There are some great events and top names coming our way this year and ESP’s Mikey Clarke grabbed a word with comedian Bill Bailey, who’s performing at the Peterborough Arena this summer…
The gap between how we imagine our lives to be and how they really are is the subject of Bill Bailey’s latest show Limboland. The comedy genius is bringing it to the Peterborough Arena on Saturday June 4 – and I can’t wait.
I’ve been to see many of his shows in the past and am just blown away by how multi-talented this man is.
I wondered if during those two years, the show had evolved throughout the months. He told me – “Very much so. Throughout the 2 years l’ve got bored of some jokes and replaced them with others. It’s probably an entirely different show from when I first started the tour. Also, the material might change a little depending on where I am.
“I’ve been visiting Australia regularly for around 20 years now. I know the place well and the politics well – so whilst I’m there I’ll dedicate a section of the show to local goings on. I happened to be in Hong Kong whilst there was a street protest, so I spoke about that. I was in Singapore when Lee Kuan Yew (the first Prime Minister of Singapore) was about to die. It was a big topic at the time, so that made it into the show also. Touring the UK I may go into current British politics. The material will certainly change from time to time but the core elements of my shows are there. There is of course a lot of music and a lot of anecdotal stuff. It’s the most personal show I’ve done in a while.”
It was good to hear that the music remains on the agenda. It wouldn’t be the same without a song or two. I asked if he could reveal any of the tracks we’ll be hearing. “I’ll be performing my own 1930’s Berlin cabaret version of Happy Birthday. It’s a rather annoying and tedious song so I felt it was due an upgrade. I’ve also written a song for Adele, but I’m not sure if she’ll want it. It’s called ‘You left me, but I’m not going to go on about it’.”
I asked Bill where his passion for music came from. “It’s always been there,” he said. “As a tiny toddler I would play notes on the piano. When I was 3 or 4 I would start to play actual tunes on the piano, and I’ve loved doing it ever since.
“I taught myself how to play the guitar, amongst other things. Any instrument I could pick up, I would try and get a tune out of it. When I first started out in comedy I would only have brief moments on the stage and would have to be set up very quickly so I’d take a guitar with me – something that was light and practical. Many years later when I got my first stint at the Edinburgh Festival, I realised I was going to be in one place for three weeks, so for the first time I brought a piano along. It was at that moment I’d had an Epiphany. I realised I could play all kinds of things on the stage in all kinds of styles. A door had opened to a style of musical comedy I hadn’t considered before. And it’s evolved from there.
“These days I have so much on stage at one time. I’ve heard sound technicians saying, ‘28 channels?! It’s just one bloke. Are you having a laugh?’ Someone else will go, ‘Well, there’s a Theremin, Log Drum, a Whistle, Bell, Lute, Bouzouki, Saz, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and a Mandola’. I’ve heard people look at all the instruments and ask how many people are in this band, before being told it’s just one bloke.”
I noticed an Oud hadn’t been mentioned in Bill’s list of instruments. “I’ve retired the Oud until further notice,” he laughed. For those that have seen Bill Bailey’s show Dandelion Mind, you’ve probably guessed why the comedian has locked away that particular instrument. “I imagine it’s quoted back to you a lot?” I asked. “Precisely!”
In previous shows I’ve seen from the comedian, he often talks about disasters that have happened during family holidays. Does he secretly hope things will go wrong to give him material? “I’d love for funny things to happen during our travels but what actually ends up happening most of the time are things I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. For example, I wanted to take the whole family to see the Northern Lights in Norway. I thought it was going to be a magical experience – us shushing through the snow whilst gazing at the Northern Lights overhead. What happened was very different. It was instead a dogsled white knuckle ride in the dark, being pulled by baying hounds in minus 22 temperatures. It was really scary for all of us. There were people screaming and for a short while we even lost my father-in-law, who fell off the back – and we all thought he was a goner. I had a horrible sense of guilt as it was all my idea.”
And finally, I’d always been curious with comedians as to whether they constantly felt the pressure to be funny all the time, such as at dinner parties or speaking to a waiter. “People certainly have an expectation of you. It’s an occupational hazard so you have to expect that. Sometimes people will look at you like they’re waiting for you to tell a joke – and at times like that, it’s good to have a quip up your sleeve.”
To book tickets for his summer gig at Peterborough Arena visit
Photos: Andy Hollingworth