New book to publish unseen Fry & Laurie material

Tuesday 17th May 2016, 5:15pm

A Bit Of Fry & Laurie. Image shows from L to R: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry.

Previously un-seen Fry & Laurie scripts are to be published in a new book called Soupy Twists!.

The publication, written by comedy historian Jem Roberts, aims to tell "the full official story of the sophisticated silliness of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie".

Roberts, who has the backing of both the comedy stars to write the book, is using the crowd-funding website Unbound to raise the money required to bring the project to the publication stage.

Unbound points out that most famous British comedy double-acts have been celebrated in print by now, but "it's a bizarre oversight that one of the most beloved, successful and silly duos of all time, widely adored both together and apart - Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie - have not".

The "all-new narrative guide" will be timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the debut of the duo's "effortlessly superior sketch show". The pilot episode of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie was broadcast in 1987, and the show went on to run for four critically acclaimed series.

Roberts - who has previously written books about Blackadder, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - will cover the whole history of the duo's comedy partnership in the book, as well as their subsequent solo efforts.

A Bit Of Fry & Laurie. Image shows from L to R: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry.

Unbound explains: "Focusing on the humour they generated between them, exhaustive research will result in a fizzy comedy narrative taking in the excitement of being the first Perrier Award winners with The Cellar Tapes, the terrors of performing in Saturday Live, the collaborative warfare of Blackadder, the creation of four series of cult sketch comedy which have only grown in global acclaim year by year, the admirable promotion of Tidyman's Carpets, and the ultimate depiction of Wodehouse's most inimitable characters, Jeeves & Wooster."

Additionally, the book will feature "the trials and tribulations of their remarkable subsequent separate career paths, from QI to House".

Roberts has already obtained much material for Soupy Twists!, including "huge databanks" of unseen scripts. The collected documents reveal "a host of tantalising titbits for fans - including what happened next for Tony & Control, which other shops Mr Dalliard's friend ran, and the lost Laurie number The Ballad of Neddy Muldoon".

Speaking to British Comedy Guide, Roberts says: "I must admit I wasn't expecting very much to be in the Fry & Laurie archive, but you'll have to take my word for it that it amounts to basically a whole lost series' worth of sketches."

Branding the material "astonishingly funny", he explained: "The comedy blows anything since out of the water, be it Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh, whatever you like, and reading the 'new' material just brings this home to you, taking you right back to when people were actually allowed to be this amusing. For those who pledge, I'll be sharing a whole host of rare material and bits of chats with Emma, Tony, Ben, Rowan, Hieronymus and so on."

Interested parties should head to Unbound.co.uk to find out more about the project, and to read an excerpt from the book. Those who pledge £10 will get a digital copy of the book when it's finished, whilst £20 pays for a hardback copy. Other rewards on offer include a facsimile hardcopy of rare, unseen Fry & Laurie material.

Roberts concludes: "Do pledge, and let Stephen and Hugh know how loved they still are 35 years after their first triumphs."

In the below video, Stephen Fry endorses the project and Jem Roberts talks more about how he was inspired to work on the book.

Soupy Twists! - The Full, Official Story Of The Sophisticated Silliness Of Fry & Laurie

Soupy Twists! - The Full, Official Story Of The Sophisticated Silliness Of Fry & Laurie

Comedy history shows quite convincingly that it is our funniest double acts who receive and retain the most love from the public, from Eric & Ernie and Pete & Dud to The Two Ronnies and Vic & Bob. But although all of the aforementioned partnerships have been celebrated in print (many, many times in the case of the former acts), it's a bizarre oversight that one of the most beloved, successful and silly duos of all time, widely adored both together and apart - Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie - have not.

Of course, Fry's autobiographies have been gratefully devoured by his admirers, but personal memoirs by their very nature seldom touch on the actual work, and the creative output of the individual. The criminality of there being no book to accompany Fry & Laurie's oeuvre will be rectified with an all-new narrative guide to the partnership's humour, timed to mark the 30th anniversary of the debut of their effortlessly superior sketch show, A Bit Of Fry & Laurie.

With the full blessing, co-operation and active participation of the beloved colleagues Stephen and Hugh themselves, plus of course the troops of friends they have amassed over their four decades in show business, Blackadder chronicler and official biographer of Douglas Adams, Jem Roberts, will take a fresh look at the ampersand-defining colleagues' entwining stories, from insecure Footlighters to international comedy heroes. Focusing on the humour they generated between them, exhaustive research will result in a fizzy comedy narrative taking in the excitement of being the first Perrier Award winners with The Cellar Tapes, the terrors of performing on Saturday Live, the collaborative warfare of Blackadder, the creation of four series of cult sketch comedy which have only grown in global acclaim year by year, the admirable promotion of Tidyman's Carpets, and the ultimate depiction of Wodehouse's most inimitable characters, Jeeves & Wooster. Beyond this, the trials and tribulations of their remarkable subsequent separate career paths, from QI to House, will be entertainingly explored for the very first time. The story will be authoritative, but never remotely dull.

Thanks to the generosity of both colleagues, the huge databanks of the A Bit Of Fry & Laurie unseen material archive have been opened up, revealing a host of tantalising titbits for fans - including what happened next for Tony & Control, which other shops Mr Dalliard's friend ran, and the lost Laurie number The Ballad of Neddy Muldoon - but above all, making Stephen & Hugh's astonishing achievements all the more evident by instantly being freshly, gut-squeezingly funny.

Above all, this is the tale of a true friendship, a deep affection between two very funny men which has long been reflected back from an adoring public a thousandfold. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first TV pilot as a double act, Soupy Twists! will be an all-but overdue celebration of a unique comic chemistry, documenting the most outrageous, exciting and linguistically sublime comedy of a generation.

"You've been patient, you've been glossy, you've been surprisingly supple. I've enjoyed being fabulous with you."

"Bet you can't eat three!"

First published: Thursday 6th September 2018

  • Publisher: Unbound
  • Pages: 320
  • Catalogue: 9781783524518

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