British Icon of the Week: Stephen Fry, the Witty and Captivating Actor, Comedian, and Writer

(Photo: Getty Images)

Stephen Fry has been voted the U.K.’s second favorite voice, behind only Sir David Attenborough. As a special “runner’s up” prize, we’re making him our British Icon of the Week and celebrating 10 of the reasons we can’t get enough of him.

1. He’s completely captivating to listen to.

This clip from The Graham Norton Show says it all. Fry regales us with his thoughts on the ancient Greeks, and everyone, including Nicole Kidman, is rapt.

2. He’s a Doctor Who guest star.

Fry’s appearance in the season 12 premiere, “Spyfall,” might be brief, but he brings plenty of gravitas to the role of MI6 boss C. You can watch the episode in its entirety here.

3. He and Hugh Laurie are an iconic double act.

The two performers met at Cambridge University – through mutual friend Emma Thompson, no less – and went on to make several TV series together in the ‘80s and ‘90s, including the classic sketch show A Bit of Fry & Laurie.

In a recent interview on Smooth Radio, Fry described Laurie as his "best friend" and said they still "talk about" making another series together. Fingers and toes crossed, right?

4. He’s the President of British mental health charity Mind.

He also supports Time to Change, a social movement encouraging a change in the way we think and talk about mental health issues. Over the years, Fry has spoken candidly and movingly about his own issues – he was diagnosed with bipolar at age 37 – and campaigns to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"Once the understanding is there, we can all stand up and not be ashamed of ourselves, then it makes the rest of the population realise that we are just like them but with something extra," he says on Time to Change's website.

5. He’s hosted the BAFTA Film Awards more than anyone else.

To date, he’s hosted on no fewer than 12 occasions since 2001. You can relive this first ever opening monologue (which is very funny, as you'd expect) below.

6. He gave Sir Ian McKellen his hilariously campy nickname: Serena McKellen.

"Stephen Fry christened me Serena when I got knighted, which I thought was a bit impertinent," McKellen told Esquire in 2015. It's safe to presume McKellen was never really offended, though, as he's definitely embraced the nickname over the years. When he appeared at the closing ceremony of the Gay Games in 1994, he told the crowd: "I'm Sir Ian McKellen, but you can call me Serena."

7. He was the brilliantly witty and fabulously loquacious original host of QI.

Fry hosted the cult British panel show from 2003 to 2016, and though he was an always authoritative presence, he didn’t mind being made the butt of the joke on occasion. Check out this very funny supercut to recall just what a good sport he was.

8. As well as a fine comedian, he’s an accomplished dramatic actor.

He received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Oscar Wilde in the 1997 biopic Wilde, and won a SAG Award as a member of Gosford Park’s ensemble cast in 2001.

Let’s not forget his charismatic TV roles in Bones and Kingdom either, or for that matter his appearance in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy as the Master of Lake-town.

9. He narrates the British editions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter audiobooks.

He's said in the past that the only phrase he had trouble saying while recording the audiobooks was the deceptively simple "Harry pocketed it."

10. He’s even co-starred opposite a member of the British Royal family.

Earlier this year, he played a descendant of his Blackadder character Lord Melchett in a skit for BBC One’s Coronavirus charity telethon The Big Night In. His co-star who appeared over Zoom was none other than Prince William.

Do you have a favorite Stephen Fry moment or role?