My first webpage was called The Future Husbands list. I think I made it in about 1995. Don’t look it up. No, it wasn’t on Geocities, but it might as well have been. It included such people as Ewan McGregor (obviously), Lonely Planet host Neil Gibson, and, at the top of the list (not that it was numeric), Stephen Fry.
Now remember this: in 1995, Stephen Fry was best known in North America for Jeeves & Wooster. Even in the UK, he was not the national treasure that he obviously is now. It was peculiar to admire such a wonderful, tweedy, clever, 90% gay man as a 17-year-old Canadian girl.
I was also on the Schoolreach team in high school for five years and compete in trivia events regularly. It’s a shame I didn’t devote as much time to school as I did to memorising Trivia Pursuit cards. (Some things never change – or at least change very little. Have you seen the Sporcle app?)
I’ve mentioned in this space before that when I moved to Birmingham, I knew no one. I had a friend in Cheltenham who had a spare telly, though, and graciously loaned it to me for the year (since, truly, television-watching was part of my coursework). The week I arrived, something marvellous happened. ‘QI’ premiered.
It was the Television Gods gift to me. HUGH LAURIE was on the premiere as well, a lovely bonus. The style was a bit more haphazard and far less polished than it is now, which suited me fine. Comedians talking about little-known facts? With Stephen Fry as host? What could possibly be better?
I didn’t leave the flat as much as I should after that, because ‘QI’ was a gateway drug to my British panel show addiction.* It is almost the only reason I ever learned how Bittorrents work.
Lately, my comedy ‘problem’ has led me to podcasting, years after other nerds got into them, I expect. Oddly, for me, I largely listen to American ones – Earwolf and NPR are my go-tos – except for the oeuvre of Richard Herring. His podcasts at the Fringe and the Leicester Square theatre are fairly freeform chats with comedians and other funny, clever people where he asks his guests about their careers, but also suggests that they add a Shrek to their works, or asks if they’ve ever tried to suck their own cocks.
I have been in the same room as Stephen Fry twice, for a recording of the Radio 4 version of ‘Absolute Power’, and one of ‘QI’ (through jetlag and heatstroke, and despite the presence of Jeremy Clarkson, it was one of of the best days ever). But he was ‘working’, had a script, etc. I’d love to see him in a more casual environment.
The worlds are colliding, as Mr Fry will be on the podcast. It records at the Leicester Square Theatre on June 3. I am trying not to cave to my addiction to Britain, even though last year was the first in a long while that I didn’t go for at least a few days en route somewhere else. I don’t have any money anyway. And by the time I finish writing this, I have a feeling tickets will be sold out. So much for starting that Indiegogo campaign, eh?
What’s my point? None at all. Except maybe that by holding a Cambridge-educated gay polymath as the paragon of the ideal man, maybe I’ve been limiting myself a bit too much. I mean, I only work in a movie theatre, for Pete’s sake.
That’s not actually my point. But could someone get me a pile of money and a flat in London for a few months so I can go to a dozen recordings of things and comedy shows and get my fill for the next ten years? Maybe I can see if one of the Eggheads can train me in quizzing.
* I was also 26 and living in university accommodation, which, in retrospect, was a terrible idea because 18-year-olds are the fucking worst (though getting hit on by them was pretty hilarious). And my program, consisting of, oh, 12 people, was 90% students who didn’t live in town.