In an era of political turbulence, Bill Bailey is a pertinent reminder that there are still many things to laugh about. Perhaps more than ever before.
You may know the British comedian from TV shows such as 'Black Books', 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' or 'QI', but it’s through his stand-up that Bill Bailey really comes into his own. He fuses his abundant musical talents into his stand-up in a way that’s neither token nor cheesy.
Yes, the crowd clap after each musical interlude as though it’s some sort of cabaret, but they’re also laughing at the core idea of what he’s doing, which is often short and to the point.
Bill’s set began with an exploration of being a left-wing Brit in a “post-truth” society, delving head first into some unexpectedly political material. His unashamedly ‘leftie’ angle was hardly edgy with the demographic of the audience at QPAC, but people don’t go to see Bill Bailey for his edginess.
He’s a whimsical, eccentric “50+” year-old hippie that revels in the absurd. Despite this, his critique and observations were surprisingly cutting though every time it would become too serious, he’d counter it with some silliness. His all-dancing rendition of an angry, right-wing tweeter was the early highlight that got enough response to warrant multiple call-backs.
The crowd were definitely a Tuesday crowd (22 November) as Bill struggled to get some interaction with the early-week attendees. “Does anyone here use Twitter?” was met with near silence, audience members likely trying to avoid interaction while sober. After goading the audience with disbelief that “Brisbarn” had never heard of Twitter, eventually one brave soul offered: “We know what it is, we just don’t use it.”
The crowd did eventually loosen up a bit, a revelation from a crowd member that she was in a band named 'Heavy Tits' was too much even for Bill to bare. He had to ask, and yes, they were a two-piece.
Bill’s style is such that he gives the impression that everything he’s doing is an impromptu idea that just came to him, which in itself is a skill. As the show progressed, you got the feeling that he was reframing his delivery based on the audience, the lack of interaction and response being one point that repeatedly seemed to disappoint him. He even turned this into something funny, responding with trolling assumptions in order to get a rise based on the inaccuracy. “I mean that in a nice way” would follow any potentially controversial statement as though absolving it.
The musical interludes were as inspired as ever, whether it was reworking major key songs like 'Happy Birthday' and the American national anthem into their minor key equivalents, remixing the default iPhone ringtone, or recreating a generic Moby song using live samples recorded direct from the audience, the laughs came thick and fast.
Though a lot of the material focused on British colloquialisms or towns and cities, it was easy to draw local comparisons or just find the idea of a West-of-England war correspondent funny regardless.
The highlights of the show were his incredibly awkward meeting of Sir Paul McCartney and Niall from One Direction’s choice of last meal, which both reduced the room to hysterics.
Bill Bailey is a British national treasure for good reason. He’s someone who finds humour in unexpected places and managed to leave an audience wanting more even after two hours. He’s not going to change the world with what he does, but at least he makes it a little more bearable.
Bill Bailey Live Shows
24-25 Nov - QPAC (Brisbane)
27-28 Nov - Riverside Theatre (Perth)
30 Nov-4 Dec - State Theatre (Sydney)
Mon 5 Dec - Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Wed 7 Dec - Town Hall (Wollongong)
Thu 8 Dec - Royal Theatre National Convention Centre (Canberra)