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By Jem Roberts
Name any entertainer you love, and chances are they had a start in the theater. Maybe it was a grade-school Christmas play, or Our Town as a teen. But it’s more than likely that that movie star or talk-show host or pop singer or radio DJ caught the performance bug on stage. Case in point: the beloved duo Fry and Laurie. You surely know Hugh Laurie from his magnetic small-screen turn as the know-it-all doc in House and his second career as a blues artist; Stephen Fry is the voice of the U.K. audiobooks for the Harry Potter series, the host of the game show QI, the creator of intelligent podcasts, and the star of Shakespeare productions in London and New York, among other endeavors. And for both of them, it all began on the stage. In a new, very fannish and friendly dual biography of the team by Jem Roberts, the most interesting details appear when Fry and Laurie meet at Cambridge: Laurie is the head of Footlights, the amateur theatricals club that has spawned many a career, and Fry, despite suffering from stage fright, could not resist the allure of an audience. And so began a beautiful partnership. They launched a sketch show (bringing along chum Emma Thompson) that made them stars in the U.K., and then topped that with a pitch-perfect adaptation of the PG Wodehouse comic stories featuring classic characters Jeeves and Wooster. Watching Laurie pivot from the smarter-than-smart House to the dumber-than-dumb Bertie Wooster is a head-spinning delight. Roberts dutifully documents their sprawling careers, but theater buffs who love Fry and Laurie (or just Fry, or just Laurie) will savor the revealing bits showing where it all began.