A Bit of Fry and Laurie, commonly known as ABOFAL or "Boffle", is a British television series starring former Cambridge Footlights members Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, broadcast on both BBC2 and also BBC1 between 1989 and 1995. It ran for four series, and totalled 26 episodes, including a 35 minute pilot episode in 1987. Both Fry and Laurie have expressed interest in working together again, but this has not yet taken place, due to both men's busy schedules (the former with various projects, the latter with House).The programme was a sketch show cast in a rather eccentric and at times high-brow mould. Elaborate wordplay and innuendo formed the cornerstone of its material; some sketches deliberately threatened to cross the line into vulgarity, but would always finish just before reaching that point.It was a progressive show, playing with the audience's expectations. For example, it frequently broke the fourth wall; characters would revert into their real-life actors mid-sketch, or the camera would often pan off set into the studio. In addition, the show was punctuated with non-sequitur vox-pops in a similar style to those of Monty Python's Flying Circus, often making irrelevant statements, heavily based on wordplay. Laurie was also seen playing piano and a wide variety of other instruments, and singing comical numbers.The first three series were broadcast on BBC2 between 1989 and 1992, and were well-received. The fourth series was shown on BBC1 in early 1995. It had been recorded whilst Stephen Fry was simultaneously preparing for his West End debut (in Simon Gray's Cell Mates), and a combination of the extra workload and poor reviews for his stage performance led to Fry having a nervous breakdown and fleeing to Belgium. The series met with mixed reviews and the show was not renewed.Currently, Fry and Laurie have started working together again on an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost. Both have also recently stated that they are definitely considering making a fifth series. But both are, however, also reluctant to commit to any specific promises.
A Bit of Fry and Laurie provides examples of the following tropes:
Brick Joke: Paul Eddington makes a cameo and is asked how he would rate his own comic timing. He pauses, frowns, responds "Good question, I'll have to think about that," and leaves. Several sketches later, he interrupts the very last line of the show to respond: "Immaculate, I'd say." Roll credits.
British Royal Guards: The opening of the second season sees Fry and Laurie playing with a guard. The guard charges Laurie when he gets too close.
Butt Monkey: Hugh gets punched, hit with a cricket bat, or otherwise beaten up with shocking regularity.
It's even worse, as Hugh explained in a later interview that Stephen Fry had never been very good at "acting" hitting people, and so when the script called for him to hit Hugh, he would... well... actually hit him.
Lawyer: So, Miss Talliot, you expect the court to believe that on the evening of the fourteenth of November last year, the very year, I would remind the court, on which the crime that my client is accused of committing took place, you just happened to be walking in the park? Witness: That is correct. Lawyer: That is what? Witness: Correct. Lawyer: Oh it's correct, is it? I see. I wonder, Miss Talliot, whether you were aware that the American novelist Gertrude Stein was a self-confessed Lesbian?
Crazy-Prepared: One sketch features Hugh Laurie (in drag) running a greetings card with a range of highly specific messages even down to Stephen Fry's request for a joint birthday and get-well card (as his wife is liable to jealous spasms every time his daughter has a birthday). Sadly, the name on the card is wrong, but fortunately Laurie stocks a sympathy card especially for people who can't get the card they want.
Basically, the simple purpose of education must be to teach children, young people, to not, I repeat not, break into my car. There will be other aspects to education, I'm sure. But the most fundamental principle of decent, civilized behavior, is: Don't. Break into. My car.
One of the stock characters in the Vox Pops, played by Stephen Fry with a mustache.
Cab drivers being friendly, polite and helpful is a symptom of Rupert Murdoch's absence from the world in the It's a Wonderful Plot sketch.
Drop the Cow: a method used a few times was for the characters to segue into Who Writes This Crap?!, for example accusing each other of having no idea how to properly end the sketch.
Eagleland: The "Kickin' Ass" song, and American army general; "Get your ass in here!"
America. America. America, America, America, America. Americaaaa-aa-AAA-aAa. America, America, America, America. The States. The States. The States, the States... the States. America. AMERICAAAA... (thud)
Enforced Method Acting: According to Hugh in a later interview, Stephen Fry had never been able to convincingly fake hitting someone. So when the script called for him to hit Hugh - which happened quite often - he would actually hit him. So that wincing and those cries of pain you hear from Hugh in this show are mostly real.
A lot of the time it's accidental though. A good example of this is in the racing driver sketch. Near the end you can see Stephen's eyes widen in shock, before he folds his arms and looks away.
Who was the first man to run the four-minute mile? Was it: A) the Battle of Crecy; B) Moonraker, or C) the athlete and fast record-breaking fast miler Sir Roger "Four-Minute" Bannister, the famous runner?
Fake American: Hugh Laurie plays an American country singer in one sketch, and he and Stephen play American soldiers saying "ass" a lot in another.
Felony Misdemeanor: "I've written a savage, angry song about jars that get separated from their lids."
Fingerless Gloves: The "light-metal" rocker "The Bishop" wears just one, with his pontifical vestments.
Gargle Blaster: In seasons 3 and 4, the show would end with a cocktail being picked and chosen. These started at the season with the relatively reasonable, such as the Whiskey Thunder, involving whiskey, angostura bitters, lemon juice, a pint of oh-so-fresh dairy cream, two olives, and a peanut. They would then range up to the increasingly absurd, such as the mug of Horlicks (Think broadly similar to hot chocolate, and notably nonalcoholic) all the way up the the finale, which cannot be described in fewer than two paragraphs.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The premise of a Game Show called "Don't Be Dirty!", the show that shows that you don't have to be dirty. Basically, it involves contestants trying to talk about potentially risque subjects (or if not risque, involving the possibility of double entendres, such as "Preservation of Hardwoods") without "being dirty".
IKEA Erotica: A fourth-series sketch has Stephen narrating an "improve your lovemaking" cassette. First off, it's Stephen Fry at his mildest, and the lovers take the instructions really literally and robotically.
I'm a Humanitarian: The "Tahitian" cooking show, where Fry's Julia Child Expy advises the best way to prepare ears, fingers, Welsh toes, and footballers' testicles.
It Is Pronounced Tro Pay: Parodied in the sketch featuring "Mister (drops an object onto a tabletop). It's as it sounds." (Turns out, it's spelled NIPPL-hyphen-E, but he's very offended when referred to as "Mr. Nipple.")
It's a Wonderful Plot: Rupert Murdoch gets this treatment. At the end, his guardian angel, realizing that he is a lost cause that who will never improve, pushes him off the bridge. And calls him a twat.
Just Like Robin Hood: Tony of Plymouth, who heckles politicians for bleeding the poor people of England while disguised under a lightweight traveling hat. Of course, he freely admits that you could just write your MP.
Love at First Sight: British officer Major Eric Donaldson falls immediately for his interrogator Friedrich von Stoltz. He calls him beautiful and his gorgeous darling with the deepest bluest eyes, and his accent is dreamy...
Hugh's chat-show-host character in the "beauty of language" sketch has trouble keeping up with Stephen's progress from metaphor to metaphor: "Hello! We're talking about language... we're talking about things ringing false in our ears... we're talking about chickens, we're talking about eggs... we've moved on to chess... ner-night."
There's also where Stephen says "A unique child delivered of a unique mother" and Hugh looks at the camera as if he's about to say another "We're talking about..." line, then thinks better of it.
Murder Simulators: One sketch involves the conclusion that, since people are mimicking Stephen punching Hugh (by punching Hugh themselves) it would be a good idea for Stephen to give Hugh money on screen. Turns into an Overly Long Gag.
Fry: ...and I make myself a cheese and tommy-toe toastie. Laurie: A what? A cheese and what? Fry: Tommy-toe! Tommy-toe! Tommy-toe! Laurie:TOMATO. Fry: Tommy-toe! Tommy-t— Laurie: Don't say it again!
No Fourth Wall: Fry and Laurie will sometimes break character during sketches to comment on them or apply to the audience. Sometimes the sketch is interrupted by someone in the audience, like the man (played by Benjamin Whitrow) who claims that they've plagiarized his sketches.
No Longer with Us: On learning that Charlotte Bronte is, "I can hardly say I'm surprised. Where can I get in touch with her?"
[given a line to read] I can't read that, I'm a Methodist.
One sketch has Stephen and Hugh explaining they've cancelled a script due to complaints about excessive violence and sex, forcing them to give a vague summary:
Hugh: During the course of the sketch, Stephen hits me several times with a golf club. Stephen: Which, ordinarily, in the course of events, wouldn't matter, but I do it very sexily. [...] And the sketch ends with us going to bed together. (beat) Hugh: Violently. Stephen: Very violently.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Played with in the Michael Jackson sketch. Although he is a skilled mimic, Stephen Fry decided to play "Michael Jackson" in his own accent...and indeed his own clothes with not a single attempt at impersonation...with hilarious results.
Spy Speak: Thoroughly averted in the "Tony and CONTROL" sketches, discussing matters of international espionage as if explaining them to a 3-year-old.
Stiff Upper Lip: this is the other element of the "Tony and Control" sketches, as both characters are utterly unflappable, even when, for instance, Control announces he's actually a Soviet agent or when he falls out a window
Straw Critic: The show with the two TV critics has them sprawling further and further down in their chairs, speaking in whining nasal voices and increasingly pretentious language to criticize the previous sketch. By the end they've slid onto the floor and are complaining about that, as well as themselves. (Also an Author Tract, since Fry and Laurie aren't fond of caustic critics.)
Surreal Humor: Part of the humor are the bizarre, not quite right words or elements that have little to do with the actual sketch. E.g., a man eating cornflkes with a knife and fork, or Tony of Plymouth decrying a politician for lining his bathroom with venison and other fine delicacies.
Table Space: "Pass The Marmalade!" ("Arse the Parlor Maid?") sketch
Talkative Loon - The shop assistant in the Mr Dalliard sketches (the same one who prefers the word 'Brothels')
Tastes Like Diabetes: invoked The awful dog owner in the vet sketch is disgustingly twee in all his speech patterns (he's the tommy-toe guy). When Hugh's character tries to shut up his inane prattle by saying he's there to have his cat put down due to liver cancer, Stephen only takes a beat before baby-talking to the cat about cancie-wancie. No wonder his dog is there to have him put down.
Vox Pops: One of the classic comedy uses, several times in each episode between sketches. Featured either Fry or Laurie dressed as an easily recognizable British stereotype and saying something dirty ("Well, I'm aroused every morning by a very insistent cock"), satirical ("I was beaten as a child and it didn't do me any harm!" [slaps self]) a play on words ("So I just told him to stuff it!... but he said it had been dead too long"), or just a non-sequitur ("They've got hotter pavements, I know that").