Stephen Fry

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If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people in the world?

Stephen Fry (born August 24, 1957) is a British writer, comedian, actor, broadcaster and director.

Also see: A Bit Of Fry And Laurie


  • An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them.
    • The Liar (1991)
  • I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.
    • "Trefusis Blasphemes" radio broadcast
  • If I had a large amount of money I should certainly found a hospital for those whose grip upon the world is so tenuous that they can be severely offended by words and phrases and yet remain all unoffended by the injustice, violence and oppression that howls daily about our ears.
    • "Trefusis on Any Questions" in Paperweight (1993) p. 61.
    • Originally broadcast on Loose Ends, BBC Radio 4, circa 1987.
  • I don't need you to remind me of my age, I have a bladder to do that for me.
    • "Trefusis Returns!" in Paperweight (1993) p. 279.
    • Originally printed in The Daily Telegraph circa 1990.
  • (On libraries) What's great about them is that anybody can go into them and find a book and borrow it free of charge and read it. They don't have to steal it from a bookshop... You know when you're young, you're growing up, they're almost sexually exciting places because books are powerhouses of knowledge, and therefore they're kind of slightly dark and dangerous. You see books that kind of make you go 'Oh!'
    • Room 101 (2001)
  • I don't think we should ever allow religion the trick of maintaining that the spiritual and the beautiful and the noble and the altruistic and the morally strong and the virtuous are in any way inventions of religion or particular or peculiar to religion. It's certainly true that you could say the Christ who said "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" - that's a wonderful to have said. Anyone who said that would earn a great deal of respect and interest, you'd say that's one of most beautiful phrases ever, ever uttered. But there is no, absolutely no monopoly on beauty and truth in religion, and I suppose one of the reasons that I'm so fond of the Greeks, and one of the reasons that the great radical and poet Shelley wrote his Prometheus Unbound was that he understood that if you were to compare the Genesis myth, which has, which had bedeviled our culture, the Western European culture for a very long time indeed, for two thousand years, it was essentially a myth in which we should be ashamed of ourselves. God says: who told you you were naked? What possible reason have we to believe that we are naked or that if we are naked there is something to be ashamed of, that what we are and what we do is something for which we should ever apologise, we should apologise for our dreams, our impulses, our appetites, our drives, our desires, are not things to apologise for. Our actions sometimes we do apologise for and we excoriate ourselves for and rightly, but that's the Genesis myth. The Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven and who gave to his favourite - his favourite mortal: man. In other words what the Greeks were saying is that we have divine fire, whatever is divine is in us, as humans. We are as good as the gods. The gods are capricious and mean and foolish and stupid and jealous and rapine and all the things that Greek mythology show us that they are, and that's a much better it seems to me - and for that the gods punished Prometheus and chained him to the Caucasus and vultures chewed away at his liver everyday as it regrew because he was immortal of course, and Shelley quite rightly understood - and interestingly his wife of course wrote Frankenstein as the modern Prometheus - understood that that mythological idea, that champion of a real humanity and a real humanism, as we've come to call it, is we are captains of our soul and masters of our destiny, and that we contain any divine fire that there is, divine fire that is fine and great. I mean it's perfectly obvious that if there were ever a God he has lost all possible taste. You've only got to look - forget the aggression and unpleasantness of the radical right or the Islamic hordes to the East - the sheer lack of intelligence and insight and ability to express themselves and to enthuse others of the priesthood and the clerisy here, in this country, and indeed in Europe, you know God once had Bach and Michelangelo on his side, he had Mozart, and now who does he have? People with ginger whiskers and tinted spectacles who reduce the glories of theology to a kind of sharing, you know? That's what religion has become a feeble and anaemic nonsense, because we understood that the fire was within us, it was not in some idol on an altar, whether it was a gold cross or whether it was a Buddha or anything else, that we have it. The fault is in our stars, but also the glory is (correcting himself) in us not in our stars. The glory - anything - we take credit for what is great about man and we take blame for what is dreadful about man, we neither grovel or apologise at the feet of a god, or are so infantile as to project the idea that we once had a father as human beings and we therefore should have a divine one too. We have to grow up, which is partly what Christopher was saying.
  • If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people in the world?
    • QI, panel quiz show, hosted by Fry, (2003--present)
  • greasy, miserable, British and pathetic
    • (On the sacking of Angus Deayton from Have I Got News For You
    • On the BBC Website

Moab is My Washpot (autobiography, 1997)

  • I have always disbelieved that Sicilian saying about revenge being a dish best served cold. I feel that--don't you?--when I see blinking, quivering octogenarian Nazi war criminals being led away in chains. Why not then? It's too late now. I want to see them taken back in time and punished then...Blame, certainly, is a dish only edible when served fresh and warm. Old blames, grudges and scores congeal and curdle and cause the most terrible indigestion.
  • I have to mime at parties when everyone sings Happy Birthday...mime or mumble and rumble and growl and grunt so deep that only moles, manta rays and mushrooms can hear me.
    • on his frustrating inability to sing
  • I know that my early life was at one and the same time so common as to be unremarkable, and so strange as to be the stuff of fiction. I know of course that this is how all human lives are, but that it is only given to a few of us to luxuriate in the bath of self-revelation, self-curiosity, apology, revenge, bafflement, vanity and egoism that goes under the name Autobiography. You have seen me at my washpot scrubbing at the grime of years: to wallow in a washpot may not be the same thing as to be purified and cleansed, but I have come away from this very draining, highly bewildering and passionately intense few months feeling slightly less dirty. Less dirty about the first twenty years of my life, at least. The second twenty, now that is another story.
  • It is a cliché that most clichés are true, but then like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.
  • It is, I know, for I have experienced it perhaps twice in my life, an awful privilege to be too much loved and perhaps the kindest thing I ever did in my life was never to let Matthew know to what degree he had destroyed my peace and my happiness.
  • I remember nothing of this, no ambulance rides, nothing. Nothing between switching out the bedside lamp and the sudden indignity of rebirth: the slaps, the brightness, the tubing, the speed, the urgent insistence that I be choked back into breathing life. I have felt so sorry for babies ever since.
    • on his suicide attempt at age 17
  • LSD reveals the whatness of things, their quiddity, their essence. The wateriness of water is suddenly revealed to you, the carpetness of carpets, the woodness of wood, the yellowness of yellow, the fingernailness of fingernails, the allness of all, the nothingness of all, the allness of nothing. For me music gives access to every one of these essences of existence, but at a fraction of the social or financial cost of a drug and without the need to cry 'Wow!' all the time, which is one of LSD's most distressing and least endearing side-effects.
  • When I had first caught sight of Matthew I saw the beauty in everything. Now I saw only ugliness and decay. All beauty was in the past. Again and again I wrote in poems, in notes, on scraps of paper. My whole life stretched out gloriously behind me. If I wrote that sick phrase once, I wrote it fifty times. And I believed it, too.
  • Life, that can shower you with so much splendour, is unremittingly cruel to those who have given up.
  • My vocal cords are made of tweed. I give off an air of Oxford donnishness and old BBC wirelesses.
  • My first words, as I was being born... I looked up at my mother and said, "that's the last time I'm coming out one of those."
    • On being gay


  • How can one not be fond of something that the Daily Mail despises?
  • Beyond question, the north Norfolk coastline is the place where I feel happiest in the world: from Dersingham to Blakeney is just superb. It's the beaches, the tide, the skies, the birds and the fishermen, the people who live and work there. It's in danger of becoming Notting Hill-by-the-sea, it's so desirable.
  • Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
  • I spent a long time in the school library listening to [music], but I was always frustrated that I never seemed to be able to really get inside the music. I used to conduct as I listened. Wildly. Some children did air guitar... I did air baton. There's a piano in my house, and I play when no one's around - but as soon as anyone listens, my confidence goes and I lose my sense of rhythm.
  • I think animal testing is cruel. They might get nervous and give silly answers. (From an episode of A Bit of Fry and Laurie)
  • "I was asked to be on that Grumpy Old Men programme and I refused because I said, 'If I go on, I will be grumpy about grumpy old men.' I think there's nothing more pathetic than people moaning about mobile phones."
  • Many people would no more think of entering journalism than the sewage business - which at least does us all some good.
  • Oh, I love TV. I've got cable with all the bells and whistles. Sunday nights are perfect for sinking into a Foyle's War or a Midsomer Murders.
  • The day I stop learning is the day it all goes wrong and I start twitching my middle-class curtains, glaring at strangers and shopping for lawn mowers.
  • There is so much we can learn from TV. It's a window on the world.
  • They're rather stout, and dignified, and slightly raffish, and a little bit rumpled and slightly annoyed at things.
    • On why the Brits love Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear.
  • When you've seen a nude infant doing a backward somersault you know why clothing exists.
  • Religion - Shit it. (From an episode of Q.I)
  • Sometimes there just isn't enough vomit in the world.. (Once on Have I Got News For You and once on Q.I.)
  • Lots of actors don't do their best stuff until they're over forty. Look at...that Hugh fellow, you know, the one from House.(referring to his Fry & Laurie co-star Hugh Laurie)

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