Stephen Fry turns 53 today, and at a relatively young age, he’s already been declared a British national treasure. His career is varied and impressive: he rose to fame almost 30 years ago with his comedic partnership with a pre-House Hugh Laurie in classic Britcoms like A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster.
Solidifying his comedy cred with a run on Blackadder, Fry went on to play dramatic film roles, including Oscar Wilde in the 1997 biopic. He’s directed his own international hit film (Bright Young Things). He’s a game show host (QI). He’s a documentary filmmaker (The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, HIV and Me). He’s a distinguished man of letters, a witty BAFTA MC, and he’s on the Board of Directors for a football club. He has a gazillion Twitter followers – and he’s even doing a one-man show based on submissions from those followers. Most of all, he’s a British insitution, and he has stayed relevant through embracing new ways of connecting with people.
But trying to explain who Stephen Fry is to someone who hasn’t heard of him is like trying to collapse a month’s worth of nutrition into an easily digestible pill. What makes that task even more difficult is that there’s no American parallel to Stephen. He’s the sort of pop celebrity polymath that’s rare in any culture. Fry doesn’t seem to be a mere dabbler or, like so many stars, a craven capitalist simply looking for alternate branding opportunities or revenue streams.
A friend suggested the multi-talented comedian/writer/musician Steve Martin as Stephen’s U.S. counterpart. Who would you put forth as America’s Stephen Fry?