Stephen Fry is a certified British national treasure. The Cambridge University-educated actor/writer/TV presenter is so wonderful that it's a pleasure to see him make a mistake, as he did today in his weekly Guardian technology column, Dork Talk. When speaking of the lashings of press Apple receives whenever it releases a new product, Fry wrote: "Whoopy-doo, as Americans like to say."
Cor-flimey, I've never met an American who liked to say that, or disliked it for that matter, that is, who ever said it. "Whoop-di-doo," perhaps, or, current favorite, "Big whup." But never "whoopy-doo." (We do "make whoopy"--or did in the 1920s--although actually I think that's spelled "whoopie.")
We don't really have people like Fry in America: someone who can be intellectual AND funny. American audiences probably know him best through "Jeeves & Wooster," the TV adaptation of the P.G. Wodehouse stories. But he's a fixture on television here and currently hosts an amazing program called "Q.I." The British have a lot of comedy quiz shows that require the celebrity contestants to actually have two brain cells and a synapse between them. "Q.I."--it means "quite interesting" and has evolved into a mini-empire-- is the cream of the crop. Fry is master of ceremonies as two two-person celebrity teams compete to answer questions about....About what? Oh, the physics of invisible ink, the architecture of whale penises, the German national anthem, faux European Union directives--that sort of thing. It really doesn't make much difference what the topics are since they're just excuses to spout witty in the discursive way that seemingly only the British can do.
"Q.I." is our current favorite program[me], despite the fact that it is so funny it can be physically painful to watch. (The closest we come to it in America is probably NPR's "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me." And it's not that close.)
I can imagine BBC television producers kicking around ideas and one saying, "Let's get Stephen Fry to do it!" It doesn't really matter much what "it" is: a documentary on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a tour of West Country cheddar farms, a quiz show on the Law of the Sea Treaty. Whatever it is would get that trademark Fry touch: witty and erudite, cerebral without being off-puttingly intellectual, clever but not too-clever-by-half, twinkly-eyed and chuckley, if that's a word (and if it isn't, it should be), with at least one Oscar Wilde quote per episode.
Fry's current project appears to involve traveling to all 50 states in the U.S. in a black London taxicab. (The Brits love unleashing their comics on the world, Baedeker in hand.) I can't wait to see it. Or, as Stephen Fry might say, "Whoopy-doo!"