We all love Amy Schumer, everyone knows how brilliant Key & Peele are, and you’ve watched Will Ferrell’s classic Saturday Night Live sketches countless of times. But in this weekly column Sketchy MVPs, The Laugh Button shines a light on comedians from our favorites shows and troupes who don’t often get rightful credit for their contributions to sketch comedy.
British comedy is often associated with oddball humor and quirky wordplay. And between 1989 and 1995, one series that was the epitome of British hysteria was A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Comprised of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, the duo succeeded at capturing the same absurdity that made Monty Python a beloved comedy staple.
We’ll most likely (actually, make that definitely) feature Fry in this column someday. For now, though, let’s talk about Laurie’s contributions to the show. Laurie’s comedic capabilities were endless. He could play the straight man to Fry’s manic characters, or he could play the obnoxious loudmouths himself. He could play off of other actors, or lead a scene completely on his own. Hell, he could even play the piano.
In addition to A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Laurie and his comedy partner appeared in other BBC series like Jeeves and Wooster and Blackladder (which also starred Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean). However, American audiences likely know Laurie best as Dr. Gregory House, the narcissistic doctor he played for eight seasons on the FOX drama House (that’s right, Dr. House was actually British!). He’s since appeared in a handful of movies. More recently, though, Laurie has been playing arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper in the miniseries The Night Manager (which airs on AMC in the U.S.).
Let’s look back at some of Laurie’s best sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie .
Watching Laurie and Fry play dim whit interrogators is simply hysterical. This one sketch captures the two’s gift at delivering ludicrous lines and actions (as well as tendencies to break the fourth wall) perfectly. Also a little fun trivia fact for you: the baby that the two end up interrogating at the end (yeah, the one Laurie yells “Scumbag!” at) is actually Laurie’s son Charlie.
As if the concept of a waiter misunderstanding the word “soup” with “suit” wasn’t absurd enough, followed by the realization that the chef added cyanide to said soup, Laurie and Fry prove that randomly breaking the fourth wall only helps make things wackier. It’s a very Monty Python-esq move, but they do it so well.
Here we see Laurie portraying the type of teacher that in real life is so painful to watch: the kind of teacher who actually cares about his students learning but to no prevail. The deadpan reactions from the audience (who are automatically casted as the “ignorant class”) makes Laurie’s awkward attempts at teaching even more excruciatingly hilarious.
“Control & Tony”
Nowadays, we’re so used to see grittiness and violence in spy films. Watching Laurie and Fry play very polite and well-mannered agents is a nice change of pace… though also makes us thankful that James Bond is not as polite. It is hilarious, though, to see Laurie talk about the Soviet mole in a nice manner.
What possibly makes Laurie’s portrayal of a (less than?) savvy businessman trying to get a bank loan for his drug distribution endeavor is that it’s almost believable to imagine such a scenario happening in real life. Also, hearing him describe how the “marketing research” indicates what color better expresses cocaine and heroin is priceless.