City Connect celebrates the birthday of actor and writer Stephen Fry. Fry is known for his erudite personality which is evident in his writing and TV appearances on such programmes as BBC’s QI.
He is notable as a person with Bipolar Disorder (sometimes called manic depression) and Fry presented a two-part BBC documentary on the condition. Other celebrities such as Frank Bruno and Catherine Zeta Jones have since talked about their experiences having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Click here to read our previous coverage of Catherine Zeta Jones’ announcement that she was a person with Bipolar Disorder.
Stephen Fry was born on 24 August 1957. He is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club. He first came to attention in the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation “The Cellar Tapes”, which also included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. With Hugh Laurie, as the comedy double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and the duo also played the title roles in Jeeves and Wooster.
As a solo actor, Fry played the lead in the film Wilde, was Melchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, starred as the title character Peter Kingdom in the ITV series Kingdom, and is the host of the quiz show QI. He also presented a 2008 television series Stephen Fry in America, which saw him travelling across all 50 U.S. states in six episodes. Fry has a recurring guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the Fox crime series Bones.
Apart from his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, and has written four novels and two volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot and The Fry Chronicles. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton. Fry is also known in the UK for his audiobook recordings, particularly as reader for all seven Harry Potter novels.
Fry’s career in television began with the 1982 broadcasting of The Cellar Tapes, the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue which was written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. The revue caught the attention of Granada Television, who, keen to replicate the success of the BBC’s Not the Nine O’Clock News, hired Fry, Laurie and Thompson to star alongside Ben Elton in There’s Nothing to Worry About!. A second series, re-titled Alfresco, was broadcast in 1983 and a third in 1984; it established Fry and Laurie’s reputation as a comedy double act. In 1983, the BBC offered them their own show, which became The Crystal Cube, a mixture of science fiction and mockumentary that was axed after the first episode. Undeterred, Fry and Laurie appeared in an episode of The Young Ones in 1984, and Fry in Ben Elton’s 1985 series, Happy Families. In 1986 and 1987 Fry and Laurie also performed sketches on the LWT/Channel 4 show Saturday Live.
Forgiving Fry and Laurie for The Crystal Cube, the BBC commissioned a sketch show in 1986 that was to become A Bit of Fry & Laurie. The programme ran for 26 episodes spanning four series between 1986 and 1995, and was very successful. During this time Fry starred in Blackadder II as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in Blackadder the Third as the Duke of Wellington, then returned to a starring role in Blackadder Goes Forth as General Melchett. In 1988, he became a regular contestant on the popular improvisational comedy radio show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. However, when it moved to television, he only appeared three times: twice in the first series and once in the ninth.
Between 1990 and 1993, Fry starred as Jeeves (alongside Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster, 23 hour-long adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse’s novels and short stories.
In 2003, Fry began hosting the TV game show QI (Quite Interesting), a British comedy panel game television quiz show. QI was created and co-produced by John Lloyd, and features permanent panellist Alan Davies. QI has the highest viewing figures for any show on BBC Four. In 2006, Fry won the Rose d’Or award for “Best Game Show Host” for his work on the series.
A foray into documentary-making has seen Fry fronting the Emmy Award-winning The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006, and in 2007 a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS, HIV and Me. Also in 2006, he appeared in the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing his family tree to discover his Jewish ancestry. His six-part travel series Stephen Fry in America began on BBC One on 12 October 2008. In May 2008, it was announced that a five-part companion series, More Fry in America, had been commissioned for BBC Four; it was to feature in-depth essays excluded from the first series due to time constraints. No further information about the project has since been released.
Fry has also been involved in nature documentaries, having narrated Spectacled Bears: Shadow of the Forest for the BBC Natural World series in 2008. In the television series Last Chance to See, Fry together with zoologist Mark Carwardine sought out endangered species, some of which were featured in Douglas Adams and Carwardine’s 1990 book/radio series of the of the same name. The resulting programmes were broadcast in 2009.
From 2007 to 2009, Fry appeared in and was executive producer for the legal drama Kingdom, which ran for three series on ITV. He has also taken up a recurring guest role as psychiatrist Dr. Gordon Wyatt in the popular American drama Bones.
Fry narrates the English language version of the Spanish children’s animated series Pocoyo. Fry has lent himself and his voice to many advertisements, starting with an appearance as “Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar” in a 1982 advert for Whitbread Best Bitter. Fry has said in his memoirs that after receiving his payment for this work – £25,000 – he has never subsequently experienced “what one could call serious money troubles”. He has since appeared in adverts for products such as Marks and Spencer, Twinings, Kenco, Vauxhall, Direct Line, Calpol, Heineken, Alliance & Leicester, After Eights, Trebor, Panama cigars and Orange Mobile.
Since the publication of his first novel, The Liar (1991), Fry has written three additional novels, several non-fiction works and two volumes of autobiography. Making History (1997) is partly set in an alternative universe where Adolf Hitler’s father is made infertile and his replacement proves a rather more effective Führer. The book won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Hippopotamus (1994) is about Edward (Ted/Tedward) Wallace and his stay at his old friend Lord Logan’s country manor in Norfolk. The Stars’ Tennis Balls (2000) is a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry’s book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, is a guide to writing poetry.
Once a columnist in The Listener and The Daily Telegraph, he now writes a weekly technology column in the Saturday edition of The Guardian. His blog attracted more than 300,000 visitors in its first two weeks of existence.
Fry wields a considerable amount of influence through his use of the social networking site Twitter. He is frequently asked to promote various charities and causes, often inadvertently causing their websites to crash because of the sheer volume of traffic generated by his large number of followers, as Fry notes on his website: “Four thousand hits a second all diving down the pipeline at the same time for minutes on end.” Fry uses his influence to recommend underexposed musicians and authors (which often see large increases in web hits and sales) and to spread contemporary issues in the world of media and politics, notably the dropping of an injunction against The Guardian and the lambasting of Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir over her article on deceased Boyzone member Stephen Gately.
In October 2009 Fry sparked debate amongst users again when he announced an intention to leave the social networking site after criticism from another user on Twitter. He retracted the intention the next day. In October 2010, Fry left Twitter for a few days following press criticism of a quote taken from an interview he had given, with a farewell message of “Bye bye”. After returning, Fry explained that he had left Twitter to “avoid being sympathised with or told about an article I would otherwise never have got wind of”.
In November 2009 Fry’s Twitter account reached 1,000,000 followers. He commemorated the million followers milestone with a humorous video blog in which a ‘Step Hen Fry’ clone speaks from the year 2034 where MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have combined to form ‘Twit on MyFace’.
In November 2010 Fry achieved 2,000,000 followers on Twitter.
On 2 January 2010 it was announced that Fry was “switching off his connections with the outside world” in order to complete a second volume of his autobiography.
Fry’s use of the word “luvvie” in The Guardian on 2 April 1988 is given by the Oxford English Dictionary as the earliest recorded use of the word.
Fry has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, specifically stating he suffers from Cyclothymia, referring to it as “bipolar lite”.He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1995 while appearing in a West End play called Cell Mates and subsequently walked out of the production, prompting its early closure and incurring the displeasure of co-star Rik Mayall and playwright Simon Gray. Mayall’s comedy partner, Adrian Edmondson, made light of the subject in his and Mayall’s second Bottom live show. After walking out of the production, Fry went missing for several days while contemplating suicide. He abandoned the idea and left the United Kingdom by ferry, eventually resurfacing in Belgium.
Fry has spoken publicly about his experience with bipolar disorder, which was also depicted in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive. In the programme, he interviewed other sufferers of the illness including Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss and Tony Slattery. Also featured were chef Rick Stein, whose father committed suicide, Robbie Williams, who talks of his experience with major depression, and comedienne/former mental health nurse Jo Brand. He is also involved with the mental health charity Stand to Reason.
Fry is one of the tallest British celebrities in modern times. He is said to be between 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) to 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m), in height.
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