Introduction

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen Well Hugh, here's the book.

Hugh Absolutely.

Stephen Well put. (Slight pause) So, any advice for someone who's just picked this book up, say, in one of the many fresh, clean High Street bookshops that stock this important new work and is considering, if not making a purchase, then at least slipping it down his or her trouser or trousers?

Hugh Well Stephen, I'd like firstly to congratulate the potential thief on his or her good taste or tastes, but I'd like to follow up that congratulation quite smartly with a caveat or warning.

Hugh breaks off and looks over Stephen's shoulder or shoulders. There is a longish pause.

Stephen Yes. I'm busy wondering what the nature of that caveat or warning might be, Hugh.

Hugh (Jerking back) I'm sorry, I thought I saw something dark, vivid and unpleasant.

Stephen It must have been your imagination.

Hugh Probably. No, the caveat, rejoinder, admonishment or warning I would make to the potential thief of this book is this. No matter who you are, no matter what your name is, no matter how far away you run, no matter how you try to disguise yourself with towels and the cunning application of coloured yoghurts, no matter what lengths you go to, no matter how well you protect yourself, we will seek you out and destroy you.

Stephen Eventually.

Hugh We will destroy you eventually. And when we do ...

Stephen Well ...

Hugh Exactly.

Stephen So. Just remember. You can run, but you can't hop.

Hugh We'll be there. Across the street. In dark glasses.

Stephen Arms folded.

Hugh Watching.

Stephen In silent reproach.

Hugh So just you trot over to the desk and pay the nice lady cash money for this book.

Stephen Apart from anything else, you'll find that if you don't none of the jokes will be at all funny.

Hugh That's right. Every sketch will have a punchline limper than ...

Stephen Limper than ...

Hugh Limper than a very limp thing that's especially limp today.

Stephen Exactly. But hey! That's the heavy part over with. Let's tell the average honest and surprisingly pretty punter a little bit about the genesis of this book, shall we Hugh?

Hugh This book doesn't have a genesis, Stephen. You're thinking of the bible.

Stephen Ha, what a very nearly laughable misunderstanding, Hugh. I meant "genesis" in the sense of "beginning or inception".

Hugh (Wiping his eyes with laughter) Oh! I see! And I thought ...

Stephen (Falling about) Dear oh dear.

They pick themselves up off the floor at length.

Stephen No, this book came about as a result, didn't it Hugh, of enormous commercial pressure to make the written texts of A Bit of Fry And Laurie available to the public at large.

Hugh When you say "enormous commercial pressure" you mean ... ?

Stephen I mean some drunken overpaid publishing executive thought it might be a good way of staving off their eventual dismissal. Hugh Right.

Stephen We wrote these sketches over a period of ... what, Hugh?

Hugh Over a period of time, if I remember rightly.

Stephen Over a period of months between June and December 1987.

Hugh When the world was young and everything seemed slightly frilly.

Stephen Why did we write these sketches, you may ask?

Hugh Well, let me turn that question round and say "Why did we sketch these writes, you may ask?"

Stephen Let me turn that question round and say "Why did we write these sketches, you ask may?"

Hugh Because they were there.

Stephen No, Hugh, because they weren't there. That's the whole point. Amazingly, no-one had written those sketches before.

Hugh The Pythons had written something pretty similar though hadn't they? Stephen looks uncomfortable.

Stephen (Through clenched teeth) Shut up, Hugh.

Hugh Sorry.

Stephen No, as we say these sketches are the original children of our minds.

Hugh They're our babies.

Stephen In a sense, yes. In a wholly unacceptable sense.

Hugh Yes, because that's not to imply that we literally went to bed together, introduced various fleshy nozzles into each other's warm places and then gave birth to a pile of paper covered in amusing sketch material, is it Stephen?

Stephen Hugh.

Hugh Yes?

Stephen Shut your bleeding neck for a moment will you?

Hugh Right-o.

Stephen These sketches are for your perusalment and enjoyage to do with what you will.

Hugh Within certain rather exciting legal parameters.

Stephen That's right. We ought to mention that you can't actually perform these sketches in public to a fee- paying audience.

Hugh Though why anyone should want to perform these sketches in public beats me with a wet napkin.

Stephen Oh I don't know Hugh.

Hugh Don't you?

Stephen No.

Hugh Oh.

Stephen Imagine your plane has been hijacked by a gang of terrorists and their leader, a rather desperate character called Miguel, threatens to shoot all the passengers unless someone can perform the "Haircut" sketch in the Club Class lavatory.

Hugh Of course you're right. How silly of me.

Stephen Well in those circumstances it would be quite illegal for you to accede to his wishes.

Hugh Quite right. We do not deal with terrorists.

Stephen All we can suggest is that you volunteer to write a sketch very similar to "Haircut", and that you'll promise to have it finished and in rehearsal by the time you reach Libyan air space.

Hugh Yes. Just remember that Miguel's bark is much worse than his bite.

Stephen And he cannot bear split infinitives.

Hugh So that's got that out of the way. Anything else that the discerning consumer need know in order to extract maximum reading pleasure from these pages, Stephen?

Stephen Oh just the basics. Consult your GP, wipe down all surfaces with a damp dry cloth, and do not go to sleep with your head on a railway line.

Hugh Sound advice. Although Stephen, isn't there one vital step you should take before consulting your GP?

Stephen Absolutely, Hugh. Before consulting your GP, please please please consult your GP.

Hugh For those of you reading in black and white, Stephen put a lot of emphasis on that third "please".

Stephen Yes. Although I hope I didn't completely neglect the first two.

Hugh Of course not.

Stephen Once you've taken those basic, common sense measures, it's just a question of relaxing, kicking off your shoes, slipping into a loose-fitting kimono and going over to the cash desk to buy this book.

Hugh Although if you've read this far without buying it, we can only assume that it's raining pretty heavily outside.

Stephen Looks as if it's brightening a bit over there ...

Hugh D'you know, you may be right ...

Download Introduction as XML