshop, anywhere that would be keen to have a special Soupy Twists event to spread word of the book – PLEASE get in touch. Publicity is 80% of the publishing business, and although your author can guarantee a great, funny, fascinating evening, actually *arranging* any kind of Soupy Twists publicity tour is a challenge I’m ill-equipped to take on. Do ask around, spread the word, see if you can find a wee slot for this book, an event packed with Blackadder, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Fry & Laurie and exclusive material of all kinds. All I’d need is travel expenses…

The challenge is doubled by the fact that now my other book, the crucial folklore collection TALES OF BRITAIN is funded, for the first time ever I have TWO BOOKS to publicise and promote in one year. Incidentally, Fry fans may enjoy THE LAST YULE, an exclusive story written for TOB pledgers, as it was based on an ancient legend which I first read in Paperweight many many years ago – and in fact, I’ve failed to track down any alternative version, which is very odd indeed, unless Stephen invented the tale himself. In which case, this is pure plagiarism, but at least it’s free.

Anyway, your patience MUST be rewarded, and Stephen has given express permission for the rude little squib below to be this year’s present. It would have been in the final series, but they had an embarrassment of material, so it went by the wayside. And what is this time of year all about if not refuting baloney? Believers in birth-star bollocks look away now!

Thank you all so much for your kindness, support and patience, merry festive period to you all, and here’s to a very Soupy, rather Twisty, 2018! SOUPY TWIST!!!

I BRING YOU THIS MUCH GREETING:

27) HORROR TWISTS: An Unprofessional Blog

Friday, 27 October 2017

A very very happy Samhain Soupy Twists Friday to you gorgeous, supple ST-pledgers… IF YOU CAN!

This is a Halloween and Horror themed blog. It may not seem it just yet, but do hang around. No, this is not America, I know. But still.

Thank you for your continuing patience and faith as Fry & Laurie’s official 30th anniversary celebration chunters its way through the publishing system, en route to your personal comedy non-fiction travelling cases come the summer. This blog is going to be highly unprofessional, but I write it on the quite safe hunch that Stephen & Hugh are about as likely to read this as a Universal Credit form, or a Dan Brown novel.

Having been at this Official Comedy Biography game for a decade now, most paramount for me has always been knowing my place, impinging on the sainted nerves of my living breathing subject matters as little as possible. And when it comes to the direction of their own careers, that goes quadruple. And yet, with every book I have written, after a year or three of concentrated examination, I cannot help ultimately forming a tungston-carbide-strong vision of what their next step should be. With The Clue Bible, and poor Humph bowing out during its composition, I felt the best way forward for ISIHAC was a line in the sand, a relaunch for series 51 as ‘NOT a Clue’, with a deliberate shakeup – and now, Jack Dee has been proving me wrong for nearly a decade. With Blackadder, well, who HASN’T formulated their own ideal of how Edmund couldn’t enjoy a last run around the track? It just so happens that my idea is best. (You’d have to ask me in some inebriated state to bore you to death with the how’s and the why’s and the d’you-mind-if-you-shut-ups of it.) Then there are all the mind-expanding, hilarious gags still hiding in Douglas Adams’ archives, from which The Frood only sampled a taste. My own views on the way forward for Hitchhiker really are best left private, but at least the sound magician Dirk Maggs is using some of the Frood’s material to power next year’s Hexagonal Phase, which is a huge source of pride…

But you see, I am not delusional. NO REALLY. I fully realise that any idea that comes from me, for any artist I admire, is nothing but fan-fiction at best: I am just a fan, like all the rest of you, and the most important thing any fan has to understand is they have less than zero claim on the work of any artist; that the careers of the artists you admire or even adore, are purely the business of them and their agents. And so I wisely keep silent… But sod it.

©Charles Burns @roving_artist

As for Fry & Laurie’s future as a duo, we’re all well used to their protestations that yes, of course, they must get together for some kind of smoking-jacketed autumnal cabaret, while they’re both around to enjoy a little silliness. But it’s been frankly buggering me for rather a long while now, that there is a Kingsley Amis horror novel that now feels like the most perfect movie vehicle for Hugh Laurie imaginable.

In truth, I bought this copy last year, with the intention of sending it to Hugh last Xmas, but thankfully realised just how potentially creepy-line-step-over-drop-the-knife that may have seemed, so happily keep it on my shelf. The Green Man is a problematic (it’s Kingsley Amis) but truly thrilling and haunting tale of an alcoholic charmer of a hotelier at The Green Man – an esteemed inn somewhere between London and Cambridge – and his kinky temptation into a world of graverobbing, supernatural trysts and comical threesomes. It’s about addiction, and sex, and evil spirits, and trees, and the newly revived Hammer studios could make it the greatest work of Folk Horror of this century, their best new motion picture to date.

Nobody could play Maurice Allington like Hugh. Nearly 30 years ago the BBC made a superb TV adaptation of its time, with Albert Finney in the role, but for an updated cinematic experience, Hugh would get my vote: and if he didn’t seem to have now retired, Finney should play Laurie’s father, the role originally perfect for Michael Hordern. And most pleasing of all, perhaps the best character in The Green Man, the sexually ambiguous atheist Vicar played by Nickolas Grace on the BBC… well, Fry could be given no better box of tricks as an actor. Plus, Maurice and the Vicar form quite a comical duo as they attempt to exorcise the spirit of The Green Man…

So there we are. The Fry & Laurie movie that we never got, Stephen & Hugh reunited on the silver screen battling the forces of erotic evil in a home counties pub. It would be an astounding hit. And it will never happen.

And this, is the most unprofessional blog I will ever write.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN AND THANK YOU TIDYMAN’S CARPETS AND PLEDGE IF YOU HAVEN’T!

26) If You Have Ears…

Friday, 29 September 2017

Gorgeous Soupy Twists Fridays to all our lovely backers!

Well, it really had been far beyond nigh on, hasn’t it? I do try not to linger on the fact that right now, the plan was that copies of Soupy Twists would be in the offing, and all sorts of business would be going on to do with backer launch parties and, one would hope, bookshop events and such (if you’d like a Fry & Laurie-themed author event in your area next year, by the way, do get in touch!). But as the edited manuscript is not due to head my way until next week sometime, we’re now working on a very different schedule. I will just reassure you all once again that I will make sure this extensive extra time Unbound have demanded really pays off for the book, and it’s ultimately worth the wait.In the meantime, I’ve uploaded these little nuggets of Hugh and Stephen intoning into the microphone for the radio adaptations of ABOF&L – basically, the Laughing Stock audio compilations split into two shows for Radio 4, a rare distinction for any comedy show to be adapted in that direction. It’s a shame they never included these gag-packed minutes on the cassettes, but I think 2017 is a little late in the day to have regrets about cassette production. I hope you enjoy.

There’ll be plenty more updates to try and keep your salivation nice and runny, but otherwise my fifth book TALES OF BRITAIN is taking up the mammoth’s share of my time, of course. And as you have all shown faith in this fourth book of mine – and if stories such as, say, Timothy Forrest being presented with the mighty Berwhale the Avenger to traverse afar to save the land from the evil machinations of Pewnack the Destroyer are of interest to you, these stories will be too – please back this project too. Is that what we call ‘Desperate Business’? Or is it ‘synergy’? It’s a long time since I did A level Media Studies… but we do need a book like this, so please do pre-order a copy if you can.

Now, I need to send Stephen & Hugh’s lovely representatives another email of subtle favour-begging… So I will leave you with a couple of pictures of Stephen & Hugh near very big cakes.

This is what it’s all about.

 

25) Better To Be Sixty & Racy…

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

… Than sexist and racist! HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY, STEPHEN JOHN FRY!

We’re a day early for Soupy Twists Friday, but what a momentous day to mark – wherever you are, on whatever continent takes your fancy, we send all our deepest love and gratitude for all your help making Soupy Twists a (nadmittedly delayed) reality!

Talking of the book’s development, we’re teetering on a certain disaster, in that we have a very small design budget, and a whole plate image section to fill, and neither Stephen nor Hugh are able to help very much. So it occurred to us that maybe some fans out there may be in a position to help? It’s unlikely, and we’re already indebted to fine supporters who have sent scans of original recording tickets and the like, which we’re hoping to use, but let’s see if the Fry & Laurie community – and it is a community, we have dustbin rounds and everything – can get together and help in some way. Did you ever see them live, and take the chance to grab an old-fashioned PHOTOGRAPH? Have you chanced upon them strolling in LA and snatched a camphone pic?

We realise such contingencies are tiny, but thought it worth asking. All we want to do is make the lasting celebration of Fry & Laurie’s comedy and friendship the colleagues deserve, but getting the visuals right is a very tough challenge at the moment, so any help with rights-friendly images, just let us know.

We’re sure Stephen is too busy celebrating to read this, but for his many non-biblical lovers out there, we’ll leave you with a cheeky little scrap from the archives, which opens with a statement from Fry that surely nobody can deny.

HAVE A SOUPY SOUPY TWISTY-TURNY 60TH APERTURE-ESCAPING ANNIVERSARY, STEPHEN!

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Fry & Laurie & Heavy Metal

Oh, and by the way, yes, there’s also this…

 

For any Hugh Laurie / Heavy and/or Light Metal fans out there.

It all goes so almost well by my standards until ‘Big Bottom’, where sadly I lose whatever thread I had, flee from the key and start impercetibly growling. No sound check, you see. Loud noise. And no talent. Luckily, at least you can’t see my face.