British comedian Stephen Fry explores the country he almost called home.
STEPHEN FRY HAS A FEW WORDS of advice for international tourists visiting America: Bring your own cheese. Bring your own tea. Resist the trail mix.
He should know. Fry traveled nearly 20,000 miles across the United States in a black London taxi before penning his recently released book, Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All (William Morrow, $35). So why the sudden fervor for the States from the man affectionately known as Uncle Stephen in Great Britain? Turns out, Stephen Fry from London was this close to being Steve Fry from New Jersey when his father was offered a job at Princeton University in the mid-1950s. His father, however, turned the job down, and Fry was born a Brit.
Intrigued by his life that almost was, Fry, the 52-year-old longtime comedic partner of Houses Hugh Laurie, spent eight months exploring what it means to be American and captured his experiences in his book and accompanying TV series, which has been airing on PBS. We asked Fry to share what he learned along the way.
Best state slogan: Where America Finds Its Voice. Alabama is a rather great slogan, dont you think? Wouldnt it be wonderful if the Alabama accent were truly Americas voice?
Sight most worthy of the phrase Only in America: The grandeur and nobility of landscape is a given, I suppose. But the vast truck stops; the upside-down house in Gatlinburg, Tenn. [at the WonderWorks Amusement Park for the Mind]; Las Vegas (all of it); Atlantic City and [Maharishi] Vedic City, in Iowa.
Part of the trip Steve Fry would have liked best: The 2009 Iron Bowl Game [between the University of Alabama and Auburn University]: such hoopla, such passion, such pageant, pomp, parade and pizzazz.
Spot most likely to become the next American hot spot for Brits: Lake Powell impressed [me] with its serene, surreal, 1970s-albumcover beauty. The scale of it is astounding. And the opportunity for a peaceful yet endearingly wacky boating holiday along its endless shores is irresistible.
American culinary creation least likely to appear on British menus: The Bismarck, N.D., fried burger in pastry brings on acid reflux even as I think of it. And outside of Wisconsins more artisanal cheesemakers, their habit up there of rolling processed cheese in dough and deep-frying it makes me want to sob.
American English word he fancies most: I love druthers; we have no equivalent. The word that I could not escape is awesome. I have yet to see anything that doesnt qualify for the word: Ice cream is awesome, a picture someones just taken on their iPhone is awesome and so is the Grand Canyon. Go figure.