Preview: Stephen Fry in America- taking the bus to Clarksdale
Stephen Fry follows the mighty Mississippi River from its southern-most tip in Louisiana through to its source in the snowy wastes of Minnesota, on the border with Canada, as he continues his road trip around every state in the USA.
Last week, he outraged many in the South when he said: “I’d rather be curled up in a snowy cabin with a hot whisky or, quite frankly, a Horlicks than I would spend half an hour in this rotting place.”
This week it’s, Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Here, Stephen meets high priestess Sallie Anne Glassman, whose voodoo charms are employed to try to fix his recently broken arm.
Driving through the Lower 9th Ward with Iraqi veteran Isaiah, Stephen witnesses for himself the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, before heading to Angola, Louisiana’s notorious State Penitentiary. There, warden Burl Cain takes him on a tour of the 18,000-acre prison, where 5,000 inmates, the majority of whom are African-American, are locked up for life.
In Mississippi, he heads to Clarksdale, the home of the Delta Blues. He joins Morgan Freeman at his blues club and finds out what’s happening to the Delta now.
Stephen heads next to St Louis, Missouri, and then drives through the snow-covered corn fields of Iowa and on to Michigan, where he visits Henry Ford’s remarkable village in a Model T before test driving the latest Cadillac with its designer, John Mancunia.
In Chicago, Stephen takes a trip down memory lane through the city’s South Side, with blues legend Buddy Guy, before making a guest appearance at Second City Theater, the country’s renowned training ground for improvisational comedy.
Stephen drives through thick snow to Westby in Wisconsin where he learns to milk a sheep and churn the curds with artisanal cheesemaker Brendan Jenson.
Following the now-frozen Mississippi, he arrives in Minneapolis and is surprised to find a thriving Hmong community living there. These opium-growing hill tribes people from Laos were former allies of the USA during the Vietnam War and were resettled in this most unlikely of places.
On Lake Minnetonka, Stephen goes traditional ice fishing and catches his first fish for 40 years.