Monday, 3 September 2007

Biography 8: Bill Bailey

It’s time to gander in awe at the part troll and confused hippy that is Mr Bill Bailey.

Mark "Bill" Bailey was born on 24th February 1964. His father is a doctor, but he shares Bill’s passion for comedy. He spent the majority of his childhood in Bath. He attended King Edward's School, where he tried to “study everything”. He was once told that his ideal job would be a “museum curator” or a “member of the diplomatic service”. He excelled in music, and it was while at school that he was given his nickname Bill, when a music teacher once sang the song "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey". Bill started a punk rock band called the "Famous Five”. However, he is a classically trained musician and he received an associateship with the London College of Music.

Bill began touring the country with other comedians such as Mark Lamarr and Phill Jupitus. In 1986 he formed a double act, the Rubber Bishops, with Toby Longworth (later Martin Stubbs). They achieved a certain amount of success on the club circuit, partly due to their rigorous schedule. According to comedy folklore, after one reviewer criticised his act for its lack of jokes, Bill returned the following night to perform a set composed entirely of punchlines.

In 1994 Bill performed the show Rock at the Edinburgh Fringe with Sean Lock. It was later serialised for the Mark Radcliffe show on BBC Radio 1. He confessed in an interview with The Independent that after this he almost gave comedy up to do a telesales job. He persevered, however, and went solo the next year with 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.

In 2001, Bailey began touring the globe with Bewilderness, which became a huge success. It was released on DVD the same year, and the show was broadcast on Channel 4 that Christmas. He premiered his next show Part Troll at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer of 2003. It has toured all over the UK as well as in America, Australia and New Zealand, and was released on DVD in 2004. As part of the show he contributed to another punk rock band, a Kraftwerk spoof called Augenblick. In March 2007 his stand-up was recognised by Channel 4 which declared him the 7th greatest stand-up comedian of all time.

Although Bill had made TV appearances as early as 1991, his break into TV came in 1996 after he was nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award. The nomination was enough to get him noticed, and in 1998 the BBC gave him his own television show, Is It Bill Bailey?

Over the next few years, Bill made guest appearances on shows such as Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Des O'Connor Tonight and Coast to Coast. When Sean Hughes left his role as captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2002, Bill became his successor and has been there ever since. Other television appearances include Jonathan Creek (opposite Alan Davies), 15 Storeys High and several interviews on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

In 2000, he starred in the Channel 4 sitcom Black Books as Manny Bianco. Three successful series of six episodes were made. He also starred in the sitcom Spaced, in which he played comic-shop manager Bilbo Bagshot.

Bailey’s film credits include British comedy film Saving Grace, and also voiced the sperm whale in 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. He also had two minor roles as a police receptionist in the 2007 film Hot Fuzz.

Radio performances include two episodes each of The 99p Challenge, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and Just a Minute. Bailey is closely involved with the radio show presented by QI producer John Lloyd called The Museum of Curiosities. A pilot has been produced and the first series has been commissioned for early 2008.

Bill is amongst the most popular guests on QI and despite missing a whole series last year due to his US tour, he is the fourth most frequent panellist. Bill featured in the pilot which he won and he was the only guest in the pilot to return. However, Bill has so far won only two shows both in the C series. This perhaps shows his willingness to play along and give klaxon answers.

Bill is now preparing for a UK tour named Tinselworm planned for November, and an Australian tour for the following year. Additionally, Bill is planning to put himself forward as Britain's Eurovision entry in 2008, as a result of several fan petitions encouraging him to do so.

No comments: