Thursday, 24 June 2021

Stonemason's work ethic has rubbed off on comic

Stonemason's work ethic has rubbed off on comic

BILL Bailey is buzzing. After a gap of two years, the comedian is hugely excited about returning to the live arena.

Later this month he embarks on a major nationwide tour with an entirely new show entitled Larks in Transit — and he just can’t wait!

The show combines in one unique package Bill’s trademark hilarious comedy and brilliant music.

Drawing on superb new songs and dazzling routines, he will address politics, philosophy and the pursuit of happiness.

In addition, he will regale us with the real tale of Old McDonald and deliver an entirely new take on the Stars and Stripes.

The show promises larks by the lorry load.

Offering a one-off mixture of virtuoso comedy and virtuoso music, the 53-year-old is one of the best-loved comedians in the land.

Perhaps because for him, nothing beats the heady feeling that comes from engaging with a live audience.

“There’s nothing quite like it. It’s a singular experience. I don’t think there is anything that quite matches up to it in all of performance art. When you’re in a play or a band, it’s still a collaborative thing.

“When everything comes together and you think of an idea, a joke or routine that connects with people, it’s incredible. It’s the most amazingly satisfying experience hearing an arena full of people laughing at something you’ve thought up. It’s a tremendous buzz.”

Bill, who over the past 20 years has enjoyed a dozen immensely successful international stand-up tours, continues: “The best of those times come when you’re laughing along with them.

“It’s like you’ve hit on a bit of funny. It’s a bit of funny that was out there — a bit of universal funny that you’re just lucky enough to have plucked and shared with everyone. Those moments are rare but they are wonderful.

“There’s a great folk singer who said that the tunes are out there. You just have to tap into them or capture them before someone else gets them.”

Larks in Transit features long-form stories about the weird and wondrous places that Bill has visited — many of on ornithology expeditions.

He recalls: “We were on a birding trip in the jungles of Indonesia. I cannot tell you how remote this place was. It was like some sort of Eden.

“I was just standing there naked in this river. I was the only person there, and I was thinking, ‘This is one place where I won’t meet anyone’.

“Then out of the blue, a couple of Aussies just came out of the bush and shouted, ‘Oh, look at that — it’s Bill Bailey! What the bloody hell are you doing here?’ That just suddenly brought me back down to earth.”

The comic, who is married with a teenage son, adds: “The two elements of what I’m talking about in this show come together in that story. The show is about being lucky enough to have those kinds of experiences where you get to think about the world and our relationship with nature. But it’s also about how my life has led me to the point where people do recognise me in those same places.”

Larks in Transit also has some thought-provoking things to say about the merits of perseverance.

Bill, who grew up in Bath but now lives in Hammersmith, says: “My grandfather was a great influence on me. He was a stonemason and he had a very strong work ethic.

“Somehow, through all the chats I had with him, I get the feeling that’s rubbed off on me.

“He used to tell me about the dignity of work and really developing a craft. He taught me that you shouldn’t give up too easily.

“You continue, you endure, you keep moving forward and somehow work gains its own meaning.

“You don’t have to think too much about it. You just keep going. I hope I have been true to the spirit of what my grandfather said.”

Larks in Transit will also include some of Bill’s inimitable musical flights of fantasy. He will, for example, create a symphony out of ringtones — having long enjoyed including music in his show.

“It’s another dynamic really, it’s a bit of light and shade. I always think it’s a tremendous art and a tremendous skill to keep people’s attention with the spoken word for a couple of hours. I’m always aware of that. So when I was starting out in stand-up, I was looking for ways to break it up.

“I think music works on a different level to language. Some of the words create a picture and can feed people’s imaginations. Often slow-burn, great, long routines can build up to great crescendos. But music gets you on the gut level. It gets you straight away. It’s a more instantaneous kind of reaction.”

Another standout characteristic of Bill’s comedy is his captivating use of language — something that is once again evident in Larks in Transit.

“I think we’re very lucky to have English as our language,” he muses. “It’s just so expressive and so endlessly supple, and it has myriad ways of telling the same story.

“You can tell the same story, embroider it, put in new language, and it becomes something completely different. It’s a treat and a wonder.”

Many of his fans would say just that about his live shows. Arguably the reason they remain so entertaining is that even after more than three decades in comedy, Bill is still as passionate about it as ever.

“I appreciate it even more now,” he says, “because I realise that I’m lucky to have this career.

“I’m lucky to still be doing this and to do something I love. I’m lucky that after all these years, people still want to come and see me.

“My priority is always funny first. Then if you have the time and the experience to refine it to the level where maybe the odd phrase does get through to people — well, that’s as good as it can get really.”

Larks in Transit is playing at the Hexagon in Reading from Monday, March 12, to Wednesday, March 14 — and again on Monday, May 28, and Tuesday, May 29. The show is also touring to the New Theatre Oxford on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19, and the Wycombe Swan on Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16.

Tickets are available via Ticketmaster on 0844 844 0444 or For more information, including a complete list of tour dates and venues, visit

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