Bill Bailey



Mark "Bill" Bailey (born 1964, Bath, England) is an English comedian, actor, and musician known for appearing on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, QI: Quite Interesting and Black Books as well as his stand up comedy. He is a self proclaimed "confused hippie" and "part troll".

Bailey spent the majority of his childhood in Bath, where he attended King Edward's School. He excelled in music, but also claims to have been good at sports, which often surprised his teachers. It was here that he was given his nickname Bill, when a history teacher once sang the wartime song Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey in class.

He spent his early years listening to Monty Python records, and rehearsing with a band called the "Famous Five", who he himself confesses were very bad. However, he is a classically trained musician and received an associateship with the London College of Music. Despite this, he has said that he always had the temptation to be silly with music, a trait that influences his stand-up shows.

Bailey often mythologises his early years in his stand-up. In his show Bewilderness, he claims to have attended Bovington Guerney School of Performing Arts and Owl Sanctuary. He talks about a succession of jobs he had before become a comedian, including lounge pianist and accompaniment for a mind-reading dog. The latter is verifiable, as a clip was shown during his Room 101 appearance.

He also talks about his role as a Disenfranchised Owl in an experimental Welsh theatre troupe (mentioned in an interview with Australian newspaper Post). Other acting roles included a part in a Workers' Revolutionary Party stage production called The Printers, which also featured Vanessa Redgrave and Frances de la Tour. His trivia page on IMDb also claims that he was awarded Best Actor in the 1986 Institut Francais awards.

However, it wasn't until he accidentally wandered into a John Hegley gig that he decided to become a stand-up comedian.

Bailey began touring the country with other comedians such as Mark Lamarr and Phill Jupitus, and in 1989 he formed a double act, the Rubber Bishops, with Martin Stubbs. They achieved a certain amount of success on the club circuit, partly due to their rigorous schedule - sometimes as many as 3 or 4 gigs a night. It was here that Bailey began developing his own unique style, mixing in musical parodies with deconstructions or variations of traditional jokes ("How many amoebas does it take to change a lightbulb?"). Stubbs later quit to pursue a more serious career.

In 1994 Bailey performed Rock at the Edinburgh Fringe with Sean Lock, a show about an ageing rockstar and his roadie, script-edited by comedy writer Jim Miller. It was later serialised for the Mark Radcliffe show on BBC Radio 1. However, the show's attendances were not impressive and on one occasion the only person in the audience was comedian Dominic Holland. Bailey confessed in an interview with The Independent that he almost gave it up to do a telesales job.

He persevered, however, and went solo the next year with the one man show Bill Bailey's Cosmic Jam. The show was very well received and led to a recording at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London which was broadcast in 1996 on Channel 4 as a one-hour special called Bill Bailey Live. It was not until 2005 that this was released in DVD uncut and under its original title. It marked the first time that Bailey had been able to tie together his music and post-modern gags with the whimsical rambling style he is now known for. (It should be noted that a lot of the jokes from this early show were reused for the later Bewilderness and Part Troll shows, leading to some consternation from fans for "recycling").

After supporting Donna McPhail in 1995 and winning a Time Out award, he returned to Edinburgh in 1996 with a critically acclaimed show that was nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award. Amongst the other nominees was future Black Books co-star Dylan Moran, who narrowly beat him in the closest vote in the award's history.

Though he had not won the Perrier in 1996, the nomination was enough to get him noticed, and in 1998 the BBC gave him his own television show, Is It Bill Bailey?

This was not Bailey's first foray into television. As early as 1991, he was appearing in stand-up shows such as The Happening, Packing Them In, The Stand Up Show, and The Comedy Store. He also appeared as captain on two panel games, an ITV music quiz pilot called Pop Dogs, and the poorly received Channel 4 sci-fi quiz show, Space Cadets. However Is it Bill Bailey? was the first time he had written and presented his own show.

With his star on the rise and gaining public recognition, over the next few years, Bailey made well received guest appearances on shows such as Have I Got News For You, World Cup Comedy, Room 101, Des O'Connor Tonight, Coast to Coast and three episodes of off-beat Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, in which he played comic-shop manager Bilbo Bagshot.

In 1998, Dylan Moran approached him with the pilot script for Black Books, a Channel 4 sitcom about a grumpy bookshop owner, his put-upon assistant, and their neurotic female friend. It was commissioned in 2000, and Bailey took the part of the assistant Manny Bianco, with Moran playing the owner Bernard, and Tamsin Greig the friend, Fran. It was the first time Bailey performed a serious acting role using the material of another. Three series of six episodes were made, building up a large cult fanbase, providing the public awareness on which Bailey would build a successful national tour in 2001.

When Sean Hughes left his long-term role as a captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2002, Bailey became his successor. His style quickly blended into the show, possibly helped by his background in music. He soon developed a rapport of sorts with host Mark Lamarr, who continually teased him about his looks and his pre-occupation with woodland animals.

When intellectual panel game QI began in 2003, he quickly became a regular fixture, alongside host Stephen Fry and comedian Alan Davies. Other television appearances include a cameo role in the drama series Jonathan Creek as failing street magician Kenny Starkiss and obsessed guitar teacher in the "Holiday" episode of Sean Lock's Fifteen Storeys High. He later appeared with Lock again as a guest on his show TV Heaven, Telly Hell. He has also appeared twice on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and is in demand as a guest on shows such as Richard & Judy and BBC News.

In 2001, Bailey began touring the globe with Bewilderness, which became a huge success. A recording of a performance in Swansea was released on DVD the same year, and the show was broadcast on Channel 4 that Christmas. A modified version of it also proved successful in America, and in 2002 Bill released a CD of a recording at the WestBeth Theatre in New York. The show contained all his trademarks, popular music parodies (such as Unisex Chip Shop, a Billy Bragg tribute), "three men in a pub" jokes (including one in the style of Geoffrey Chaucer) and deconstructions of television themes such as Countdown and The Magic Roundabout. A 'Bewilderness' CD was sold outside gigs, which was actually just a mixture of studio recordings of songs and monologues Bill had performed in the past - it was later released in shops as Bill Bailey: The Ultimate Collection... Ever!. That same year he also presented a Channel 4 countdown, Top Ten Prog Rock.

Bailey premiered his show Part Troll at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer of 2003. A critical and commercial success, he then transferred it to the West End where tickets sold out in under 24 hours, and new dates had to be added. Since then he has toured it all over the UK as well as in America, Australia and New Zealand. The show marked the first time Bill had really tackled political material, as he expanded on subjects such as the war on Iraq, which he had only touched upon before in his Bewilderness New York show. He also talks extensively on drugs, at one point asking the audience to name different ways of baking marijuana. A DVD was released in 2004.

2005 finally saw the release of his 1996 show Bill Bailey's Cosmic Jam. The 2-disc set also contained a director's cut of Bewilderness, which featured a routine on Stephen Hawking not seen in the original version.

In 2000 he had a small role in British comedy film Saving Grace, and also voiced the sperm whale in 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.

Bill has also proved to be a talented dramatic actor in two Edinburgh Fringe shows directed by Guy Masterson. He played Juror Number 4 in a 2003 version of Twelve Angry Men featuring 12 comedians, and also co-starred as Oscar in a 2005 production of The Odd Couple, alongside Alan Davies and several other comedians, including Owen O'Neill and Ian Coppinger. Both of these performances received generally good reviews.

Radio appearances include 2 episodes of The 99p Challenge, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and Just a Minute respectively, as well as presenting Good Vibrations: The History of the Theremin, and appearing on Loose Ends.

Bill is a talented pianist and guitarist. His stand-up routines often feature music from genres such as jazz, rock and classical, usually for comedic value. Favourite instruments include the keyboard, guitar, theremin, kazoo and bongos. He is also part of punk band Beergut 100, which he founded in 1995 with comedy writer Jim Miller, and which also features Martin Trenaman and Phil Welans, with Kevin Eldon as lead singer. Trenaman and Welans had previously appeared in Cosmic Jam under the name "The Stan Ellis Experiment", and Trenaman and Eldon later featured with John Moloney in the Kraftwerk homage "Das Hokey Kokey" on the Part Troll tour. Bill claims that himself and the 3 other performers are a Kraftwerk tribute band called Augenblick. To mark the final gig of the Part Troll tour on 1st January 2005 the band reappeared on stage after the "Das Hokey Kokey" joke to play an hour-long encore of music.

Bill has stated that he will begin his next tour in America, before bringing it to the Edinburgh Fringe. He is also appearing in the 2007 film Hot Fuzz.

* Has absolute pitch (also known as 'perfect pitch'), mentioned in this UK Guardian article.
* According to comedy folklore, after a reviewer once criticised his act for its lack of jokes, he returned the following night to perform a set composed entirely of punchlines.
* The 'BB' logo on his T-shirt, which also appears at the beginning of the Bewilderness DVD, is actually the logo for comic-strip character Bastard Bunny. This is mentioned in an online interview with "Stand and Deliver".
* Winner of the Best Live Stand-Up award at the British Comedy Awards, 1999.
* Provided the voice for the 2002 BMW MINI adverts.
* Wrote and performed the 2002 British Airways adverts, in which, through the use of music, he took a humorous look at a variety of notable global locations.
* Was listed by The Observer in 2003 as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.
* Was the voice actor for the falling whale in the 2004 film adaptation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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