I seem to be going through a 'Fry phase' at the moment, as I've just finished the entire series of Stephen Fry in America
, watched many episodes of Jeeves And Wooster
& have listened to his excellent Stephen Fry Presents - Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
. I've even watched his videos debating alongside Christopher Hitchens & have yet to find him annoying, snobbish or arrogant, but rather the model of a renaissance man.
Starting off with a section called 'Current Puns', the English language is dissected in depth by a mixture of academics and amateurs. The comedian who holds the world record for the most jokes told in an hour (Tim Vine, at 499) is asked about how he makes puns & there is also a section on the Pun computer. Fry also analyses different types of puns & ends with one of his favourites (which I'm sorely tempted to tell you, if it weren't for the fact that it would ruin your enjoyment of the CD!)
Section 2 is 'Metaphor'. Many other reviewers have said that Section 1 is the only section worth listening to, but I disagree. This section is arguably the best one, with lots of QI-style insightful gambits. The large quantity of Naval metaphors (e.g. taken aback) are explored in this section, along with 'skeletons of metaphors'. Personally I had no idea that English was so laden with buried metaphors within individual words (e.g. 'sarcastic' meaning 'flesh tearing'). The phrase 'Deep Metaphor' takes on a whole new meaning...
Moving onto CD 2, Section 3 is 'Quotation'. Unlike QI: Advanced Banter
, this is not just a long list of quotes but more an exploration of their nature (although it does include some good ones - e.g. 'Pretentious? Moi??' by Miss Piggy). Fry explores the meme-like nature of quotes & their nature, before looking into some users of quotes (such as Politicians & Celebrities). There is also a section on the institution that is Colemanballs - tawdry, cliched & incongruent quotations made by Football commentators.
Section 4 is 'Cliche', which sounds like a dreadful idea for an ending, but is actually interesting. Cliches aren't just cringe-worthy, but are actually a way of using language efficiently. There are interviews with printers (where the term 'cliche' comes from) & also compilers of Dictionaries of Cliche (e.g. The Penguin Dictionary of Cliches
). This section also explores Tottenham's history with Parrot cliches as well as many other animal-related cliches that seem to plague but also enrich the English language.
Overall I found this CD lived up to expectations & moves me one stage closer to wanting to explore his books again (which initially put me off his work). As yet, I'm still to find anything from Fry's second-wind that hasn't appealed & educated in equal measure. Here's hoping the sequel is as good...