From the 1970's to the 1990's, comedy had something of a Golden Age in both America and the U.K. In the U.S., The Second City comedy improv shop spawned dozens of stars who found their way first to the television program Saturday Night Live, and then on to successful solo careers. Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, John Candy, Elaine May - they all got their start doing improv. In the U.K., Monty Python's Flying Circus was the launch point for the careers of all of the actors in the program (John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and others). Rowan Atkinson became best known for his role in the Blackadder comedy series, and it was on this program that Fry and Laurie also appeared.
By this time, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were already well known from their own program on BBC - A Bit of Fry and Laurie. British humor is different from American humor, and relies less on improvisation. The Fry and Laurie skits were carefully constructed, and both actors stayed on script, which was quite important because the skits had twist and turns that would otherwise be hard to follow if the actors broke down in laughter. There was a good deal of dressing up in skits involving period pieces, and both actors were comfortable playing women, which was also a feature on the Monty Python series. The lines were witty and topical for British audiences, but it is certainly possible to enjoy them many years later in their YouTube reincarnation.
In watching both of these performers from the 1980's and 1990's, you can appreciate what excellent all-around actors these two men are. This explains why they have had such successful careers outside of comedy. Hugh Laurie is best known in the U.S. for his role as Dr. House, in which he played an acerbic, unlikable physician who is tolerated because he is absolutely brilliant at diagnoses. Stephen Fry recently appeared on Broadway as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. He has also had a career as a defender of gay rights, as an outspoken atheist, and as a public debater taking positions against religion.
There are so many hilarious sketches of Fry and Laurie to choose from, but I had to select a few, so I have three here for your delight. I won't even bother to explain these skits or set them up for you. It is best to let the humor and the plot unfold as you watch the two of them work together. The three skits are The Chosen One (especially appropriate given the rage in cinema for fantasy films), The Card Shop, and Model Airplanes? (one of their very best skits). The BBC owns the rights to these videos so I try to post those that are legally uploaded with proper credit. Still, as these videos sometimes are removed from the internet, I have to relocate them, so be patient if they have temporarily disappeared.