Introduction

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen Well, Hugh?

Hugh Fine thanks.

Stephen Exactly. Now that, I believe, is an example of the kind of "joke" the ladies and gentlemen are entitled not to expect over the coming ... oh, how long d'you reckon?

Hugh I think the average person could get through this book, cover to cover, reading every single word, in something under three months. Give or take. I mean don't rush it. Don't forego quality weekend time with your spouse or partner just to make that deadline. It's simply a rule of thumb.

Stephen Mm. You're not a fast reader, are you Hugh?

Hugh What I like to say is, I may not be fast, but I'm gentle.

Stephen All right, that's enough soft-soap and fragrance-free conditioner. What about the hard facts and odour-rich detail? Will this book mean an increase in personal taxation?

Hugh Certainly our hope at the moment is that the book will be financed largely by the tooth fairy.

Stephen Hmm.

Hugh Stephen?

Stephen Yes, my old pen-caddie?

Hugh I noticed that when you made that "hmm" noise, your eyes flicked towards the telephone, as if to say I wonder what my chances are of calling for help before I am horribly butchered in another one of those cases one seems to read about almost every day now?

Stephen Hmm.

Hugh There you go again.

Stephen Right.

Hugh Now I can't help but observe that you're moving sideways towards the door, while keeping what seems to be a relaxed and cheerful expression on your face.

There follows an incredibly long pause which, thanks to the miracle of modern book technology, you can experience in a fraction of the time - leaving you free to get on with the things that really matter. Your garden, for instance - or perhaps you're a bit of a DIY addict? Or maybe it's just a question of loafing round the house in a comfortable pair of hats.

Stephen OK. Time to get serious.

Hugh Crikey.

Stephen The more observant among you will have noticed that this collection of scripts from A Bit Of Fry & Laurie is a "tad" fatter than in days gone by.

Hugh Fatter?

Stephen Plumper. Wider. Broader in the beam. Differently- girthed. Widthly-challenged.

Hugh Fatter.

Stephen Precisely. Now there's a reason for this. And that is that this great lardy zeppelin of a blubber-book contains not one, not two, not four, not five, but six, yes, that's right, three whole editions between the covers.

Hugh Stephen, have they gone mad, the publishers and retailers of this book? Do they not realise that this in itself represents quite extraordinary value for money?

Stephen I don't know, Hugh. I really don't. You try to reason with people, to steer them in the right direction, but sometimes you may just as well wear a calf-length purple kaftan and have done with it.

Hugh You're trying that course of action now, I see.

Stephen I had to, Hugh. It may be futile, but I had to try it. If I ever thought there was a chance of saving this once-mighty publishing empire from financial ruin, and that I hadn't taken that chance, I just wouldn't be able to sleep with myself. I'm a giver, you see.

Hugh Stephen, sometimes I quite admire you.

Stephen Oh stop that. It's fool's talk, and we haven't much time.

Hugh Ten-four.

Stephen The threeness-in-oneness of this book is being talked about in pubs and clubs up and down the room we're now in. Not since the Ford Motor Company published the Workshop Manuals of the Cortina Marks 1, 2 and 3, in the same handy stowaway folder, has such a publishing phenomenon occurred. History may look upon it as a grandiose folly. Or it may say, hell, they took the chance, they rode the tiger, they caught some stardust, who are we to say they were wrong? We can't predict. We simply do not know whether A Bit Of Fry & Laurie will even be on the History syllabus in fifty years' time.

Hugh Stephen, the picture you're painting is a horrifying one.

Stephen I know. But it helps me to concentrate. Just lift your chin a little. There, that's perfect.

Hugh Well, I suppose it falls to me to restate the dull, dry legal warnings. To the effect that you may not perform any of the material contained herewithin to a fee-paying audience without the prior written consent of the authors. And that your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on any loan or mortgage secured against it. And that the manufacturers accept no responsibility for you driving into a motorway bridge at eighty miles an hour on your way back from a Cluedo party. And that in the event of you ever wanting to make a claim against this policy, we moved, we never heard of you, whistle for it suckers. And so on and so forth.

Stephen But, hey, in the words of the song, it's not all doom and gloom.

Hugh No, of course not. Lots to be cheerful about.

Stephen Tons. Sally Gunnell got that gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles.

Hugh Well there you are. The Hexham bypass has been shelved until at least 1996 ...

Stephen Bob's Full House has been moved to the earlier time of 7.15 ...

Hugh In fact a whole raft of feel-good factors seem to be at work, making Britain a happier place to live.

Stephen And if we've done our part ...

Hugh Thrown our twopen'orth in ...

Stephen ... then ...

Hugh ... then ...

Stephen ... maybe ...

Hugh ... just maybe ...

Stephen ... it's all been ...

Hugh ... a massive error.

Stephen Unforgiveable.

Hugh We're very sorry.

Stephen Very sorry indeed.

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