In Britain they are both treasured entertainers, but Hugh Laurie streaked ahead of his old friend Stephen Fry in the international celebrity stakes with a highly lucrative role in the US medical drama House.
Now Fry is making his own bid for network success, by signing up to make his American television debut alongside the Harry Potter star Rupert Grint in a new CBS comedy pilot.
Super Clyde, produced by Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl, Family Guy), tells the story of a “well-meaning and slightly neurotic” fast-food worker (Grint), who inherits wealth and decides to become a superhero.
Fry will play his butler and sidekick Randolph, who will help him on his crime-fighting adventures, in what appears to be a sizeable nod to Alfred and Bruce Wayne of the Batman franchise.
Fry’s character may need him to call on a former role: From 1990 to 1993, he starred in the PG Wodehouse television adaptation Jeeves and Wooster, playing savvy butler Jeeves opposite his former comedy partner Laurie’s gormless Wooster.
The Fry and Laurie partnership was placed on ice when Hugh, 53, landed the role of the cantankerous Dr Gregory House in House. A huge hit over an eight-series run, Laurie landed two Golden Globes for his performance and earned £255,000 an episode, making him the highest paid actor on US television, before quitting the role last year.
London-born Fry has become one of the UK’s most loved personalities in recent years, making numerous documentaries and hosting the hugely popular quiz show QI, while appearing in countless acting roles. Analysis revealed that the 55-year-old had appeared no fewer than 189 times in a two-week period over Christmas 2012. However, one career goal has slipped through the grasp of the former Blackadder star – he has yet to conquer the US market.
Stateside audiences might have encountered him in numerous supporting film roles, such as V for Vendetta, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Alice in Wonderland, not discounting his narration of the Harry Potter audiobooks and video game. Yet by signing up to this new project, he is attempting to crack the world’s biggest television audience.
Laurie was a virtual unknown in America when he assumed such a convincing American accent that House executive producer Bryan Singer – who didn’t realise he was English – cast him on the spot.
Singer later said he was relieved to have found the compelling “American” actor he had been looking for. Since the series ended, Laurie has released a blues album and appeared in several Hollywood films.
After striking up a partnership in the Cambridge Footlights, Fry and Laurie became one of the foremost comedy double acts in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s; their hugely popular sketch show A Bit of Fry and Laurie made them into national figures.
It is unlikely that the duo, still very much friends, will fall out over this new rivalry – an American collaboration could even be on the cards.
Not to be outshone, Laurie announced a second album in his new guise as a blues singer and a UK concert tour.