Bill Bailey shares his philosophy

He's won a British Comedy Award, toured the world with his stand-up and had a major role in a hit movie - but Bill Bailey's current pride and joy is more modest: a crude video game based around garden sheds.

‘There are five sheds, and you have to guess which one I'm in,’ he beams. ‘It's really primitive, but very addictive.’

The interactive shed game, although unlikely to challenge Lara Croft, is one of the bonus features on the forthcoming DVD of Bailey's current Bewilderness tour.

Of course, watching a comedy show in the comfort of your own front room is no substitute for the real deal of a live performance. A fact he is well aware of.

‘Stand-up probably doesn't work on TV,’ he admits. ‘But it depends how you film it. It should be very pared down, without an audience and perhaps some with some grainy black and white bits. Make it very moody, so people focus on the words.

‘They're always filming stand-up as it happens. But when you see it, a big part of the experience is missing.’

But, he believes, recording live shows is a different proposition. ‘With my video, I didn't want to make it too sanitised,’ he says. ‘I wanted it to be as near to a live show as possible, with stops and starts and audience banter.’

Yes, those stops and starts. The gentle, ambling humour that has become Bailey's trademark. A laid-back style that makes the audience more willing to believe his bizarre imaginative leaps.

‘It's a technique to get people to go along with me, to see things my way,’ he says.

‘If you're gentle about how you treat a subject, people will give you a little more latitude.’

As the title of the show indicates, his is the comedy of bewilderment, of a resigned attitude that life will somehow always get you down. But, as he says on stage: ‘I crave disappointment. That's why I buy Kinder Eggs - crap chocolate, crap toy.’

He explained: ‘My motto is that disappointment can be a balm. It's an inevitable part of life, so you should be prepared for it. Use it as a psychic ointment.’

With such baffling and meaningless New Agey philosophies, is it any wonder that Bill is a self-confessed weirdo magnet?

‘But there haven't been too many weirdos on this tour,’ he muses. ‘Perhaps they're saving it up for later - just one audience full of them, like a Lord of the Rings convention.’

While most of Bailey's humour is of the amiable variety, he does save some bile for one particular bug-bear. Chris de Burgh.

‘His music is obviously a big part of why I hate him,’ Bailey admits. ‘Plus the smugness, and self-indulgence.’

His rants against the one-eyebrowed one was triggered by a TV interview, in which he boasted that he had the best live show in Europe. ‘They showed a clip and it looked like a band someone had booked for a rugby club dinner.’

Music, of course, is a major part of Bailey's show - mixing genres to come up with such gems and a Gaelic version of the Countdown theme, or medieval porn music.

But this is no frustrated rock star, desperate to be taken seriously as a musician. ‘I was briefly in a band, but I always had this compunction to be silly,’ he says.

‘Bands take themselves very seriously, and I would keep putting musical jokes in - like a bit of the Dynasty theme. So I got into comedy because I failed at everything else.’

But comedy certainly proved good to him. He was in Dublin when Chortle chatted to him, and after the UK leg of his tour winds up in a couple of weeks, he's off for a stint in New York before nipping to Australia, New Zealand and back in Colorado.

So does he have any qualms about taking his show to a city reeling from a terrorist atrocity?

‘No. My attitude - the British attitude - is to carry on as normal. But then we have grown used to 30 years of terrorism. And people in New York do want to go out to see something different, to get away from the news on TV.’

Bailey isn't afraid to incorporate routines about the current situation into his act, either.

‘The actual attack was so horrendous that it's out of the frame,’ he acknowledges. ‘My own nerdiness means I have to focus in and be precise about the targets - I want to examine the geopolitical situation. It's a fertile ground for finding absurdity and satire.’

There is also an advantage to the saturation media coverage of Afghanistan. ‘People are swamped with info, and reading so much, that you can focus in on the very specific.’

‘This is a unique time to be doing comedy.’

October 22, 2001

Published: 6 Sep 2006

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