Fry: Well next week I shall be examining the claims of a man who says that in a previous existence he was Education Secretary Kenneth Baker and I shall be talking to a woman who claims she can make flowers grow just by planting seeds in soil and watering them. Until then, wait very quietly in your seats please. Goodnight.
Hugh Laurie: : So let's talk instead about flexibility of language - um, linguistic elasticity, if you'd like.
Stephen Fry:: Yes, I think that I've said earlier that our language, English -
L: As spoken by us.
F: As we speak it, yes, certainly, defines us. We are defined by our language, if you will.
L: [to screen] Hello. We're talking about language.
F: Perhaps I can illustrate my point. Let me at least try. Here is a question: um...
L: What is it?
F: Oh! Um... my question is this: is our language - English - capable... is English capable of sustaining demagoguery?
L: And by "demagoguery" you mean...
F: By "demagoguery" I mean demagoguery...
L: I thought so.
F: I mean highly-charged oratory, persuasive whipping-up rhetoric. Listen to me, listen to me. If Hitler had been British, would we, under similar circumstances, have been moved, charged up, fired up by his inflammatory speeches, or would we simply have laughed? Is English too ironic to sustain Hitlerian styles? Would his language simply have rung false in our ears?
L: [to screen] We're talking about things ringing false in our ears.
F: May I compartmentalize - I hate to, but may I, may I: is our language a function of our British cynicism, tolerance, resistance to false emotion, humour, and so on, or do those qualities come extrinsically - extrinsically - from the language itself? It's a chicken and egg problem.
L: [to screen] We're talking about chickens, we're talking about eggs.
F: Um... let me start a leveret here: there's language and there's speech. Um, there's chess and there's a game of chess. Mark the difference for me. Mark it please.
L: [to screen] We've moved on to chess.
F: Imagine a piano keyboard, eh, 88 keys, only 88 and yet, and yet, hundreds of new melodies, new tunes, new harmonies are being composed upon hundreds of different keyboards every day in Dorset alone. Our language, tiger, our language: hundreds of thousands of available words, frillions of legitimate new ideas, so that I can say the following sentence and be utterly sure that nobody has ever said it before in the history of human communication: "Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers." Perfectly ordinary words, but never before put in that precise order. A unique child delivered of a unique mother.
L: [to screen] ...
F: And yet, oh, and yet, we, all of us, spend all our days saying to each other the same things time after weary time: "I love you," "Don't go in there," "Get out," "You have no right to say that," "Stop it," "Why should I," "That hurt," "Help," "Marjorie is dead." Hmm? Surely, it's a thought to take out for cream tea on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
L: So, to you, language is more than just a means of communication?
F: Oh, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is. Language is my mother, my father, my husband, my brother, my sister, my whore, my mistress, my check-out girl... language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of God. Language is the dew on a fresh apple, it's the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning light as you pluck from a old bookshelf a half-forgotten book of erotic memoirs. Language is the creak on a stair, it's a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, it's a half-remembered childhood birthday party, it's the warm, wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl. It's cobwebs long since overrun by an old Wellington boot.
Fry: Estate Agents: you can't live with them, you can't live with them. With their jangling keys, nasty suits, revolting beards, moustaches and tinted spectacles, estate agents roam the land causing perturbation and despair. If you try and kill them, you're put in prison: if you try and talk to them, you vomit. There's only one thing worse than an estate agent but at least that can be safely lanced, drained and surgically dressed. Estate agents. Love them or loathe them, you'd be mad not to loathe them.
Fry: [voiceover] Good old Berent's cocoa. Always there. Original or New Berent's, specially prepared for the mature citizens in your life, with nature's added store of powerful barbiturates and heroin.
Laurie: [with an electronic organiser] Ask me anything, a telephone number, what time it is in Adelaide. Tell you what, I can tell you exactly what I'll be doing on the third of August 1997, say. Hang on... [presses a few buttons]. Nothing. See, it says. Nothing.
Laurie: No, they didn't. They didn't see it. But only thanks to the purest good fortune that they don't happen to have been born yet, otherwise I dread to think what damage may have been caused. It was simply disgusting.
Fry: Well, I was born Mary Patterson, but then I married and naturally took my husband's name, so now I'm Neil Patterson.
Fry: It's ludicrously easy to knock Mrs. Thatcher, isn't it? It's the simplest, easiest and most obvious thing in the world to remark that she's a shameful, putrid scab, an embarrassing, ludicrous monstrosity that makes one frankly ashamed to be British and that her ideas and standards are a stain on our national history. That's easy! Anyone can see that! Nothing difficult about that! But after tonight, no one will ever accuse us again with failing to come up with something to take her place. Hugh?
Laurie: I've always been a Daily Mail reader. I prefer it to a newspaper.
Laurie: [Walking away] No, I can't stop, I'm afraid. My wife is being towed away.
Fry: In my dreams I've played snooker with Stephen Hendry. I've sung with Barbra Streisand and I've been to bed with Anneka Rice. In reality I've played snooker with Barbra Streisand, I've sung with Anneka Rice and I've been to bed with Stephen Hendry. Sometimes life can be even better than the dream.
Fry: Ah. I fancy I detect a wrinkle of concern on your otherwise smooth and toboggonable brow. Yes, your intimations are right. Business is not what it was. It is not even what it is. It may not even be what it will be.
Fry: Michael, you must be very thrilled with that result. Take us through the race.
Laurie: Yes, well, I was, uh... not very happy with the car. We had a lot of problems, and uh.. the car was not so good, I think.
Fry: Yes, but- but you won. It was a great result for you, you must be very happy.
Laurie: Well, we had a lot of problems with the car, and I was... was not so happy, it was very hard.
Fry: Yes, but you won...
Laurie: I won, yes, but, there were many, many problems, and it was very hard, and difficult, and I was not happy at all with the car
Fry: Yes, yes- *stammers* You did actually win, did I get that straight? You actually won the race?
Laurie: Well, a lot of problems, yes, and it was very hard-
Fry: Yeh, well, leaving aside, for the moment, how hard it was, are you happy... to have won... the race.
Laurie: Well, it was very difficult-
Fry: Yes, well, it really was difficult. Presumably, that's why you get paid half a million pounds per race, and get as much sex as you can eat. I just need to know if this makes you happy, having won the race. Delighted, enchanté, over the frigging moon!
Laurie: Well, we had a lot of problems-
Fry: ARE YOU HAPPY?!
Laurie: It was very difficult-
Fry: ARE YOU HAPPY?!
Laurie: Many prob-
Laurie tries to speak again
Fry: ARE. YOU. ARSEING WELL. HAPPY. YOU DISMAL, MOANING, FRENCH TWAT!
Laurie stares at Fry
Fry: You do a job... that half of mankind would KILL to be able to do, and you can have sex... with the other half, as often as you like. I just need to know if this makes you HAPPY!