Stephen fry

What do sugar and cocaine have in common?

Stephen Fry is a national treasure whom half the nation can’t stand. He drops his façade of loveability mid-chortle as soon as Brexit is mentioned. He threw a spectacularly pompous Remainer wobbly a few weeks ago and I remember thinking: is he determined to make the people he disdains actively hate him? If so, it’s working. Last weekend Fry was on John Cleese’s GB News chat show, talking about his former cocaine habit and its connection to his adolescent consumption of sugar. He mentioned the sweets in the shape of cigarettes that were sold at his school tuck shop. As he put it: ‘When I was a teenager, I had

What happened to Stephen Fry’s belief in scientific reason?

Here’s my question for Stephen Fry after he said his trans friends had felt ‘deeply upset’ by some of the comments made by J.K. Rowling: why didn’t you just say to them, ‘So what?’ Fry used to be all about saying ‘So what?’ to people who went on about feeling offended by words. His irritation with offence-takers has even become a meme. ‘It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”. As if that gives them certain rights’, he once said. ‘It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. “I find that offensive.” It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be

Must all history programming be ‘relevant’?

When it comes to history programming, television’s loss is increasingly audio’s gain. People moan to me most weeks over the lack of really good, rigorous, eye-opening documentaries on the screen, and I can only nod along in agreement. Oh for a Kenneth Clark-style lecture! More Michael Wood! There’s an especially strong appetite for the adventurous commissions of the 1990s and 2000s. It’s principally podcasts, now, that are pouring into this void. Stephen Fry’s Edwardian Secrets, a 12-episode sequel to his previous series on the Victorians, even sounds like an extended BBC4 documentary, replete with talking heads, choral background music and just a dash of Horrible Histories. Unfortunately, it also suffers

Like a project the BBC might have considered 30 years ago and turned down: The Understudy reviewed

Hats off to the Lawrence Batley Theatre for producing a brand-new full-length show on-line. Stephen Fry, with avuncular fruitiness, narrates a dramatisation of David Nicholls’s novel The Understudy, published in 2005. It’s a back-stage comedy about a newly written sex romp inspired by the life of Lord Byron. The show, predictably enough, is entitled, Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know. Here’s an excerpt. Byron is lying athwart his naked Italian mistress when the Muse summons him to draft a sonnet. ‘I must write here,’ he declares, ‘between a pair of pert peaches nestled.’ This doesn’t quite catch the tone of period drama in its present form. A modern playwright tackling

Watching Stephen Fry was like being in the presence of a god

Stephen Fry lies prone on an empty stage. A red ball rolls in from the wings and bashes him in the face. He stands up and introduces himself as Odysseus, stranded on an island-kingdom as he makes his way home after the Trojan War. The ball had escaped from the hands of a clumsy maidservant who was playing on the beach with a local princess. Now Fry, as Odysseus, begs her help and asks for a petticoat to cover his nakedness. This tale comes from Homer’s Odyssey, Book Six, but Fry doesn’t quote the reference he merely plunges on with the story. Odysseus shows up at the palace of the

Barometer | 11 May 2017

God forbid Irish police investigated Stephen Fry over a complaint of blasphemy, which is no longer a criminal offence in Britain. — The last prosecution was a private case brought by Mary Whitehouse against Gay News and its editor Denis Lemon over a poem in which a Roman centurion tells of having sex with Jesus after his crucifixion. Gay News was fined £1,000 and Lemon £500; he also received a suspended jail sentence. — The last man in Britain jailed for blasphemy was Bradford trouser salesman John William Gott, who got nine months’ hard labour in 1921 for calling Jesus a circus clown. He died soon after his release. Left-leaning

Rod Liddle

The cops should have said: it’s just Stephen Fry, what did you expect?

Coming to a workplace near you, perhaps — masturbation breaks. The policy was first recommended by a psychologist at Nottingham Trent ‘University’ and has now been supported by Dr Cliff Arnall, who is a life coach. These brief moments of respite in the working day would, according to old Cliff, result in less aggression, higher productivity and more smiles. I’m sure he’s right. ‘I’ll read the lesson in a few minutes, Justin, I’m just off for a quick Sherman. Pass me that copy of the Tablet, will you?’ I do wonder if in some workplaces — the BBC commissioning centre, all advertising agencies, Channel 4 News, the Law Society —

Stephen Fry will be delighted to be accused of blasphemy

Oh God. And I mean it. What was a well meaning Irish citizen doing, bringing a blasphemy complaint against Stephen Fry? I mean, if you wanted to make the big man’s day, to give him that delicious sense of being persecuted without actually being persecuted, well what could be better than being done for blasphemy? It’s the campaigning atheist’s wet dream. It could mean, if you’re really lucky, being prosecuted in Ireland for repeating your observations about the Deity – cruel, capricious, allowing bone cancer in children etc – and the very worst that can happen to you would be a fine, which you could then refuse to pay and

Digging for the truth

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb may well be one of the 20th century’s great stories — but naturally that doesn’t mean a television drama won’t want to jazz it up a bit. Or, in the case of ITV’s lavishly produced but distinctly corny Tutankhamun, quite a lot. The programme gives us a Howard Carter younger and considerably hunkier than in real life. It throws in a couple of smitten hotties to emphasise the fact. Above all, it transforms Carter into the archaeological equivalent of a maverick TV cop: a man who doesn’t play by the rules, isn’t afraid to follow wild hunches but, by God, gets results. In Sunday’s opener,

Blair witch project

I had been wondering where Gorgeous George Galloway might pop up next. Defenestrated from his seat in Bradford West, humiliated in the London mayoral elections — where he received 1.4 per cent of the vote — and no longer apparently an attractive proposition to the reality TV producers, his public life seemed sadly to be drawing to a close. But nope, here he is with a film about the person all left-wing people hate more than any other, Tony Blair. It’s a good film, too, in the main. The Killing$ of Tony Blair was partly crowdfunded and it may well be that the only people who watch it will be

Jane Austen on speed

Love & Friendship is based on the little-known Jane Austen epistolary novella, Lady Susan, which was not published until after Austen’s death, and was then ill received. As G.K. Chesterton declared: ‘I, for one, would have willingly left Lady Susan in the wastepaper basket.’ Knowing what I know now and having, in fact, read Lady Susan, I, for one, would have willingly punched G.K. Chesterton in the head, had I been around at that time. And, had I wished to torment him further, which is highly likely, I might have then told him that it would one day be turned into the most delicious hoot of a film, so put

Diary – 25 February 2016

The Prime Minister is pretty angry with Boris. But the idea that they’ve competed with each other since school is wrong. Boris is two years older than Cameron — and differences in age are like dog years when you’re young. When I was 13, 15-year-olds seemed like grown-ups, 6ft tall with three days’ growth. When I interviewed Cameron last year, he said he’d hardly known Boris at Eton because he was in College — the scholars’ house — and two years above him. Cameron did remember Boris on the rugby field because he was so dishevelled and ferocious. And he watched him in a few debates at the Oxford Union.

Portrait of the week | 18 February 2016

Home David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spent time in Brussels before a meeting of the European Council to see what it would allow him to bring home for voters in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The board of HSBC voted to keep its headquarters in Britain. Sir John Vickers, who headed the Independent Commission on Banking, said that Bank of England proposals for bank capital reserves were ‘less strong than what the ICB recommended’. The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose to 0.3 per cent in January, compared with 0.2 per cent in December. Unemployment fell by 60,000 to 1.69 million. A

Join Spectator Life for the Baftas

This Sunday, Spectator Life will be live blogging the Baftas. Lloyd Evans, Melissa Kite, Jasper Rees, Emily Hill and I will be covering the red carpet show on BBC3 at 8.30pm and then, from 9pm, the highlight show on BBC1. We’ll be covering all the highlights, doing our best to sound knowing, funny and insightful while, at the same time, concealing the fact that we know very little about the film business. Impossible to predict what the highlights will be with absolute certainty, but expect some terrible jokes from host Stephen Fry, a rambling, incoherent speech from Leonardo DiCaprio in which he’ll lambast the oil companies for despoiling the environment

What fun it will be if Trump becomes president

I suppose spite and schadenfreude are thinnish reasons, intellectually, for wishing Donald Trump to become the next American president (and preferably with Sarah Palin, or someone similarly doolally, as veep). But they are also atavistically compelling reasons nonetheless. Think of the awful, awful people who would be outraged and offended. If you recall, 8 May last year was awash with the bitter tears of lefties who couldn’t believe the British people had been so stupid as to elect a Conservative government. There were the usual hilarious temper tantrums and hissy fits. Typical of these was an idiotic college lecturer called Rebecca Roache who loftily announced that she had gone through

Sandi Toksvig puts politics to one side for QI role

Earlier this year Sandi Toksvig stepped down from her role on Radio 4’s The News Quiz to launch a career in politics as part of the newly-formed Women’s Equality Party. Speaking about her decision to leave the BBC for politics, the presenter-turned-politician said that she had had enough of making jokes about politicians and instead wanted to participate in politics, with the aim to field party candidates in the 2020 election: ‘I have made jokes over and over again about politics and, do you know, this election I’ve had enough, and I have decided that instead of making jokes about it, I need to participate. So I am involved in the

Michael Gove defends his grammar rules

Lord Chancellor Michael Gove was criticised over the weekend for issuing a set of grammar rules for civil servants. The list, which appeared on the Ministry of Justice intranet, warned staff to refrain from beginning sentences with ‘however’ and using the words ‘ensure’ and ‘unnecessary’. It also encouraged civil servants to avoid excessive use of hyphens. Not everyone was enamoured by his guidelines; the Guardian likened him to a Harry Enfield character, while Oliver Kamm claimed in the Times this morning that his grammar rules were simply nonsense. Appearing on today’s World at One, Gove attempted to downplay his guidelines: ‘When I was at the Department for Education, I sent a note round with

Revealed: Stephen Fry’s brush with the law over James Rhodes injunction

Last week James Rhodes won a legal battle to publish his memoir Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication and Music. This judgement came after his ex-wife took out an injunction through a court appeal to prevent the book from being published over concerns that the pianist’s account of the sexual abuse he experienced as a child could harm their son. With the ban lifted, Rhodes appeared at Hay Festival on Saturday night to launch the book during a talk with his friend Stephen Fry. The pair are such good friends, that as well as Fry helping to conduct Rhodes’ second wedding, he revealed that he also became named in his friend’s legal battle. The incident occurred after Fry tweeted a link

Meet the Cry-Bully: a hideous hybrid of victim and victor

In the 1970s, there was a big difference between bullies and cry-babies. Your mum would have preferred you to hang around with the latter, but sometimes the former had a twisted charisma so strong that you found yourself joining in the taunts of ‘Onion Head! ’ at some poor unfortunate creature sporting a cranium of a somewhat allium caste. After a bit, of course, if you had anything about you, you realized what a knob you were being and went off to sample the more solitary, civilized pleasures of shoplifting and reading Oscar Wilde with the bedroom curtains closed. But you could be certain, as you festered in your pilfered

Once upon a time I was very proud to be Greek. But no more

Gstaad A naked, very good-looking young man skied down the mountain evoking shrieks of laughter and admiration from the hundred or so skiers lining the slopes. He turned out to be J.T., my son, and it was an act of protest against the mind-numbing conversation about titles among some at the Eagle club. A friend had skied ahead and was waiting for him at the bottom with a blanket. Needless to say, it became the subject du jour, and someone even filmed young women cheering the streaking skier as he shussed his way down at record speed. His naked run to glory succeeded in getting the subject changed up at