A moment of reflection
Bill Bailey doesn’t see it as a mid-life crisis, more a time to think. Michael Donaldson finds him in reflective mood ahead of his latest NZ tour. ‘There’s been a conscious effort to make Larks in Transit about travelling around – not just the physical tr
This Bill Bailey interview starts awkwardly. I’ve done my research and found we share a common birthday, according to Wikipedia.
Me, Bill Bailey, Apple guy Steve Jobs, Aussie tennis brat Lleyton Hewitt, major golf champion Zach Johnson, George Harrison (who thought he was born on February 25 until he found out his birth certificate was wrong and he was welcomed into our golden circle).
But when I try to break the ice with the famous comedian by stating we were both serenaded with happy birthdays on February 24 each year, Bailey replies: ‘‘Yeah, I had some bad luck by getting a birthday in January because . . . ’’ Wait! What? Wikipedia is wrong? Or is he pranking me? Or worse, has Bailey forgotten his own birthday?
Too flummoxed by the possibilities I clumsily dodge the subject and change direction like someone falling off a bike by asking how long it’s been since he last visited New Zealand, even though I know perfectly well what the answer is. Bailey barely misses a beat as my questions lurch like a dinghy on a stormy day in Cook Strait, artfully carrying me and the conversation to a better place.
If he felt my angst, he hid it well
. . . and anyway he’d probably sympathise. After all he’s been in this situation himself: the first time he met the legendary former Beatles front man Paul McCartney.
‘‘I’ve been telling the Paul McCartney story in a few shows now,’’ he say, ‘‘because it chimes with the audience. There are people in the audience who’ve waited to speak to myself or other comics and in the moment they get a bit tongue-tied. So it’s my way of saying ‘this happens to everyone’. I’m standing there with Paul McCartney and I’m gibbering like an idiot, talking all sorts of rubbish and the whole encounter was a long period in which I was clenched with shame.’’
Larks in Transit is the rather appropriate name for Bailey’s new show. Lark has double meaning for the multi-talented Bailey.
Both his parents were avid birdwatchers and members of the Royal Society for Bird Protection, and a few years back he hosted Bill Bailey’s Birdwatching Bonanza, a celebrity birdwatching quiz show.
And the lark is one of the most extravagant songbirds on the planet – a description that could easily be applied to the musically multi-talented Bailey.
‘‘Sometimes you hit upon a name like that . . . it’s the sort of show that sums up everything about me. There’s a bit of a love of the natural world, a love of the outdoors, the acceptance of the absurdity of life, how comedy has taken me to some odd places . . . but it’s also a reminder to have fun along the way because it’s also larks in the Dickensian sense of the word, as in ‘what larks, Pip . . . what fun that was, what shenanigans we had.’’
Larks in Transit grew out of Bailey’s previous show Limboland, which he’s winding up in the UK. He changed the name because he realised Limboland, without him noticing, had ‘‘morphed into a new show’’.
‘‘All shows change over time, and over time you realise that it’s
Birdwatching, photography, adventure, music – Bill Bailey is a multi-talented comedian.
Bill Bailey in Black Books with Dylan Moran and Tamsin Greig.