Musician, actor, writer, and comedian Bill Bailey has certainly had a long and varied career. Appearing on such TV shows as Black Books, Spaced, QI, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, he has been a prolific presence in the UK comedy scene. However he is still perhaps best known for his stand up comedy, which sees him once again alight on Australian shores for his new show Larks In Transit. We found out about his new routine, and spoke to him about the changing face of comedy.
“Larks In Transit is a collection of stories about what happens as a touring comedian. It occurred to me that it was 20 years ago since I first toured Australia, and these days I like to mark these occasions. I think you have to. I though it was an opportunity to look back at the events in the last 20 years, both personal and global. Also what we take with us and what we leave behind,” Bailey stated. “Lots of music, lots of audience reaction. It’s the kind of show I’ve wanted to do for a while. Like some of the early shows I did.”
Music has often been a part of Bailey’s comedy, from the very early days. It’s seen him from club stages to performing in front of sixty thousand people at a heavy metal concert. “One of the very first shows I did in stand-up I had this ancient bit of kit that allowed you to sample and play back (it was with a floppy disk). I do three minutes of material before it was ready.” Bailey revives the act for Larks, but the technology has advanced a long way in a couple of decades. “This new stuff allows you to sample an audience of strangers to sing notes, and I can play them back as a chord. Amazing! Makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.” He speculates that even the austere father of technological pop Kraftwerk would be overcome with emotion. “Probably raise a single eyebrow or something.”
This time Australian audiences will get a taste of Bailey’s comedy before their English counterparts, with this new show playing here before touring the UK. “There’s a lot of similarities between the two cultures. There’s the same comic sensibilities. Australian’s are keen on irreverent comedy, something that sticks two fingers up to the establishment.” However the age of globalization is also changing comedy. “I’ve noticed over the years that comedy has got a lot more international. Certainly since Youtube has come to the fore, people are able to see a lot more, and become a bit more savvy. The idea where certain things work in certain regions started to fade a few years ago. I think comedy is pretty universal. Not just in UK and Australia, I’m doing ex-Soviet Block countries. There’s similarities everywhere.”
Bailey’s varied professional life is also reflected in his equally varied range of interests. His political views have seen pictures of him go viral as a bearded, pipe smoking feminist. His conservation work has seen him rescue owls from restaurants in China, and injured geese in front of Buckingham Palace. Bailey believes that an active engagement in a varied range of interests is what stimulates life. “To really sustain comedy for a long time you have to stay interested in it. I have to find it funny. There’s no point doing it unless I’m enjoying it. Music, politics etc…all has a bearing on it. It gives you a broader view on things, on how to find the Universe funny. That’s the ultimate goal of comedians.”