Comfortably ensconced in the front seat of a London black cab, Stephen Fry has been on an epic tour of all 50 states of the USA, for his new series Stephen Fry in America (starts Sunday 12 October, BBC1). But as well as revealing the many and varied wonders of the United States, the trip has made Fry ashamed of his own countrymen. We asked him why.
"We British like to believe that Americans are ignorant, irony-free and vulgar. I found no more evidence of that than I find of the Dutch, the Italians, the Danes, the Russians, the Australians and - most certainly - the British. I grew more and more ashamed of Britons' exultant and ignorant arrogance in this regard."
But what of the extremism we hear so much of? "Of course, if you search you can find gun nuts, white supremacists, weird rapture religionists, god-hates-faggots extremists and freaks and weirdoes of all descriptions. But so you can here in Britain. It's an embarrassing index of our own inferiority complex that we presume to think ourselves smarter than Americans."
"What I certainly found is that [Americans] are, in general, much warmer, kinder, more courteous, hospitable and considerate than the British. Much."
So did anything disappoint Fry about his American cousins? "Americans, sadly, don't really understand coffee, bread or cheese - the great staples of life. It will give you some idea of how poor the general standard is when I tell you that Starbucks becomes one's idea of a great cup of coffee. Cheese? Forget it, unless you're in a world-class restaurant in a city. Bread? Same problem."
How do you feel about Stephen's comments? Do you agree with his analysis of the Americans - and the British? Post a comment.......