I had a lot of emails from readers delighted that we selected Stephen Fry — national treasure, uber gadget geek and iPhone fan — to receive the SMS Text News flowers. One or two from sunnier climes wondered who he was so I asked Ben Harvey to give us an overview in place of his normal weekly viewpoint.
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‘Writer and BroadcasterÃ¢â‚¬Â. Three little words, a title that can excuse an entire, vast, slippery life-history of bastardness. People have long railed at this country’s Celebrity Culture, the fact that fame seems to make the everyday activities (‘Posh in crockery-shopping shocker!Ã¢â‚¬Â or ‘Jordan brushes teeth: exclusive!Ã¢â‚¬Â) worthy of media coverage. Something a little more insidious, a little more worrying, though, is that fame can make everyday opinions worthy of media coverage.
And so we are all exposed – at various times, and at various levels – to the banal whitterings of celebrity columnists. Prejudice dressed-up as journalism is nothing new, and in fact a little of it can be a good thing; to get the nation’s moral sap to rise takes a little manipulation and a little tweaking, but it gives us all a good, cathartic workout if we’re spurred into righteous anger every now and then, if only because humans seem to like being angry so very much. The one thing, though, that is never good, that is never excusable, is when someone famous craps out an article where the facts have been scraped together to support a dodgy premise, because it’s then that stupidity & desperate, bullshit facts start to form the bulk of the piece read by millions of commuters or lunching office-workers.
Who, being bovine in nature, are highly impressionable.
It’s a good job indeed that humans subconsciously love getting angry because I have to admit that the mere thought of this has got me fuming, rather. It’s the arrogance of a newspaper columnist tapping away, pontificating out to the world as if they really actually knew what they were talking about. You don’t get this sort of behaviour in the rest of the world; if you went to your doctor and he whined on about the UK’s excessive number of CCTV cameras then you’d get him struck off faster than if he’d whacked off. If a waiter bitched at you for five-hundred words on why single-mothers need more help from the State in the form of nationalised childcare then the only tip you’d leave him would be ‘don’t eat the yellow snowÃ¢â‚¬Â. Thank goodness taxi-drivers never mouth-off about things they know nothing about. God! Just imagineÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The one good thing – in fact, possibly the only good thing – about almost all celebrity columnists being tosspots, arseholes or bullshit-artists is that it highlights, with blinding, massive clarity, the fact that there are a few out there who do know what they’re talking about. And there, at the very top of this unfortunately small tree, sits The Fry.
I don’t call him ‘Stephen FryÃ¢â‚¬Â anymore, and haven’t, for a couple of years now. There are simply no other Stephens that matter. There are no other Frys that matter, either, so why bother with the surplus data of a proper name? Also, it further goes to forcibly confirm the man as an integral piece of our national life, as The Fry is now akin to The Tube or The Beatles or The Dole in the fabric that makes up The Country. People have often labelled him with the title of ‘national treasureÃ¢â‚¬Â, but he’s rather more than that; Hampton Court Palace is a national treasure. HMS Victory is a national treasure. The Crown Jewels are – quite literally – a national treasure, but when did a house, a boat, or a bunch of shiny rocks make you laugh so hard that, to absorb the wee, you were forced to stuff sanitary-towels down your trousers?
The fact that the flower-fairy of SMS Text News has sent The Fry a bouquet this week made me try and think why he deserves such a tribute from us, and this bought to me my first memory of him; as far as my booze-rotted brain can be trusted I think it was an episode of The Young Ones, when he was on University Challenge and Vivian dropped a grenade on him. This caused my nine-year-old self to howl with laughter until I went a colour that Dulux would probably describe as Smurf Blue, and did more, in my eyes, to earn him those flowers than any number of gaspingly well-written blogs on technology.
Further confirming his worthiness, in terms of blessing the man with orchids, is the dawning realisation that for the past twenty years – through different fashions, different governments, recession, terrorism, war and Noel Edmonds – he’s been consistently nothing less than a solid-gold genius. The talents of the chap – from playing barking-mad Melchett in Blackadder to forming the finest anagram ever known to man (Virginia Bottomley = I’m an Evil Tory Bigot [‘Ã¢â‚¬Â¦a good pun is its own rewordÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â]) – are legion and uniformly flawless.
As is his knowledge flawless. The Fry has become a byword for total, comprehensive education in all spheres of the world, as anyone who’s ever watched QI will be able to tell you. And this now – finally – harks back to me being furious about those that mouth-off without knowing anything; this man is the antidote to all of that. The cure. Is he, thinking about it, the most trustworthy person in all the world? (As the song-lyric goes – thou shalt not question Stephen Fry). And yet the same man can then go and star in a fairly edgy, modern action film like V is For Vendetta! Were I not so permanently impressed I imagine I’d be permanently jealous. So there we have it; more reasons than you can shake a stick at to argue the case for the bouquet.
Anyway – I’ll stop telling you things you already knew and leave you with the petulant demand that you immediately go and read his blog on cellular geekery, if only because it’s as up-to-date as it is funny. One word of warning, though; don’t have your mobile in your pocket when you do, if only because hot, pulsing squirts of giggle-induced wee (plus the occasional crackle of sanitary-towel static, if you’re me) may well void your handset-insuranceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦