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A full glass of Bailey's

Trudie Robinson discovers that Bill Bailey's first joke was dead funny

Published on November 12th 2007.


A full glass of Bailey's

"I think it was I made my mum and dad and a few relatives laugh at a funeral once when I was a kid," ponders Bill Bailey searching to pinpoint the moment when he first decided to try comedy.

"It was a tremendous sense of rebellion, a sense of power. It was a very sombre occasion and I was a kid and I just played some old Les Dawson piano routine [where Dawson would play the instrument out of tune]. I played the piano quite well and I was able to mimic that and somebody just spat their tea out and laughed, someone else swore and dropped a cup or something and there was a little bomb of chaos that went off at this little ordered wake… at the same time a light bulb went on in my head."

When I did my first ever show in Edinburgh I thought, people are going to sit here for an hour. A whole hour? What the hell am I going to do for an hour?

Thankfully he’s moved on to somewhat cheerier, mostly, easier gigs: starting out as one half of the Rubber Bishops in the mid eighties going it alone in the nineties and achieving success in the noughties. Possibly left over from his days as one half of a double act, but despite the twenty years experience he still worries how to keep the audience on side during a full length solo show.

"When I did my first ever show in Edinburgh I thought, people are going to sit here for an hour. A whole hour? What the hell am I going to do for an hour? The first time I went up there I wrote a show that had three twenty minute sets in it. I flung them together and I had a keyboard and a guitar and some effects and a prop and lighting. Even though it was an 80 seater in the Gilded Balloon upstairs behind the boiler - the one where they chuck you out because they’re putting the brooms back in there - I was thinking of the theatricality of it as well as the material to make it look like a show. That’s something I’ve always strived to do."

This time he has more space to fill as he’s doing a small tour of big arenas - such as the gargantuan MEN Arena - so as well as Bailey, his oddball sense of humour and a handful of instruments, what else has he lined up?

"Clips and stuff and films and stills, photos and visual effects. I really try and use the screens cos the last time I used projection I really didn’t know what I was doing. This time I’m trying to integrate the visuals into part of the comedy, this is just another facet of it, I always like to keep things moving forward. Try and do things I’ve not done before focus on that element of it as well as writing a lot of new stuff, songs and stuff."

Material wise expect him to riff in a traditional Bailey random manner.

"A lot of things come out of what’s happened just doing gigs and travelling around, derived from that, conspiracy theories, the retreat of reason, the gonzo weirdness of America..."

And will there be Les Dawson-style piano playing at the MEN gig in tribute of the portly local hero? No, probably not, but it'll still be one of the funniest things you'll see this year.

Bill Bailey’s Tinselworm is at the MEN Arena for three nights from 13-16 November.

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mrs. trellisNovember 12th 2007.

The Scott Walker homage to love from Part Troll still makes me weep with laughter...

Tricky KidNovember 12th 2007.

I went to see Bill on Monday night and it was quite simply fantastic. The guy is charmingly funny. I love the fact that he doesn't have to swear to make people laugh and the technologically top notch stage show he's created for Tinselworm, was ace.

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