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 BBC2 and then 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 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, and was a Retool with each episode featuring a special guest. 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.
They got together in 2010 for a documentary special, Fry and Laurie Reunited, where they reminisced about their friendship and career, interspersed with tributes from colleagues and friends.
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:
- Affectionate Nickname: "M'colleague" is the term they each use about each other. The 2010 documentary special Fry and Laurie Reunited, together with occasional book prefaces, shows that they use it about each other in real life.
- All-Natural Snake Oil: "Nature's own barbiturates and heroin."
- "It's a simple arsenous monoxid nicotinal preparation taken bronchially as an infumation."
- "But it can't be natural, can it?" "It's a perfectly natural leaf." "Yes, but setting fire to it and inhaling it?" "Well, it's more natural than Baked Alaska or nylon socks."
- A Rare Sentence: Stephen deliberately constructs one in the "language" sketch to demonstrate the flexibility of language. The sentence is "Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers."
- Aside Glance: In Hugh's "Protest Song", every time he gets to the bit where he has to sing exactly what it is that everyone must do (which he hasn't worked out, so he just mumbles instead), he gives one of these to the camera.
- Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: The entire "Understanding Barman" sketch is based on this, with Stephen (as the titular barman) interrupting Hugh's complaining about his wife to offer him various drinks, snacks or other things, with the offers sounding like he's finishing Hugh's sentences.Hugh: Other men have bigger-Stephen: [offering Hugh a couple of] Plums?Hugh: -prospects.
- Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The politician and Tony from "Tony of Plymouth" are wearing suit jackets over Renaissance garb, as they reveal when they confront each other on stage.
- Bait-and-Switch: Done when Stephen has shot Hugh after Hugh was performing a particularly annoying song. Stephen quickly shifts into presenting a tribute to "the late Hugh Laurie", complete with testimonials from other actors and friends. Rowan Atkinson delivers it:Rowan Atkinson: [fondly] He was dangerous. Such a dangerous actor. One never knew what he was going to do next. [pause, dismissively] Hugh Laurie, on the other hand, was about the dullest man I've ever met.
- Big Ball of Violence: As close as can be achieved when doing so with live actors in the Strom Translation sketch. Most of it happens behind a convenient table when the translator attacks the Englishman, but the random and unlikely leaping and appearance of various limbs only needs the cartoon dust cloud to complete it.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: "I dislike the word brothel, Mr. Jowett. I prefer to use the word brothels. Yes, this is a brothels".
- Boring Vacation Slideshow: One sketch had a man (played by Stephen Fry) be forced to listen as another man (played by Hugh Laurie) shows him extremely boring photos of a holiday as punishment for sleeping with his daughter. The father warns him if he does it again, there'll be a slideshow.
- 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.
- 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.
- His "out of character" persona is also routinely insulted and silenced by Stephen, particularly in the third and fourth series. He usually responds by just pulling an embarrassed face.
- Calvinball: Bushwallyta. The only rule that's clearly explained is that when the referee shouts "Bo-Yayinha!", the players must assemble a working picnic chair from whatever materials are currently available.
- Camp Gay: Simbold Cleobury of the "My Dear Boy" sketch, who opens the door with that enthusiastic greeting—he's theoretically a painter who wears a dressing-gown, dyes his hair lavender, fills his house with louche art and tigerskin rugs, and boasts that his "Moroccan Sunrise" cocktail has caused many a son of Morocco to rise. And also places adverts for (nude male) models in an magazine about (plastic aeroplane) models.
- Cannot Tell a Joke:
- The "Hedge Sketch" seems to be a very basic scene at a store, but consists of them continuously getting their lines in the wrong order, or speaking the lines of the wrong character, which leads to them starting all over from the start several times. In the end, they both can't remember the final punchline.
- There is a similar one in which Laurie keeps interrupting the whole time to turn to the camera and tell the audience that this is his favorite gag, and it will be hilarious when they get to the punchline.
- "Please, Mr. Music, will you play?"; "Soupy twist"; "m'colleague"
- "...if you'll pardon the pun." "What pun?" "Oh, wasn't there one? I'm sorry."
- "I wouldn't suck it."
- "Oh Christ, I've left the iron on!"
- Chewbacca Defense: A deliberately ridiculous example in the sketch "Judge Not". It starts: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?
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?
- ...And only gets more absurd from there.
- Best part? She turns out to be his mother!
- The Chosen One: Parodied in "A Word, Timothy".
- Cluster F-Bomb:
John: "Dammit Peter, maybe you're right."
- Not the F-word itself, but lots of other expletives get clustered: "Oh, double balls and bollocks!"
- And of course the sketches where John and Peter discuss their health club (and Peter's ex Marjorie) with "Damn" peppered in every other word or so:
Peter: "You're damn right maybe I'm right."
John: "Damn, double damn, and an extra pint of damn for the weekend!"
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Oh so many, but perhaps the most notable example is Mr. Dalliard's Friend."I opened my television last night only to find that nice gentleman with the legs advancing the prediction that it might be rather 'good evening' today, but looking out through the window that the previous owners thoughtfully installed for the purpose, I find that it has, as you athletically observed, turned out to be rather 'hello'."
- Compensating for Something: One character whose genitals have been removed is offered a doberman, a combat jacket, a subscription to Guns and Ammo and a rusty white van, for the dual purpose of restoring his manhood and...Doctor (Laurie): Oh don't worry, that's the beauty of the system. When people see you wearing a combat jacket and driving round in a white van with Killer, the piss will be taken out of you constantly.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: One man (Steven) is forced to listen as another man (Hugh) shows him excruciatingly boring photos of a holiday, in repayment for the first man sleeping with his daughter. The father warns him if he does it again, there'll be a slideshow.
- Crazy-Prepared: One sketch features Hugh Laurie (in drag) running a shop selling greetings cards 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.
- Crosscast Role: Both Fry and Laurie frequently wear drag to act out a part.
- Damned By a Fool's Praise: In one sketch, Stephen claims that he stole Hugh's brain as a practical joke. Hugh then comes out and praises Noel Edmonds and Kenneth Baker (the Education Secretary at the time).Hugh: Oh, that man is fantastic. He's just what this country needs. He's firm, he's courageous... and his views on education! I mean, they're just so enlightened and sophisticated and enthralling! Well, of course he's an utterly enthralling man.
Stephen: (to the audience) Well, of course we can see what's happened, but I don't think he has got a clue, has he?
- Department of Redundancy Department: During this sketch that involves a speech on education and discipline: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.
- Disappeared Dad: Played for Laughs in one sketch. The duo play two very dense, inept detectives who break into the wrong house looking for a man. After confronting the woman who lives there they demand to see her husband, but she's not married. It transpires the only male there is her infant son (played by Hugh Laurie's real son). They are comically unable to grasp the idea that you can have a child without a husband, while the woman explains the father was "a sailor", and apparently is not around.
- Double Entendre: Or just smut.
- Dr. Psych Patient: One sketch had two men in a psychiatrist's office, each of whom claims he is the psychiatrist and the other is his patient, trying to talk each other out of their supposed delusion. At the end, it's revealed that both of them are psych patients — the real psychiatrist hasn't arrived yet.
- Driver of a Black Cab:
- 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.
- Duel to the Death: Except that when their intermediary offers the choice of "sword or pistol", what he meant is that the second man will get the weapon not chosen—so Hugh has a pointy metal stick while Stephen gets a firearm. After trying to work out a way to make it fair, they settle on something they do have two of and are left to try and kill each other with the intermediary's two handkerchiefs, until they realize he doesn't have anything left to signal with.
- 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)
- The "Bishop and the Warlord" trial is also a parody of American litigiousness, with a lawsuit brought by a Literal-Minded woman who obeyed song lyrics to 'set yourself on fire', fought by lawyers who are transparently in in for cash, and with the witness' oath including a disclosure agreement for adaptation into show, film, or stage musical.
- Excuse Question: Parodied.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?
- False Reassurance:Stephen: I think we'd better have a word with this son of yours, Mrs. Popey, if it's all the same to you.
Mrs. Popey: Only if you promise to leave as soon as you've finished.
Stephen: Of course Mrs. Popey. We'll leave just as soon as we've finished being here.
- Felony Misdemeanor: "I've written a savage, angry song about jars that get separated from their lids."
- Conspicuous Gloves: The "light-metal" rocker "The Bishop" wears just one fingerless glove, with his pontifical vestments.
- Flair Bartending: In the concluding cocktail scenes of series 3 and 4 (see Gargle Blaster below), Stephen dances, gyrates, and twirls arhythmically as he prepares whatever drink (or not-drink) he or the guests have chosen. His performances get more and more absurd, occasionally resulting in a spill, stuffing the shaker down his trousers and hopping around, or on one occasion swinging it like a yo-yo.
- Flynning: In the Tony of Plymouth sketch.
- Freeze-Frame Ending: Parodied in the pilot episode. The final sketch is a send-up of terrible Australian soap operas, and ends with a dumb joke and a freeze frame...except that the camera is still rolling. The credits roll in their entirety while Hugh does a ridiculous expression and Stephen balances on one foot.
- Fun with Subtitles: Subtitles pop up in the Strom Translation sketch when all the characters storm off after the misunderstandings. The subtitler suggests watching things on the other BBC channels, pans from side to side to demonstrate how small the set is, ruminates on the nature of rooms, and then zooms in on a random audience member to zoom up his nostrils. The commentary continues even when the sketch resumes and devolves into a brawl.
- Gargle Blaster: In seasons 3 and 4, the show would end with a cocktail being selected and mixed. These started with relatively reasonable suggestions, such as the Whiskey Thunder, involving whiskey, angostura bitters, lemon juice, a pint of oh-so-fresh dairy cream, two olives, and a peanut.note They then became increasingly absurd, such as a mug of Horlicks (a hot malted milk drink, notably nonalcoholic), all the way up the the finale, which cannot be described in fewer than two paragraphs.
- The Ghost: Mr. Dalliard, and Valerie from the Tony & Control sketches. Marjorie is almost The Ghost, but does make one appearance.
- Good Old Ways: A duke and duchess wax poetic about how many responsibilities they have in the village, such as the "Taking" ceremony at the village festival where the duke selects a pretty young girl to honor... and then takes her to the garden shed to violate her.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The interview with the schoolmaster who creates a "religious Esperanto" starts with the interviewer sickened by political correctness. And then the schoolmaster talks about how yesterday they had to burn one of the students as a heretic.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- Parodied in a sketch where Stephen and Hugh complain that "gay" used to be such a lovely word, but it's now ruined... then say the same about other words like "poofy", "arse bandit" and even "homosexual".Hugh: But now, of course...
Hugh: People think you mean homosexual.
Stephen: Right! And there's another one.
Stephen: When was the last time you could use the word homosexual in its proper context?
Hugh: Right, and it's such a lovely word.
Stephen: Oh, it's one of the great words.
Hugh: "My word, Jane," I used to say to my wife, "the garden's looking very homosexual this morning."
- In a Vox Pop segment, a woman talks about the fact that her parents named her 'Gay', which didn't have the connotations back then that it does now. The punchline is that she's had her name changed by deed poll — to 'Rampantly Homosexual'.
- Parodied in a sketch where Stephen and Hugh complain that "gay" used to be such a lovely word, but it's now ruined... then say the same about other words like "poofy", "arse bandit" and even "homosexual".
- Hilarious Outtakes: Parodied.
- Hurricane of Puns: There is some truly groan-worthy wordplay ("The boy lives with his mother because I emptied a bowl of trifle over her; she got custardy") if you'll pardon the pun... what pun? Wasn't there one? Sorry.
- Hypocritical Humor: In the third and fourth series, Hugh tries to add his words to Stephen's send-off only to be insulted into silence. On the one occasion Hugh tries to tell Stephen to just shut up already, he receives a rather menacing Death Glare in reply.
- IKEA Erotica: A fourth-series sketch has Stephen narrating an "improve your lovemaking" cassette. First off, it's Stephen Fry at his mildest, and secondly, 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.
- Insane Troll Logic: One sketch has an attorney trying to discredit a witness in court on the grounds that she's a lesbian. The "evidence" he uses for that is just more insane troll logic—she sometimes walks by a store that sells Gertrude Stein books, she was going home from a parish council meeting and everyone knows "parish council" is an anagram for "lispian crouch," etc.
- Inherently Funny Words: "A model?" from the Airfix model shop sketch.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: A media mogul (a clear Anonymous Ringer for Rupert Murdoch) gets this treatment. It turns out that if he had never lived, the world would be a much better place where everyone would be cultured and well-educated, and live in peace and harmony since he wasn't able to create his media empire which would profiteer heavily on creating divisions in society through the glorification of violence and spreading bigoted discourses against minorities. This makes him decide to turn his life around — because the peaceful world is ripe to be exploited by manipulative media. At this point, his guardian angel, realizing he's a lost cause who will never improve, pushes him off the bridge, then calls him a twat.
- Kill It with Fire: A pair of monks soundly denounce and prepare to immolate an object they claim is an instrument of Satan, with all the gravity and drama you'd expect from medieval clerics, and solemnly prepare the "chasting dish" for the offensive item—a plastic creamer cup whose cap tore and spilled on the bishop's vestments.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Stuart (Laurie) in the "Gordon and Stuart" sketches, who talks as though he's an expert and puts down his dining partners for "ignorance" when they respond with bemusement—meanwhile, Gordon is demonstrating a mild-mannered but much firmer grasp of the topic, to Stuart's embarrassment.
- 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.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: They had a sketch about this in their very first episode: Welcome to the Private Police Force. It was a humorous take on privatizations then recently conducted by the Thatcher government, as the episode states not only the police but the UK high roads and even the royal family have been privatized. And it implies the police force is owned by Americans.
- 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...
- Literal-Minded: Often, and often combined with the puns.Critic Hugh: Just wasn't your cup of tea.
Critic Stephen: No, no. [points] That's my cup of tea.
- Luke Nounverber:
- "Peter Comeinmyear"
- "Ted Cunterblast"
- The Maiden Name Debate: Spoofed in a Vox Pop segment where a woman says that of course she took her husband's name when she married... she used to be Mary Patterson, but now she's Neil Patterson.
- Malicious Misnaming: In the "Judge Not" sketch, the lawyer at one point calls Mrs. Elliot "Mrs. Toilet".
- Meaningless Meaningful Words: The "Young Conservatives" sketch. "I thought at one point he was going to say something which made sense..." "Yes, he just avoided it."
- Miss Conception:
Fry: Mmm. And Michael just sort of... popped up, did he?
- A sketch has Fry as the headmaster of a school and Laurie as Mr. Smear, an ultra-strait-laced parent outraged that his young son had been taught "gutter language" and "lies" about human reproduction in biology class — specifically, that "sexual intercourse can bring about pregnancy in the adult female," which he claims is "nothing more than a disgusting rumor put about by trendy young people in The '60s." The baffled headmaster gently points out that Mr. Smear must have had sex with Mrs. Smear at some point to produce little Michael; Mr. Smear is mortally offended and says that Michael is his son "in the normal way," which, when pressed, he describes as getting married, buying a house and some furniture, and just waiting for a bit, making sure to eat three hot meals a day.
Laurie: Yes, well of course it's a few years ago now, but I think one day he was... just there.
Fry: And at no stage did you and Mrs. Smear engage in any act of sexual intimacy?
Laurie: Yes, it's very hard for you to believe, isn't it? It's very hard for you to believe that there are still some of us who can bring a child into this world without recourse to cannabis and government handouts!
Fry: Now, I haven't raised this subject with you before, Rufus, but, erm... have you ever wondered how you came to be born?
- Inverted in a sketch with a stuffy father (Fry) asking his son (Laurie) if he was aware of the facts of life before his impending marriage.
Laurie: Well, I just sort of assumed, pater, you know, that one day you put your penis inside Mama's vagina and inseminated her ovaries.
Fry: Yes, that is what we told you, isn't it...
- Mixed Metaphor:
- 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.
- Moonwalk Dance: Fry plays Michael Jackson (without any costume or accent or mannerism to actually mimic him) and after a brief interview, he performs a song "Move It On Out Girl". He gets on a treadmill and walks on the spot. It's surprisingly accurate to the actual moonwalk.
- Moral Guardians: A man comes to complain to his son's school about his son being taught about sex in biology. It quickly becomes clear the dad has no idea how children are really conceived.
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- "Berwhale the Avenger", which appears to be a small Leatherman knife.
- John and Peter, who discuss the fortunes of a small health club corporation as if the fate of the free world depends on it. A parody of UK business soaps of the period like Howards Way, which really wanted to be Dallas but just didn't have the scale for 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.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: "The Duel" sketch. Hugh's character is given the choice of weapons: sword or pistol. He chooses sword, so the referee hands him the sword— then hands Stephen's character the pistol. Hugh protests that this isn't what he meant, then silliness ensues as they try to figure out a way to make the fight fair since those are the only weapons they have.
- Never Say That Again: The "annoying guy at the vet" sketch.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!
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 the scene or address 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 dead, "I can hardly say I'm surprised. Where can I get in touch with her?"
- Noodle Implements: The interviews between sketches abuse this:[given a line to read] I can't read that, I'm a Methodist.
Hugh: During the course of the sketch, Stephen hits me several times with a golf club.
- 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:
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.
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.
- Not So Above It All: The politician forced to endure the heckles of a punter yelling that he's trying to rob the poor to line his own bathroom with venison and fine treats initially reacts with mild bemusement... until he learns he's facing Tony of Plymouth, a Just Like Robin Hood do-gooder, at which point he turns into a sneering matinee villain.
- Oddly Specific Greeting Card: One sketch features a man trying to buy a get-well card for his wife, only to discover that all the cards in the shop come with specific details about who the card is from, who is receiving it and what is wrong with them. (He buys one card for a grandmother with a hernia "on the off-chance", despite the fact that not only would he have to change his name for it to be useful, his grandmother would have to come back to life.) The assistant eventually finds him a card that matches his case precisely... except it's supposed to come from a Frederick, and his name is Alfred. She ends up giving him an oddly specific card expressing sympathy for his situation.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: In "My Dear Boy", Nigel the geeky aeroplane enthusiast answers "Simbold Cleobury's" advert for 'models' (which had indeed been placed in an Airfix enthusiast magazine). Simbold grows more excited and lascivious over Nigel's description of owning a "camel" and starting on modeling at age four and getting covered in glue, and then asks for a photo of his "jumbo" only to be handed a picture of a jet. And Nigel realizes his mistake and takes out another photo, after which he cheerfully agrees to be painted nude.
- Our Slogan Is Terrible: "Tidyman's Carpets: The deep shag that really satisfies."
- Overly-Long Gag: "I was standing here, and this guy came 'round the corner..."
- Overly Narrow Superlative: The poetry sketch. Laurie offers a bit of poetry, Stephen wonders if they're aimed for one of these."So that might suit, say, a young couple just about to start out in the catering business in the North Wales area?"
- Overt Rendezvous: In the unaired sketch "Spies Five", Tony and Control meet on a park bench because there's a mole in their department.
- The "Gelliant Gutfright" sketches parody The Twilight Zone and its genre, featuring Artifacts of Doom, The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday, and many subverted cliches. ("Goodnight... if you can.")
- The "John and Peter" sketches parody eighties "boardroom" dramas, featuring Large Hams talking Serious Business, with copious drinking and mild language. ("Damn it three times round the carpark and back in for another DAMN!")
- The "Control and Tony" sketches parody spy dramas, with both characters acting ridiculously stilted and polite, almost childlike, about matters of national security.
- The "Tony Inchpractice" sketches, as well as several one-offs, parody talk shows.
- The "Tony of Plymouth" sketch parodies Swashbucklers with Flynning, big shirts, dueling insults, and a soundtracknote lifted directly from an Errol Flynn movie... all on the topic of cigarette tax and means-testing.
- Nearly all of the songs parody something: Sammy Davis, Jr., Noel Coward, blues, etc.
- Page Three Stunna: Referenced in two sketches.
- In the It's a Wonderful Life parody, the Rupert Murdoch Expy proclaims "You gotta have tits to sell a newspaper!" after discovering that page 3 was simply more news in a world where he was never born.
- The song "Little Girl" is about the life of one such model (with appropriate backdrop): discovery, celebrity, marriage, the photographer asking if her daughter would be willing to pose for page 3.
- Painful Rhyme: The entire joke behind Hugh's song Mystery.
- Patriotic Fervor: Frequently mocked. There are the cricket commentators who have a positive Englandgasm over the thought of Garboldisham and strawberries with cream, librarians who cut out entire books until it's left with a bare sentence about how England is great, deriding people for acting un-English... it culminates in the final episode's cocktail, "A Modern Britain", where Stephen adds low-calorie sweetener and "diluted good values" to Jersey cream, Islay malt whiskey etc and then sobbing "IT'S RUINED! BRITAIN IS RUINED!" as he mixes.
- Pelvic Thrust: Fry playing Michael Jackson performs a song "Move It On Out Girl". He does Micheal Jackson's signature "grab-crotch-pelvic-thrust".
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: The "Judge Not" sketch coins the synonyms "lesbite" for lesbian (n.) and "lesboid," "lesbotic" and "lesbicious" for lesbian (adj.).
- Perfume Commercial: Parodied in the fourth-series opening credits ("Pretension, by Fry and Laurie").
- Phony Psychic: One sketch features a man who claims to bend spoons using the amazing power of... his hands. He is quite offended when called on this.
- Pluralses: In the Shoe Shop sketch. "I dislike the word 'brothel', Mr. Jowett. I prefer the word 'brothels'. Yes, this is a brothels."
- Pocket Protector: Parodied in one sketch, where Stephen Fry shows the undamaged cigarette case his grandfather carried into battle in World War I.Stephen: He used to keep his cigarette case here in the breast pocket of field tunic or "battle blouse." Now, one day, Grandfather had to go over the top, out of the trenches, into action... and he was shot by a German sniper clear through the temple. Now if Grandfather had worn his cigarette case here (holds case to temple) it would have an unpleasant dent in it and I'd be alive today.
- Precision F-Strike: At the end of the "fusking clothprunker" sketch mentioned below.Judge: And what did you say to that?Hugh: I told him to mind his [beep]ing language, m'lud.
- Privately Owned Society: Portrayed and Played for Laughs in the sketch "The Privatization of the Police Force". They won't do anything about your stolen car unless you purchase a plan.
- Product Placement: Spoofed with the episode sponsored by "Tidyman's Carpets".
- Protest Song: 'All we gotta to do is ... (mumblemumble)' Hugh notably reprised this when he hosted Saturday Night Live.
- Punchline: Frequently avoided. Sometimes Fry or Laurie will end the sketch by complaining that it's gone on too long or killed the joke.
- Re-Release Soundtrack:
- The final sketch of Series 1 (officially known as "The Duel", but better known as "Tony of Plymouth") originally featured the theme from the 1940 film The Sky Hawk over the duel. It could not be cleared for the DVD release, so stock library music was pasted over it (with the unfortunate effect of making most of the dialogue inaudible).
- The TV version of the Countdown sketch uses the actual Countdown think music, but the DVD replaces this with a generic piece.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:
- In "Scumbag", Stephen and Hugh are ineptly interrogating a woman about her husband, despite her repeated claims that she doesn't have a husband.Stephen: To business, Mrs Popey. Your husband has ...
Mrs. Popey: For heaven's sake. How many times do I have to tell you? I haven't got a husband.
Stephen: (to Hugh) ... What?
Hugh: She's got to tell us twenty-five times that she hasn't got a husband.
Hugh: Once for every day in the week.
Stephen: Yeah, that doesn't quite work.
- Also appears in the "sex education" sketch:Mr. Smear: Call yourself a school?
Headmaster: I don't actually call myself a school, no.
- In "Scumbag", Stephen and Hugh are ineptly interrogating a woman about her husband, despite her repeated claims that she doesn't have a husband.
- Running Gag: The woman who left her iron on.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the best. See an example.
- Shaped Like Itself:
- In a tribute to Hugh (whom he has just mercy killed), Stephen says that Hugh Laurie's real name was Hugh Laurie, though he was more commonly known by his stage name, Hugh Laurie.
- "You leave the boy out of this; he's just a boy!"
- Sickeningly Sweet: 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.
- Sketch Comedy
- Smarmy Host: Frequently mocked, including various real-life targets such as Noel Edmonds.
- Soap Within a Show: The suspiciously familiar Australian soap opera. While it starts as a standard parody of daytime soaps with bad acting, overwrought plots and confusing relationships between the numerous characters, it quickly evolves into something downright surreal.
- Sophisticated as Hell
- Spy Speak:
- Thoroughly averted in the "Tony and CONTROL" sketches, discussing matters of international espionage as if explaining them to a 3-year-old.
- Also parodied in one of the "Mr. Dalliard" sketches where the secret code phrase is "Good morning." This ends in embarrassment.
- Stalker with a Crush: Hugh Laurie plays one of these in the Steffi Graf song.
- 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.)
- Strongly Worded Letter:
- Hugh plays a man angrily demanding treatment for his "madness", but the psychiatrist views his problem as rather minor... until Hugh complains that he's going to write a letter to the Daily Mail. Stephen immediately verifies that several of Hugh's letters have actually been published, and proceeds to order a straitjacket.
- The conservative woman (Hugh) refers to this in two Vox Pops.
- In one she says that she's been Sectioned by default for having two letters read out on a radio programme.
- In another she interrupts as the crew attempts to interview another woman (Stephen) to rant about the waste of her license fees and how she's going to write a very stiff letter... on cardboard. And she's gonna post it, too.
- Stylistic Suck: Played for laughs in the "hedge sketch". Stephen, playing a shop attendant, introduces it in a very formal way. Hugh plays a customer who wants to buy a hedge. He walks up to Stephen and says "Hello, I'd like to buy a hedge, please," and Stephen replies with what should have been the opening line, "Good morning, sir, how can I help you?" They go on like this with the lines persistently in the wrong order, until they both realise that they've blundered and the sketch grinds to a halt. So they start again, this time with the lines in the right order, until Stephen asks, "A hedge? Certainly, sir, what sort of hedge would you like?" and Hugh replies with what should have been Stephen's next line, "Well, we have three sorts, sir: we have the Royal, the Imperial and the Standard hedge." As he does so, he and Stephen realise that Hugh's now saying Stephen's lines. Stephen doggedly goes on saying Hugh's lines, and they physically swap places, which works sort of okay until Hugh rings down to the stockroom to see if they have the right hedge in stock, and when Stephen, playing the stockroom employee, answers "We've got one left," Hugh says (as the customer) "Right, I'll take it then." They swap places again, and Stephen (once again playing the shop attendant) tells Hugh that they've got one left. Hugh replies "Cash, if you don't mind," and Stephen automatically asks him how he would like to pay, before they both realise that once again, they've got the lines in the wrong order. So they start the sketch all over again and play it immense speed without making a mistake, only to get to the end—and realise that there's no punchline. A comically awkward silence ensues.
- Sucks at Dancing: Stephen's attempts to move to a rhythm are truly painful to behold. Just look at the "Dancercise" sketch.
- Suicide as Comedy: A depressed guy in the vox pop segment says he once tried to kill himself. Locked himself in the garage, started the car. Turns out it had a catalytic converter and he came out after seven hours with a slight headache.
- Suicide Is Shameful: One guy in the vox pop segment says he has been depressed for 14 years and claims his wife says he should kill himself, but according to him, it's a coward's way out.
- 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 cornflakes 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. The table extends from one room to the other; the wife has to walk through a door to get the marmalade herself.
- The Talk:
- Subverted by a sketch in which Fry asks Laurie (playing his son) if he knows where babies come from. Laurie replies "I always sort of assumed that you put your penis into mummy's vagina and then intercourse occurred". Fry responds that this is indeed what they told him but that it is a bit more complicated than that, going on to say that somehow carpets are involved in the process. (The whole sketch turns into a spoof plug for the show's supposed sponsor's "Tideyman's Carpets').
- Even better in another Fry and Laurie sketch when a father (Laurie) brings his son to the headmaster (Fry) complaining about the "vulgar lies" his son had been taught in his biology class: "Sexual intercourse sometimes leads to pregnancy in the adult female." Apparently the man believed that children came out of nowhere after a man and woman had gotten married and bought a house. This makes the headmaster realize that his son actually was sired by someone else, since he turns out to have never once had sex with his wife.
- Talkative Loon: The shop assistant in the Mr Dalliard sketches (the same one who prefers the word 'Brothels').
- Take That!: Take that, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Rupert Murdoch, Moral Guardians, estate agents, Eagleland, yuppie culture, critics, psychics, Top Gear (UK), and Noel Edmonds!
- The End... Or Is It?:
- Parodied with the Gelliant Gutfright sketches. "It couldn't happen... or could it? Or could it? Perhaps it couldn't. ...or could it?"
- Also parodied in a sketch wherein Hugh interrupts the show to bring breaking news about Honda buying out the British government. At the end, he calmly states that it was all made up and the idea of Honda buying the government is ridiculous... only to suddenly run up the camera and scream "Or is it?!?!" right into the lens.
- Toilet Humor: As if the sight of Stephen Fry hooked up to a never-leave-the-couch device called "Comfi-Pee" wasn't bad enough, the commercial immediately goes on to herald the new Comfi-Poo. Two tanks of sewage bubbling away in the living room.
- Totally Radical: "The young and hip-trendy."
- Translation: "Yes": The entire "Strom" sketch is based on variants of this joke.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: "Twenty of your Earth pounds". Yes, Mr. Dalliard's friend again.
- Universal Driver's License: Spoofed with the Flying a Light Aeroplane Without Having Had Any Formal Training sketch.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Ram it up your pimhole, you fusking clothprunker!"
- Unwitting Pawn: Neddy/Teddy in the "Jack and Neddy" sketches. Poor chap is too earnest and good-natured to realize that his friend with the eyepatch is a dangerous revolutionary and possibly a Nazi. Jack manages to pressure him into bombing a restaurant and later installs him as a puppet Prime Minister. Then stabs him with the Stanley knife that Neddy had so obligingly lent him.
- Verbal Tic: In "Society", where Stephen and Hugh try to get a woman (Anne Reid) to join their society in spite of having no idea what it's for or why it exists, Hugh's character has the tic of constantly talking under Stephen's remarks and slightly rephrasing what he's saying, sometimes as semi-gibberish.Stephen: Now that's a / good idea!Hugh: ... Ah, now, that, yes.Stephen: A society for people who can't / stand here talking all day!Hugh: ... They can't stand here talking all day and all night.Stephen: I mean when you think of the people who ring on your bell.Hugh: ... Knock on your bell, yes.Stephen: Like Jehovah's / Witnesses.Hugh: ... Well there are witnesses to the Jehovah's incident.Stephen: Charity / collectors, estate agents, small boys wanting their ball back.Hugh: ... Charity collectors, estate agents, another group... small boys whose ball's accidentally gone over your fence back...
- 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").