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Bill Bailey: 'I created chaos at a funeral. It's good to make adults behave irrationally'

By Oscar Quine

Published 03/12/2015

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey, the 51-year-old comic and TV regular on not getting a haircut, his part in Ed Miliband’s downfall, and how his lightbulb moment came at a funeral.

Q: How is your current tour Limboland coming along?

A: It's evolving all the time. I'm always trying out new bits of material and they find their way into the show. You have your subs on the bench and say to them, "Ah, it's your turn tonight, up you come." I'd get slightly frustrated with it if I was just churning out the same show.

Q: You've built a career around music and comedy, which not many people have done successfully.

A: My comedy comes from the actual music itself - they're observational musical gags. I could take the music away and it would just be some words. But there are a lot of people who have prosecuted this in quite a successful way: Flight of the Conchords, Tim Minchin ...

Q: Chas & Dave?

A: Black Lace with Agadoo. One of the greats.

Q: You got an A in A-level music. Have you ever been back in touch with your old music teachers?

A: Linda Phipps. She was one of those proper inspiring teachers, who would get you to do more than you think you are capable of. She turned up one night at a gig in Cambridge and from that point we kept in touch and worked together a little. Sadly she died shortly after that. I do think of her a lot.

Q: Was there a formative moment where you thought 'Hang on, there's something in making people laugh?'

A: After the funeral of an elderly aunt, we were having a wake at home. I remember doing a Les Dawson piano routine. It created this chaos bomb. Dad spat his tea out and Mum swore. I thought that was quite good - making adults behave in an irrational way.

Q: It's said comedians are the new rock stars, with these sell-out arena tours. Would you have preferred to be a rock star?

A: Yes definitely. I always imagined I'd be doing that as a kid. I had this whole fantasy where I'd be touring with a band and have a bank of keyboards and all the rest of it. I had this tremendous moment of deja vu when I was on stage at Wembley with a bank of keyboards thinking, "Oh yeah, I remember this".

Q: You described Ed Miliband as a plastic bag caught in a tree. I imagine it's trickled back to him. Do you regret it?

A: I don't know. I didn't realise it would have such an effect. Maybe I'm guilty of contributing to his downfall, but I think there were other elements at play there. There is something very poignant about plastic bags. These lonely plastic bags that gradually disintegrate.

Q: You seem rather more positive about Jeremy Corbyn?

A: I think people are quite refreshed with politicians who aren't concerned with what Arctic Monkeys track they like, but with the day-to-day, dull business of politics.

Q: You come across as quite approachable. Do you have people coming up to you in the street?

A: Oh yeah. If I'm sitting on a train and someone gets up to go to the shop they say, "Oh Bill, do you want anything?" like we're old mates. I'm so used to it now.

Q: Do you ever think you will get a haircut then that you can't, because it's such a part of your identity?

A: I think about doing it and then think I cannot be bothered. Part of the reason why it's like that in the first place is that I'm not so bothered.

Q: Were you actually once a door-to-door door salesman?

A: I have sold stuff door-to-door, but not doors. One year at the Edinburgh festival I constructed an entirely fictitious biography, for my own amusement really. Some of it managed to make its way to Wikipedia, a place of lies.

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