I discovered Hugh Laurie through my husband, who is English. The Limey grew up watching A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Black Adder. Hugh Laurie was constantly on tv, and I believe my husband took this for granted. Contrarywise, even when Hugh Laurie became huge in the US and was on House, I never watched while it was on. It was *too* popular. When something gets that big I feel an overwhelming pressure about it – I didn’t want to watch House with the rest of America. If I was going to fall in love with a tv show – and looking back that was pretty much written in the stars – I wanted it to be on my own timetable.
When we met, the Limey introduced me to the wonder that was Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. Lawd have mercy, they were brilliant together. Hugh Laurie always looks annoyed and upset while Fry has a very open visage. They’re the perfect double act, playing off each other. I just devoured every Black Adder and Fry & Laurie produced and still wanted more.
I began to consume House like it was water and I was a man who had just had a Guatemalan insanity pepper. I would watch an episode as I did an hour on the elliptical. The show made the time go by quicker. It was brilliant; he was brilliant. Stephen Fry actually had a funny quip about his former co-star in the role of House: “Hugh makes you think he’s as smart as the character.”
Last August I saw him in concert at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It was a tiny venue, and I was about 5 feet away from him. He is astonishingly beautiful up close. I kept imagining how he’d smell and it would send me into a state of blissful catatonia. I just wanted to sit there all night and dream about that sexy, handsome man. He was funny on stage, and his music was flat-out amazing.
Then last night happened.
Holy merlot. As he pointed out when he took the stage, Oxford is his hometown,and he really put on a show for the home team. He was hilarious, such as when he said, “I was born just a … well a placenta’s throw from here… at Radcliffe Infirmary… Wow. Placenta. That’s an odd place to start the evening.” Yup. But somehow, it worked. One thing I truly admired about his performance was his ability to be funny on the fly – it was a weird and delightful mix of humour and truly soulful music. He was loose and funny and open, with tons of praise for his band. His admiration for them was obvious; it is rather amusing to see a big Hollywood actor openly admire other artists, but he was bare in his emotion for them. He danced – often in a ridiculous white guy dance – and he was sexy as hell when he sang a duet with Gaby Moreno. His voice is excellent: it is a voice you trust. Yes, he’s English and speaks with an Eton accent. But he can also sing like he’s fresh from the Louisiana bayous, circa 1928 too, such as when he gave a heart-quaking performance of “Careless Love”. You could feel the wistfulness down to your toes. Then he’d jump up and make you laugh at his comedian’s patter.
That is his talent: his ability to fully become whoever he wants. He was Dr. House. And at the same time, he is a very credible jazz singer. Like his friend Stephen Fry, he is a polymath. He seems to embrace the duel acting/singing roles – though last night he said, “I used to be an actor” which made me think perhaps he isn’t anymore.
That’s a loss. But I am like an Italian wife who keeps making spaghetti as long as Tony keeps showing up for dinner. As long as he’s doing something, I will be watching, and listening, and fantasizing.
My images of the evening are poor, but I share my meagre gifts with you: