My favourite comedians #5: Bill Bailey

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Dylan Moran, from the hilarious Black Books and stand-up fame. This week, we’re looking at Bill Bailey, one of the other key comedians from this brilliant show, who, like Moran, has also established himself as a major force in stand-up comedy, although in Bailey’s case his performances have more of a musical twist. But we’ll come to that later. First, this clip from Black Books, in which his character, Manny, is stripping a chicken (sorry about the average quality of the clip):

As you can see, Manny’s character was a bit of a bumbling fool for a lot of this show, which is in sharp contrast with Bailey in real life who is intelligent, witty and extremely talented. Manny was the assistant in the book shop for Bernard (Moran), and was forever suffering under the wrath of his cranky, drunkard boss. Many of the greatest storylines involved both characters, where their different personalities would bounce off each other, and my absolute favourite is an episode where they are housesitting and accidentally drink an expensive wine (meant for the pope), and end up trying to recreate the wine (captured here after another funny clip – both are mashed together, from the same episode (also it has subtitles, I’m not entirely sure why)):

Bill Bailey’s comedy career has gone from strength to strength, and his shows are known not only for being hilarious but for being highly musical – he is a multi-instrumentalist and will have several instruments set up on stage, which he incorporates into his jokes so smoothly you don’t even notice. He once even performed a “guide to the orchestra” tour with an entire orchestra. Some of his most famous musical skits include playing cockney versions of well known songs, and incorporating jazz scat into popular theme songs, as he does in this next clip:

But his stand-up shows aren’t all musical – he tells jokes and often comments on various aspects of the world around him, in a way that is uniquely him (slightly unrelated, but he also hosted a documentary series on Baboons, and it was surprisingly interesting and still quite funny with his narration). One of my favourite joke sketches of his is his surrealist ramble, which is really incredibly clever when you think about it:

Are you a fan of Bill Bailey? If you’ve never heard of him, do you think you could be a fan of his comedy?

6 thoughts on “My favourite comedians #5: Bill Bailey

  1. I like Bill Bailey, but not as much as Dylan Moran. I think it’s because Bill uses more physical comedy or like, slap stick, than Moran and it doesn’t work for me as well. He’s not as believable as Manny, either whether Moran just is Bernard. But I do like him.

    • I know what you mean – he has a very different style of humour to Moran, as Moran is purely sarcastic humour, but Bill Bailey uses a mix of sarcastic and slapstick (although Manny is just silly, but it does take someone very intelligent to successfully play someone stupid – another example is Tony Robinson playing Baldrick in all the Blackadder series). I think I like them both evenly, but for wildly different reasons. Perhaps the biggest difference is that I have to be in the mood for Bill Bailey a bit more.

  2. yes Bill Bailey is another of my favourites and I enjoy watching him on chat shows and quiz shows as well as the wonderful Black Books. My favourite episode from the Bill Bailey standpoint is the first one where he swallows the Little Book of Calm, oh but then again the one where he goes to work at the shop next door is pretty brilliant as well. đŸ™‚

    • I agree, the Little Book Of Calm incident is one of the funniest in the series. I did really like that episode with Goliath Books too – Simon Pegg brought a lot to that episode, and I thought it was fun considering Dylan Moran has appeared in a couple of Pegg’s movies too – they must be friends in real life, one can only assume. Bill Bailey is great in quiz shows, especially QI – the best QI episodes are always the ones with either Bill Bailey, Ross Noble or Jeremy Clarkson in them.

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