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Bill Bailey interview

Interview: Comedian Bill Bailey on his world tour, music and Donald Trump

"When the Trump era is called the 'post-truth' period, then this is the greatest joke of all"

Written by
Josiah Ng

In any list of best British comedians, one would be remiss to not include Bill Bailey. Coming up on almost 30 years in the business, Bailey concludes his latest tour, Larks in Transit, in Hong Kong this December. In addition to his stellar stand-up routines, Bailey is a classically trained musician, with an associateship diploma from the London College of Music. He is also a regular presence on British television, from sitcom Black Books to panel shows QI and Have I Got News For You.

His many ventures culminate in a live show like few others. Larks in Transit promises Bailey’s prolific stand-up routines, rife with political commentary, interspersed with original music. And given certain recent world events, we speak to Bailey about politics, music and the show…

Hi Bill! So the name Larks in Transit. Where does that come from?
The name ‘larks’ is in the Dickensian context, from Great Expectations, ‘what larks pip!’, meaning fun, frivolity and carefree good times, of which I’ve had many over the years travelling round the world as a comedian. The ‘in transit’ part refers to the more temporary nature of our time on Earth and the duty I think we have to make the most of it. Larks is also a passing reference to my love of birds and the fact that I’ve just spent the last year writing and publishing my RemarkableGuide to British Birds!

You arrive in Hong Kong as the last stop of the tour. Why Hong Kong, and why the last stop?
I first came to Hong Kong nearly thirty years ago – I was performing with a theatre company in Japan and after our tour was over we had two weeks holiday. I really fell in love with the place. Some of my first gigs overseas were on Hong Kong Island, around 10 years after. I’m a city person and I love the energy of the place, the hustle and bustle, the markets, the views. I also love being near the water – taking a ferry is so much a part of the place, plus the potential escape to quieter islands for hilly walks and shady cafés.

Music is a big part of your life and your shows – you’ve even recorded a metal album. Is music still a big part of your new show, and is there another album in the pipeline?
Music has always been a part of my shows since I started and this show is no exception. I’ve got some new instruments: a digital theremin, a mandola and an African log drum. As for the album, I’d love to make another if there’s time next year. Maybe an electronic-themed one.

And regarding material, recent political events like Brexit and Trump winning the US Presidential election must be rich mines of material. What do you think about both those events?
We are almost in a time beyond jokes, beyond satire. When the Trump era is called the ‘post-truth’ period, then this is the greatest joke of all, albeit quite depressing. It’s impossible for me to ignore Brexit in the show, as a theme that has run through many of my shows is about national identity and what it means to be British.

Lastly, what are some of your future projects that fans can look forward to?
I’m in the process of writing a sitcom, which hopefully we will make next year. It’s a big undertaking but one which I really enjoy. In fact, I plan to do more writing in the near future. The bird book was a great pleasure to research and write and I’m now writing a magazine column also. I like the discipline of it. The deadline, it focuses the mind!

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