The Great British Public wants to give Stephen Fry a knighthood for his birthday, because he is a national treasure, of course.
The concept of a national treasure is thrown around often on days of celebration. But today (August 24), on Stephen Fry’s 61st birthday, the grand notion is well-placed to credit the actor, broadcaster and author for his life’s achievements thus far.
For Stephen Fry, the sickly sweet title of national treasure might just be apt, an embodiment of the complexity of Britain.
He’s a self-confessed smartphone obsessive who loves social media as well as the Classics and a liberal-leaning politically-active man who won’t be censored by political correctness.
He’s a Royalist – and a mate of Prince Charles – who thinks the Royal family is preposterous and advocates equality and the best treatment of all humanity through his belief in Humanism.
But to classic comedy fans, Fry is best known as half of the comic double act Fry and Laurie of A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and Jeeves and Wooster . After meeting at Cambridge University they paired up via the Footlights.
But Fry’s path to academic success was not your normal story of nepotism. In fact, Stephen Fry made it cool to be curious and opened up many of us to the idea of knowledge as self-discovery rather than conformity.
Growing up in Norfolk, Fry was a self-confessed naughty kid with a wily brain which worked faster than most of his superiors. He was described as a ‘near-asthmatic genius’ and was expelled from two high schools at the age of 15.
In his three-part autobiography, which begins with Moab Is My Washpot, Fry recounts how he graduated from Norfolk College of Arts and Technology and quickly absconded with a credit card, stolen from a family friend, ending up in Swindon where he was reprimanded.
As a 17-year-old he spent three months in Pucklechurch Prison on remand for his crime.
Fry is bi-polar, a condition with which he sarcastically and charmingly credits the manias of his younger years and those of adulthood, as well as self-suspected Attention Deficit Disorder.
Perhaps it is this understanding of the fragility and power of the human condition which led Fry to pursue a very successful acting career.
His appearances on the small screen have often brought tears of laughter to viewers’ eyes – as in Blackadder as the insufferably posh and idiotic General Melchett.
He was in danger of being type-cast into Lord Snot-esque roles (who he played in The Young Ones) partly due to his unique speaking tones.
But Fry managed to turn the tables in the beloved upstairs downstairs comedy Jeeves and Wooster, in which he played the butler of the piece.
With a resonating voice also comes great vocal roles, including Alice in Wonderland‘s Cheshire Cat and Cowslip of Watership Down.
Fry famously narrated the soundtrack to many childhoods in the Harry Potter franchise audiobooks, garnering great praise for playing this vital part in helping children discover the glories of fictional literature.
You can relive some of the nostalgia below:
Most notably, though, Fry had the ability to make viewers weep sincere tears in his Golden Globe Award–nominated lead performance in the film Wilde, documenting the joyful life and hard times of Oscar Wilde.
The story of Wilde’s persecution at the hands of an utterly homophobic society was one particularly close to Fry, who married his husband, Elliott Spencer, in 2015, and has fought tirelessly to campaign for LGBT+ rights.
It was a role, Fry later said, he felt ‘born to play’:
Fry’s other film credits include the likes of The Hobbit franchise, Relative Values, Gosford Park, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
He earned his stripes playing stiff upper-class characters, portraying a judge in both Spice World and The Wind In The Willows, with self-deprecating levels of hilarity.
Later he would take on Gordon Deitrich in the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta:
Fry has also enjoyed recurring roles in successful television series such as Bones and The Great Indoors.
Moreover, he kept our minds curious and sharp from the safety and comfort of our sofas as the Quiz and Klaxon Master of QI (which stands for ‘Quite Interesting’), in his longest-standing role.
After 13 years at the helm of ‘one of the best jobs on television’, alongside his friend and foil, Alan Davies, Fry hung up his cue cards and passed on the honours to his friend and collaborator Sandi Toksvig.
Stephen said in an official statement:
After passing the alphabetical halfway mark I thought it time to move on, but I will never cease to be grateful to John Lloyd for devising QI and for everyone else for making it such fun.
His vast knowledge and insatiable hunger for information has also seen him enjoy a successful book release, in Mythos, a magnificent retelling of the greatest myths and legends.
He has also written and presented several documentary series, including the Emmy Award–winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which saw him explore his bipolar disorder.
Fry helped debunk the then much-maligned disorder, much to the delight of the four million Brits who understand what it’s like to feel stigmatised by the mental illness.
You can watch him discuss his episodes in 2016 on the BBC:
You can find out more about addiction in the short video below:
In Moab Is My Washpot, Fry wrote:
It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing — they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.
Stephen was named the 2007 Mind Champion of the Year in a public vote.
Fry has always championed the understanding of mental health as equally important as physical health – a feeling which became particularly pertinent earlier in 2018, when he announced he’d been battling prostate cancer.
He revealed on his Instagram on February 23 that he had spent 2 months secretly battling the disease.
He confirmed that he underwent a life-saving operation in January and is now cancer-free.
Just as it does for over 47000 UK men every year, prostate cancer happened to me. Mercifully it was caught and treated early, I’m recovering. It’s important to know your risk. Do talk to your GP or contact @ProstateUK for support if you have concerns. https://t.co/HXUNRtPwm8 pic.twitter.com/7VdfdVrC36
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) March 2, 2018
It’s this lifetime of service to de-stigmatising mental health issues – all the while making people smile with his unending wit and entertainment – which makes many British folk think Fry deserves a knighthood.
There are a few petitions circulating online, and along with his other acting credits, Stephen also appears on the eminent IMDb list, British Knights in Waiting.
People have flocked to his favourite platform, Twitter, to tell him:
— Lewie Watson (@LewieEh) February 17, 2014
Why hasn't Stephen Fry received a Knighthood? As if I didn't know!
— richard oneill (@silverrich39) June 16, 2018
— Alan Stevens (@mediacoach) February 17, 2014
Honestly, when I think about some of the people who have a knighthood…. It boggles my mind that @stephenfry is not knighted!
— Prossy (@Pkakooza) October 16, 2013
When is @stephenfry going to be given a knighthood? It's about time really.
— Paul Marshall (@i_WAS_lonewolf) August 10, 2013
How is @stephenfry not Sir Stephen Fry? Surely his contributions to British & world society & culture are worth a knighthood!
— ? Josh Neff (@joshuamneff) January 23, 2013
He doesn’t have a knighthood, so here’s Stir Stephen Fry… pic.twitter.com/Mft80Jnf8Z
— Stuart Newport (@stueynewey) August 3, 2018
Someone get Stephen Fry a knighthood just so he can go ' baaaa' and decline it because he's too fabulous
— Stephi LaReine (@StephiLaReine) January 10, 2016
Which galactic overlord or queen of the spiritual plane do I have to speak to about getting @stephenfry a knighthood? I feel like there’s a glitch in the fucking matrix or something!
— Alexandra Cameron (@Alex_Cameron) June 29, 2018
Happy Birthday https://t.co/k70NVdpT6N u loads.p.s.Isn't it about time u got a knighthood????.xx
— Wendy Clark (@WendyCl37623930) August 24, 2017
His friends, John Cleese and Alan Bennett, most notably, have declined OBEs in the past for personal and political reasons. But the people have spoken and they demand Sir Fry.
If you or someone know you is affected by any mental health issue then you can contact the charity Mind on 0300 123 3393 or visit their website.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.