Rob talks about the cool uncle of British comedy, Bill Bailey.
Words: Rob Johnson
Bill Bailey is the cool uncle of British comedy. Whether it be appearing in cult sitcom Black Books, cult quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks or cult movie Hot Fuzz, Bailey picks his projects across a broad church of geekdom. He arrives at the Doncaster Dome for his Larks in Transit tour in high spirits and accompanied by various guitars, a theremin, a box of wonder (no, really), a keyboard and something that just plays bird calls. He is nothing if not unique.
It is customary for any comedian arriving at the Dome to joke about how odd it is to play a gig in a gymnasium, or as Bailey puts it ‘Donny Dome just reeks of show business’. This is delivered with an affection that is only fitting for one of the nicest guys in show business.
The first half of the set covers everything that floats into Bailey’s dandelion mind. Roald Dahl-esque descriptions of various Tory politicians (‘in a nice way’ offered as a caveat each time),fantastic wordplay (‘the stale pitta bread of self-loathing’) and a long section examining why the Doncaster crowd is so damn weird. When Bill asks the crowd generally if anyone is in a relationship, he is met with an uncomfortable but warm silence as if the crowd don’t want to admit to any kind of monogamy.
After the interval we are treated to a hilarious ‘poem’ about marriage which is basically a back and forth about why his wife has moved his keys, an examination of why the Loon has the most haunting birdsong, a German singalong and a delightful diversion into Indonesian phrase books. Bill Bailey’s performances are somewhere between stand-up, a rock show, and a conversation with a troll during which you have to answer a riddle to cross his rickety, old bridge.
One thing that is striking is that whenever Bailey touches any kind of musical instrument, his talent can’t help but shine through. It is astonishing that one man can be so musically gifted and yet that only be a secondary part of his live show.
Bill Bailey has often portrayed himself as a man who floats down the stream of life jumping from one barge to the other depending on what catches his eye. However, on a grey Wednesday night in Doncaster Bailey is focused, razor sharp and downright joyous. Hopefully his first ever Doncaster gig won’t be his last.
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