A Bit of Fry and Laurie: The Complete Collection... Every Bit!
DVD | Box Set
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Bit of Fry & Laurie, A: The Complete Collection . . Every Bit]]>
If terms like "pimhole" and "lesbotic tendencies" reduce you to a fit of giggles, you've already discovered the daffy pleasures of Fry and Laurie. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie have gone on to other successes in film and television (not only did they gain acclaim and adoration as the title characters of Jeeves & Wooster, Laurie has become a household name in the U.S. as the star of House), but their comedy collaborations from the 1980s and '90s have earned them a place in the pantheon of British humor, somewhere between Monty Python and Ricky Gervais. They specialize in "linguistic elasticity," amazing flights of verbal lunacy ranging from overwrought poetry criticism to inventing their own swearwords to protest censorship. A Bit of Fry & Laurie: The Complete Collection... Every Bit! includes all four Fry & Laurie seasons, broadcast between 1987 and 1995. Conservatism is a regular target--an early sketch about a father protesting his son being taught biology is startlingly current--but politics generally takes a back seat to ridiculousness. Fry impersonates Michael Jackson; a doctor prescribes cigarettes; an exceedingly gracious jewelry salesman woos a customer with candied sweets; Fry and Laurie, with righteous indignation, castigate their audience for laughing at serious matters like alcoholism and genital fungus. The fourth series isn't as inspired, overall, but it does feature sparkling moments, such as a version of It's a Wonderful Life starring Rupert Murdoch. Armed with a startling array of false facial hair (and, as the seasons progress, an increasing amount of drag), Fry and Laurie introduce notions like screaming lettuce, a synchronized losing team, and the Omar Sharif Comedy Hour. It's divine silliness; any fan of British comedy will delight in "Every Bit" of Fry and Laurie. --Bret Fetzer
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They lampooned, they parodied, they attacked...but they usually did it without ruffling a hair out of place, and they only seldom swore compared to some of the pure stand-up figures of history. The few moments they spent on screaming fits or foul language are mostly so well-timed that they just made the big picture even funnier. There is something intriguing about a duo that can do such busy things without losing composure or having a fit of camera shyness even once. It seems that the ridiculousness of their comedy style was invented for their own amusement, and all the better if some people laughed on the right part of the joke. Some people have complained that the show feels dated now. Well, yes, that's becoming true with each passing year, but these sketches are still heaps less topical than many other shows of this era. Many of the skits are based so much on "verbal frotting" (to quote Fry) that this factor is quite forgivable.
The writing is typically very smart - it's certainly not exclusionary in the MENSA fashion, but viewers who excel at public debating, writing, or simply read their brains out will really enjoy the subtleties. The way the scripts are delivered is proof positive of just how smart Fry & Laurie are (perhaps a little too smart, since it was later revealed that both of them have dealt with severe mood problems). At the same time, the "vox pops" and occasional fits of completely random lines or sketches - Tony Inchpractice for one - save the show from becoming snobbish. The on-stage music you find in some episodes is not variety show music but rather a parody or "silly song," and even these portions are amusing in some way (Hugh Laurie really shines in these moments of fusing his music and comedy skills together).
I will admit that the show is a mixed bag in some ways. I hardly laugh at all for the "Tony & Control" bits, but love so many other characters (check out the unapologetic take on "Oprah") that I choose to simply skip over the less funny parts instead of rip them apart in an Amazon review. I'm not saying that these actors or their show is infallible, but I *am* saying that it's not worth bashing the entire series just for a few less-than-golden moments.
As a fun bonus, season 2's disc also has the lengthy "Cambridge Footlights Revue" episode that Fry and Laurie did together in the early 1980s (look for the excellent tribute to "Dracula").