Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

June 15, 2009

The Rise and Rise and Rise of Stephen Fry

The first part of this year has been an interesting time for Stephen Fry. He just seems unable to stay out of the news.

First he seemed to be continually linked with Twitter, the new one-line interactive tool and for a time seemed to have more people following his "tweets" than anyone else. This got him some praise - and inevitably some derision.

Then he stepped into the biggest political scandal in Britain for ages over MPs expenses, arguing that really the breaches were not all that important. For a week or so, mainly because he was the only one arguing that side of it, he was mentioned in every political article, it seemed. He has hardly been psychic as the scandal has continued to resonate, but even he must have been surprised at how much attention was given to his political views. Although he has occasionally voiced public support for the Labour Party, politics has not been a major part of his life.

And he became the voice of JAM marking Clement's death, although he has not done the show for three and a half years now, and quite possibly had never met Clement outside the JAM environment. But he became the voice of the JAM establishment - in part anway because we all love him and he can speak for all of us.

Tomorrow he will chair the first edition of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue in 18 months. Although he is sharing the chair in the first series with Jack Dee and Rob Brydon, I see his appointment to the first show as important. He is a big fish, a star if you like, a household name, and he gives the show huge credibility. I don't see it however as very likely that he will agree to become the show's permanent chairman. He is now perhaps bestknown for his chairing of the TV panel game QI and I doubt he will want to be primarily known as a panel game chairman. Especially when he continues to act and extend his interest in TV documentary-making and as an "expert" on new technology.

Why do we love Stephen Fry? (Well not all of us, the Daily Mail describes him this week as a "blousy boy-bore".) The question really answers itself - he is a tremendous wit, very clever but reassuringly modest with it, and somehow vulnerable and personable despite being far more talented far beyond our ken. That he ahsn't tried to specilaise as actor or comedian or writer is interesting in itself - it suggests a certain intellectual restlessness which is also appealing. We take an interest in him because we are not sure exactly what he'll be up to next. We are sure he'll be great in it.

I'd love to see Stephen as a regular on JAM. If anyone could replace that air of erudition that Clement Freud had, it would be Stephen. It seems unlikely but you never know.


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