I will be completely inebriated with the exuberance of my own verbosity.
February 5, 2011 12:04 AM   Subscribe

A great English icon visited an Aussie one when Stephen Fry came to the Sydney Opera House to discuss travel, language, the three W's (Wilde, Waugh and Wodehouse) and everything in between, in a 90 minute talk-fest. The night involved a cracking 45 minute chat by Fry and then a 45 minute Q&A with First Tuesday Book Club's Jennifer Byrne. Parts 1 2 3 4 5
posted by lazaruslong (20 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I was at his Melbourne talk and by complete coincidence sat behind Geoffrey Rush. I felt very cultured that night, I can tell you!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 2:58 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wonderful, thanks!
posted by hoskala at 3:07 AM on February 5, 2011

Stephen Fry really needs to stop believing his own hype. I used to think he was great, but now, after the Japan debacle, after the 'women don't like sex' debacle, after the constant shilling of all things apple, after the leaving twitter in a strop (too many times to count), he really needs take a long hard look at what he's become.

Proof that you should never label a living person a 'national treasure'.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:50 AM on February 5, 2011

What was the Japan debacle?
posted by Paul Slade at 7:35 AM on February 5, 2011

Making jokes that offended the Japanese. Not his worst offence, but at least it's spared us from another of his smug-fest docs.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:45 AM on February 5, 2011

Re Japan: Fry was talking about Tsutomu Yamaguchi - the man who was in Horishima when it was bombed - he survived and escaped that day by train: to Nagasaki. He is still alive. Article about QI's coverage of the story. Personally I didn't find it remotely offensive - but it wasn't my relatives who got toasted.
posted by rongorongo at 9:07 AM on February 5, 2011

In Fry's defence, I though his stage performance here was entertaining, interesting and eminently sane in what it said about his approach to life - as, it seems, did the 2,500 people who'd paid to come along and watch it.

As for the Japanese thing, if someone can't see that it's funny for one man to have experienced both the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki bombings, then I can't think why they'd be watching QI in the first place. Nor do a couple of trumped-up tabloid stories amount to a "debacle".

I've no problem with the fact that he loves Apple computers either - all sensible people do - but I'll grant you it's harder to defend his comments about women's libido or his sometimes petulant behaviour on Twitter. He probably says "Yes" to too many things, which leads to him being somewhat over-exposed in the UK, but on balance he is unquestionably A Good Thing.

There's few enough people in the public eye these days who champion intelligence, erudition and genuine wit, so let's not deny him the credit he deserves for that. The world would be a duller (and slightly dumber) place without him.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Making jokes that offended the Japanese --- I'm kind of convinced at this point that the only way you can be famous and not offend people is to never utter another word. Or to maybe be dead.
posted by crunchland at 10:19 AM on February 5, 2011

Making jokes that offended the Japanese. Not his worst offence, but at least it's spared us from another of his smug-fest docs.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:45 PM on February 5

Unbelievable. I saw that episode of QI and I had no idea there was any fuss about it. He described a man who was in both WWII atomic bombings as the unluckiest man in the world. Is that so bloody unreasonable? It seems pretty damned unlucky to me. How anyone can extrapolate offensive intent from that is quite beyond me. Even more baffling is how anyone can actually be offended by it. I really cannot imagine the astronomical altitudes of hypersensitivity one must attain on order to react that way.

What the hell is wrong with people these days? Is there some sort of globe-spanning competition to see who can be the most head-spinningly thin-skinned? Is there a major cash prize for the person or group who can take offence most easily? When did people decide that acting like a bunch of humourless, gossamer-skinned crybabies was not something to be profoundly ashamed of?
posted by Decani at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wowzers. What a response.

Stephen Fry never said something as stupid as "women don't like sex". You're repeating some trumped up crap that I'm sure the Daily Mail would squeal with delight to think it's still active. Go read this.

The QI bit about the "unluckiest man in the world" was not offensive in the least. It's bs again.

What a bunch of bologna.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's interesting the difference in response between this post and this one. And the other one had worse-produced program with intensely more fluff. Ah well.

I personally enjoy listening to the man talk. He makes my brain feel comfortable because the way he communicates is fast and complex. I hope others who feel the same enjoy the video.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2011

If it's not offensive then why have the Japanese reacted this way?
posted by the cuban at 1:35 PM on February 5, 2011

I think it's a little unfair to compain about people taking the Daily Mail line lazaruslong and then only prove this with Fry's response himself. Sadly I can't find the video of the interview that Attitude magazine released after the furore, it would seem they've taken it down, but it was blindingly obvious form the interview that was he said wasn't intedned as a joke, and nor had it been taken out of context (by the Guardian, Times and Telegraph as well as the Mail).

I agree with Paul Slade that I love to see intelligent people on TV, and the Japan thing seems somewhat of an over-reaction (though we'll have to disagree about apple), but much as I love intelligent presenters I don't think that should excuse them when they start acting like an arse, if anything I'd hold them up to higher standards because they should know better.

Fry is just someone you either love or hate, de gustibus and all that, I used to love him but I'm afraid these days I really can't stand the man.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:41 PM on February 5, 2011

Some of Fry's work I like, some I don't. I was actually at the Opera House show and I was completely bored. I mostly like Jennifer Byrne's work, but she too was not up to the task on the night.
On the other hand, my partner loved the whole event. Who can tell....
posted by MT at 6:53 PM on February 5, 2011

the cuban: "If it's not offensive then why have the Japanese reacted this way?"

The objection made by the Japanese embassy was that they were 'making light' of the tragedy of the bombings, simply due to the fact that it was featured on what is fundamentally a comedy show. But, even if you find something offensive about the coverage, Stephen Fry himself is in no way involved. While some of the other comedians on the panel may have made light of the situation, Fry himself basically just narrated the events as they happened. About the only editorializing he did was to express amazement that the trains were still running for the man to get between the two cities in time.

With regards to the 'women don't enjoy sex,' I have never seen the interview from which that belief has apparently been applied to him, so I'll reserve judgment on that, although it certainly doesn't sound what someone like Stephen would say.

One thing everyone in this thread needs to keep in mind is that he does suffer from Bipolar Disorder, so it is certainly a possibility that he was in a depressed state when he said certain things.
posted by Hargrimm at 7:31 PM on February 5, 2011

ciderwoman: The explanation of the facts are within that post, which is why I linked it. If you'd rather read something original, that's fine.

Fry was making a joke. The topic of conversation at the time was not female sexuality. It was gay male sexuality.

"At a time when morale is low in the gay community (a chronic rise in homophobia, teenage suicides, gay bashing and religious intolerance) I thought it worth making the light enough point that in some ways you could see the male gay life as a lot easier than the male straight life."

So he made a joke about how gay men are luckier than straight men because look at all the fantastic sex they get to have with no expectation of a relationship. Obviously a generalisation, in an off-the-cuff discussion after a photo-shoot with a journalist, and tabloids trump it up and run with it.

If you think I was lazy in my rebuttal before, it's because blindly-repeated tabloid buzz-phrases don't deserve a dextrous dismantling. Especially when they're like a year old and have nothing to do with this post.

the cuban: In what way are you suggesting "The Japanese" have reacted? The entire race of folks watched the show and wrote nasty letters? Or would you like to be more specific? Because there are verifiable facts to be talked about instead of vacuous generalizing.

The Japanese Embassy sent a letter expressing their dislike of the topic being "made light of".

A couple YouTube viewers sent complaint letters.

The guys daughter spoke out, but not about Fry or "offense". She's an anti-nuclear arms believer, and admits that her own family has joked about her fathers experience. Her beef was that it was aired on a British show, a country that has nuclear weapons.

So yeah, it wasn't offensive. The Japanese are sensitive as hell about anything in that area, yet don't have a strong record themselves on the subject of historical openness to say the least. YouTube viewers? Really? And the guys family admitted themselves that they joke about the events. Its tabloid nonsense.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:11 PM on February 5, 2011

ciderwoman: His "smug-fest" docs include raising awareness of mental illness in The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, reporting on the increase of new HIV-infected people in Britain and in sub-Saharan Africa in HIV & Me, exploring the works of Wagner and their history especially with respect to anti-Semitism in Stephen Fry on Wagner, and tracing the history and origins of the Gutenberg Printing Press in The Machine That Made Us . Perhaps these aren't topics that interest you, but surely we can be disinterested without being accusatory.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2011

Lazarulong, like I said de gustibus. You like him and his style, I don't. To expand that to infer that I therefore don't like the subjects of documentaries is just plain unfair. I watched all of your list, enjoyed most (especially the wagner one), but still find Fry smug in the extreme and would have enjoyed the shows more with a different presenter.

It's also unfair to label the anti female accustations about Fry (and this was the moment I fell out of love with him) as 'tabloid' because it was reported, anmd condemnedacross the board, inlcuding in the Guardian and the Telegraph.

My problem with you just linking to his blog explanation is that the evidence suggests he's just wrong. At first he said (on his twitter account) he'd been misquoted, but a checking of the interview tape shows that be incorrect, he was reported accurately. He then said that he was joking, but if you look at the video of the interview then it's pretty hard to conclude that he's just telling a joke. Or if he is, he's suddenly lost all comedic timing.

I don't expect you to start disliking Fry now, you're a fan and that's fine, but equally just listing his shows won't persuade me to start liking his presenting style. But on the point of his comments about women I believe there's more of a case to answer than just 'I was misquoted' or 'I was joking', because neither appear to be true, and it's his refusal to believe that he may have done anything wrong that was the final nail in the coffin of my admiration for a presenter I used to love.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:29 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ciderwoman: I think we are not understanding each other now. Both the Guardian and Telegraph led with the same headline the tabloids did:

Stephen Fry shocks feminists by claiming women don't really like sex

Stephen Fry angers feminists by claiming women do not enjoy sex

That didn't happen. Stephen Fry never said "women do not enjoy sex."

But no one is interested in nuance these days. Its easier and gets more hits of you reduce a complex thought into a shocking headline, damn the facts.

But I've no need to die on this hill, Fry offers a perfectly reasonable and valid defense of his own. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:34 PM on February 8, 2011

Well, I've now watched the show; fun, it is nice to hear him talk. Nothing revolutionary, but nice to hear him talk. Thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:37 PM on February 9, 2011

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