Bill Bailey


Comedy, Features | by — March 5, 2014



by Amanda Farley

A Church of Bill Bailey would be the kind of organisation I could really get behind. Often described as a ‘modern-day renaissance man’, Bailey is a comedy deity of note. He effortlessly weaves his magic on stage, combining comedy genius with flawless musical talent. For years he has delighted audiences around the world with his unique style and distinct surrealist humour.

It’s very hard not to like him. He exudes a warmth and a quaint eccentricity that disarm you immediately and an individuality in his comedy that sets him above the sameness of a lot of his contemporaries. He’s always made it quite clear that he’s not a fan of jokes and certainly not of punchlines. His humour comes instead from the way he tells his stories. He deconstructs the joke and brings you down delightful comic side roads that offer a much richer comedy terrain.

His shows, which combine a mixture of traditional standup, observational comedy, audience interaction and music, always work at subverting the audiences’ expectations. Bailey pushes the boundaries of what comedy is and what we expect from it. He draws on our shared experiences, both conscious and subconscious, to look at the world with a fresh perspective and uses this to send-up the hypocrisy and ridiculousness that exists within society.

His latest shows, work-in-progress affairs, are typical in that they challenge the audience to really look at where the world is right now and how we are acting as a society. Bailey has always had a political core at the heart of his work but in his newest material there is a sense of change. A feeling that the comedy landscape is shifting and that he is very much at the cutting edge of it all. If Russell Brand is calling for revolution, Bill Bailey is offering an alternative uprising, one that is more grounded in practical action. He is calling us to think.

He does so in his own charming and silly way. There is nothing aggressive about this call to arms. It is merely the voice calling out in the desert and smashing the old mirages that have held us inactive for too long. A voice that sings of Nando’s and Downton Abbey, and one that is honest about what it sees as the failings of our political establishment and the general sense of unease in the world.

Bailey is not setting himself up as a messiah figure, or even a wise old owl. Rather he is the grumpy but amicable neighbour discussing politics over the garden fence, the man in the street who cares. He combines personal anecdote and surreal logic with politics to create material that is different and interesting. All the while never going for the gag, but always going for the thought instead.

And all he asks is that you don’t call him a celebrity. Despite his Rock Star like stage presence, underneath it all he is just like his audience; a normal, flawed person trying desperately to make sense of life. He doesn’t hide from us, he is open about his nerdy nature and his day to day life. Tales like his holiday planning failures endear him to us. How can you not love someone who consistently shows you such silliness and honesty?

Honesty that has always been an important part of his work and helped him to stay true to his comic voice. He talks about what matters to him and in doing so the audience realize that they care too. We are gently being educated while we laugh and at the end we leave richer than when we arrived. His energy and passion are infectious, drawing us in and keeping us hooked, while also propelling him onward, taking him from instrument to instrument, anecdote to observation with skillful ease.

We all need a little laughter in our lives and we all have our own comedy gods, the performers that seem to speak directly to our funny bone. Bailey is one of mine. He offers comedy that challenges and I for one would welcome more comedians to following suit. Maybe its time for a change, maybe its time to start thinking for ourselves.

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