Fiona Duff: You can’t Fry off the handle at Stephen

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Watching the Baftas on Sunday night was a lot of fun. Do you remember the days when they took place after the Oscars and, frankly my dear, the big American stars couldn’t give a damn?

Those who had won one of those gold statuettes were hardly going to schlep across the Atlantic from sunny LA for a sausage roll in some damp city in Britain. And those that hadn’t won were in a huff, crying themselves to sleep every night as grown-ups in la-la land do so often.

Again and again as the winners were announced, an assistant cameraman would pop up on stage to collect the award and then be shooed off stage right before he could open his gob. I can’t even remember who used to present the show.

These days, scheduled before the Oscars, it is on a different level. There are more Hollywood stars than needed to make a set of Top Trumps and it’s all pulled together with ease and brilliant British humour by Stephen Fry.

As the host, he does being British better than anyone. Self-deprecating and quick-witted, his dry sense of humour was, at times, lost on our American cousins in the audience. Whilst Tom Hanks laughed uproariously at many of the jokes, others looked rather bewildered, thinking that they had been invited to a self-congratulatory backslap fest, not realising that we don’t do self-congratulations in Blighty.

Well, that is, not unless you want a slap across the back of the legs from your mother. Can you imagine an American actor introducing another as “a ghastly, shrieking, stinking piece of offal” as Fry did Emma Thompson, only for the latter to stagger down the aisle like a deranged auntie who had just discovered the cooking sherry and then announce that to be described as such was, to her, a compliment. To be honest if a man with Fry’s wit and intelligence called me anything I would be chuffed to bits.

Hubby will soon be showering play with praise

During the Fringe I might, on some days, see four shows in a day. I don’t always worry about making sure I have a friend to chum me along – at that time of the year you aren’t branded a saddo for sitting alone.

In fact, at one show last year I was quite literally the only person in the audience, and I wish I had taken a mate to sit beside me. One person I can’t rely on is my husband – he’s fine with a bit of comedy and some death- defying acrobatics, but always says that theatre is not for him.

But for all his gruff exterior, I reckon that deep down there’s quite a feminine streak as I once overheard him saying his favourite live show ever was Mamma Mia! Next week I have tickets for Singin’ in The Rain at the Festival Theatre and I reckon I won’t have to look far to find someone to take the other ticket. Now, where’s my umbrella?

Dentists are smiles better now

As a child, one of the most miserable journeys I made on a fairly regular basis was to the dentist. I knew I had to go as my mother drummed into me that the teeth I had in my head were all I had for the rest of my days; if I didn’t get them checked every six months I would end up with a pair of wallies (this was obviously well before the implant industry).

The practice I go to in Edinburgh, and have done so for 15 years, is New Town Dental Care in Henderson Row. In the beginning it was a nondescript place to wander into – the dentists did their job in a fairly desultory manner and then I left. However, more recently it’s been taken over by some younger chappies and the rooms have been given a bit of a makeover.

Best of all, it has started doing late-night openings so you don’t have to take time off work. At 7pm on Monday I sat down in the waiting room and picked up a magazine. When I saw that it was dated March 2014 I almost fell off my chair, but Derek the Dentist was ready for me almost immediately. He’s a cheery soul, all smiles and jokes, which helped take my mind off the scary implements he was wielding.

All in all, it was quite a pleasant experience. I reckon they might have to rewrite Little Shop of Horrors.

Game for laugh at hall’s party

Talking of the Fringe, an amalgamation of some of the funniest people I have seen up here in various Augusts will be appearing on the same bill as part of the Usher Hall’s centenary celebrations on March 7.

The absolutely incomparable Dylan Moran, above, will be joined on stage by Arthur Smith, Doon Mackichan and Barry Cryer & Ronnie Golden. Basically, if you’re looking for a laugh in a fortnight’s time, you know where to go.