First….”Would You Believe?” A RTE show and I like it. Not a big fan of veteran presenter, Gay Byrne but he does tthis kinda thing well. A late night (Sunday), relaxing show…head to head with a (usually Irish) celebrity in a half hour chat. Refreshing when an interview is not about plugging the latest book, movie, album.
The Interview follows a pattern but each one is different as Gay Byrne’s follow up questions depend on how the interviewee answers some fixed question.
1 ” What do you believe?”
2 “Was Religion important in your home life?”
3 “Prayer? Do you pray?”
4 “When was your faith first tested?”
5 “If it all turns out to be true and there is a GOD….what would you say to Him.?”
The interviewees are not specifically Irish Catholics. But most are. Some are no longer Catholic. But until (say) twenty years ago, the Republic of Ireland was 90% Catholic, with a high rate of observance. Even in the North (45% Catholic) the vast majority of Catholics live in “Catholic areas”.
With family tradition, schools, neighbourhoods, social milestones like Baptisms, First Communion, Confirmation, Weddings, Funerals. Whether we have given up on Religion, there is a “Once A Catholic” stamped thru most of us. It is not exactly “black and white”. Some Catholics, perhaps older are fairly traditional. Younger Catholics are much more liberal but for those middle age, it is all a series of compromises. Attending a civil wedding ceremony in City Hall ….not necessarily heterosexual or attending a fairly conventional funeral of an elderly aunt in a small country church.
That’s how it goes. A series of compromises. It is…complicated.
So seeing Irish Catholics of my generation justify their compromises or justify their decision to walk away is always interesting. We have the same experiences…the family, neighbourhood, school, parish….the same reference points….the priest who was not sympathetic in a situation or the priest who waa very sympathetic.
A low key Sunday night programme. But RTE land a big name in Stephen Fry and Fry obliges by providing a sound bite that is a gift for the promo tape. The clip has gone viral. If Stephen Fry meets GOD, he will give GOD a piece of his mind.
Gay Byrne is surprised? I doubt it. Gay Byrne is himself a performer. He has been doing celeb interviews for over fifty years. He knows how the game works. Its about Ratings. So I take his shock as an act. For Fry has said something that all Catholics and Christians have said about GOD. How does HE “allow” Childhood Cancer? But Stephen Fry is a wordy kinda man and he was vitriolic.
But what about Stephen Fry? Who is he? Well its difficult to say something about Stephen Fry that he has not already said himself. He has two million Twitter followers, has written a couple of memoirs and is a self publicist.
But here are the basics.
1 Born into English upper middle class privelege. Privately educated.
2 Jailed aged 16/17 for credit card fraud.
3 Cambridge University. Their Footlights Drama Comedy Club.
4 Head hunted with Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson by BBC by the Oxford-Cambridge “comedy” mafia at the BBC following in the tradition of Beyond the Fringe and Monty Python.
5 Stand -up and Sketch shows with comedy partner Hugh Laurie, Blackadder, Jeeves and Wooster.
6 Direcctor and performer in “Oscar Wilde” (his finest hour).
7 Memorably ran away, pleading stage fright, from a London play. Located in Belgium.
8 Addict. Manic Depressive. Gay.
9 Prolific writer, advocate for Gay Rights.
10 Acting career diverted into effectively playing himself (eccentric Englishman) in such A erican shows as “Bones”.
11 Documentary maker…ie writing and/or presenting documentaries on Depression, Environment and Visiting 48 states in USA in a black London taxi. The documentaries are a strange Chicken and Egg thing. Fry is perceived as a man who knows a lot about everything.
12 Presenter of an excellent panel quiz show….QI (Quite Interesting). A chance for a Man of Letters and of Science to show off his knowledge.
13 A narcissistic and pretentious man, one of his books/memoirs is called “Moab Is My Washtub”. I could probably look up Wikipedia to find what that means but I cant be arsed.
14 In almost every appearance, he manages a swipe at Religion…at Christianity ….at Catholicism. It doesnt seem big or clever. Taking the same swipes at Islamism might be a less healthy option.
15 Friend of Royalty ….”Prince” Charles, “Prince” William, “Kate”. That seems odd. To describe Religion as mythical bollox is inconsistent with being a friend of Royalty. Monarchy is the biggest load of bollox there is and no post-Enlightenment person should support it.
But Stephen Fry is what the British Media call a “National Treasure”. He can get away with anything …and often has.
Perhaps we should welcome that fact that – unlike a lot of celebs and famous people – he is willing to say the things he believes in even if they annoy others. He is willing to take political positions. And he usually does it with a level of wit and humour.
Interesting that so many celebs come from a privileged background.
I think that the comedian group you refer to went to Cambridge not Oxford.
Yes….surely I said that. Point 3.”Cambridge Footlights”.
The people I referred to at Point 4…BBC producers who went to Cambridge and Oxford.
I think you perhaps you only very lightly touched on on the bipolar aspect to his existence which will influence and overlap with the many other aspects, for better or worse.
Well…yes…but I think I would not want to dwell on a mans illness.
Perhaps I should have considered some flaws.
Mental illness…a whole debate in itself, in particular bipolar, which has given us some brilliance mixed in with despair. It is a definable aspect or part of the person in its own right, and yet it permeates every bit of the person and their hobbies, behaviours, relationships, emotions, thought processes etc….and yet it doesn’t, they are just another person with their traits. I think with Fry, imo, bipolar is there a lot of the time and yet it is imperceptible (it is part of him), though this changes at time of acute issues such as when he got the ferry to France. Is he a man who is ‘mentally ill’ or is he a man with a whole range of aspects of which bipolar is just one?
Interestingly bipolar often leads to becoming almost obsessive or ‘really into certain things’, often though such intensity of interest can be seen in terms of ‘bursts’. Perhaps religion is Fry’s thing.