The Laughing Prisoner
As a huge fan of the comedy of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and as a spy fan, I’ve long wanted to see The Laughing Prisoner, their 1987 parody of the Patrick McGoohan classic The Prisoner starring British TV presenter Jools Holland. I’ve searched high and low for a bootleg DVD to little avail, and I’ve hoped for the short to turn up as a bonus feature on some official Prisoner release, but when it wasn’t included on Network’s more or less definitive UK edition last year, that hope seemed to dissipate. Last week, I discovered that the entire forty-minute program had been lurking for some time right beneath my nose, on YouTube! And, unfortunately, with a script by Fry and Holland with "additional material" by Laurie, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
While Stephen Fry looks good wandering around Portmeiron dressed as Number 2, and there are a few good, surreal moments like Siouxsie and the Banshees performing Iggy Pop’s "The Passenger" in The Village, most of the humor is not up to Fry’s usual, intelligent standard. It’s more along the lines of:
-You are the new Number 6?
-No, I’m Number 7. You’ve got the wrong number, I’m afraid.
Even the better jokes fail to rise above rather obvious potty humor, like Fry’s comments about Number 6: "He’s known more No. 2's than the gentleman’s lavatory at Waterloo Station!"
Sigh. I’d hoped for so much more... Oh well. The Laughing Prisoner probably isn’t worth your time, but if you’ve been dying to see it for yourself, like I was, you can do so here, in four parts.
Those who haven’t seen The Prisoner through to its finale should be warned, however, that elements of the fourth segment could be considered somewhat spoilery. Rest assured, however, that you won’t miss much by avoiding it. True, you’ll miss out on Hugh Laurie, but he doesn’t really have much to do other than pull a few faces you’ve probably seen him pull before, and clap his hands while Jools sings... and dances. A lot.
But, if you want, see for yourself: