Let’s talk about Bill

Last post I mentioned Bill Bailey and the place he holds in my Happy box, which got me remembering all the other great stuff I’ve seen him do. Really, he’s popped up more times than I would have guessed off the cuff. So here’s a potted history of me and Mr Bailey……..

Apparently he first came up to the Fringe in 1994 as part of a two man show, going solo the following year, then, third time lucky he was nominated for a Perrier 1996 (not so lucky that he won but hey). This was around the time I began to really embrace the Fringe, I didn’t see him perform but I was aware of him. Oh yeah, by 1999 Bud and I were fans, we were yelping with delight when he turned up in the tv comedy sitcom Spaced as the owner of a comic book store!

2000 saw Bill on the telly again as Manny Bianco in the totally and utterly brilliant Black Books. Not for everyone, mind, but my fancy was well tickled by it. Bill, Tamsin Greig and Dylan Moran were great together, usually stuck bickering in Bernard Black’s (Moran) bookshop (in three series very little took place outside of the shop and it’s living space behind). Mind you, I don’t think Dylan Moran was stretching himself much – from what I’ve heard from friends (have I ever mentioned our Fringe game, Meringue, and its origin?).

In 2002 Bill became one of the team captains of my favourite tv panel show at the time Never Mind the Buzzcocks battling against Phil Jupitus’ team, presided over by quiz master Mark Lamarr. Oh, that was great entertainment, if at times a tad cruel to some of the guest panellists. Lamarr actually became less caustic with his humour as time went on, his teddy boy solid as a board quiff soften too. Then Lamarr left and after a series with guest presenters youngster Simon Amstell took over the chair; it was like the humour of early NMTB again but meaner, Amstell obviously wanted to make his mark but his needling and determination to get a rise out of his victims just got annoying at times. In 2008 after a second series with the new chair and with eleven series under his belt, Bill took his leave of the show; I’ve read that Bill revised his attitudes to comedy around this time, “cruel” comedy was shown the door.

Meanwhile, when not filming series of NMTB, Bill was back at the Fringe. In 2003 he brought us not only his new show Part Troll but he also acted in Guy Masterson’s all-star cast production of 12 Angry Men. Bud and I saw and thoroughly enjoyed both (mind, that “all-star” thing seemed to mean stand-up comedians). To our delight two years later he trod the boards again in The Odd Couple with Alan Davies as the other half (another Guy Masterson production). That was, of course, the first time we saw Bill’s band, not listed in the Fringe programme just on the Gilded Balloon’s own.

Those are my stand out BB moments, since then he’s acted on the big and small screen (oo yeah, the Dr Who Christmas Special in 2011); there’s the guesting on panel shows and he’s presented various programmes on topics from baboons to orchestras; tours around the world, books, radio shows, and a load other stuff!! A man of many talents, indeed. Just last month he published a new book Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to Happiness, that’s so on my Christmas list! Oh, and last month he also joined this year’s Strictly Come Dancing!! Oh yay, another excuse to talk about Strictly. I suspect my UK readers knew that was coming 😊.

Toodle oo, chaps.

Happy?!

In 2019 the loveliest man to grace a Fringe stage was back again with his new show Aidan Goatley: Happy Britain Part I, naturally I went along. Happy Britain? He told how he came up with an idea of going to the centre of every county in the UK and asking the first person he met, “What makes you happy?” Part I? Well, you know, life, best laid plans, et al, there was to be a Part II this year, and a book too! God only knows when that’s gonna happen now!! Mind you, his wife is a vicar so she could make enquiries!

The show was as good as expected – that being an engaging, charming, thoroughly entertaining hour that went by way too quickly for my liking. I could have happily sat another hour in that state of warm, fuzzy cheeriness (oh and the room did have good air conditioning – a bonus). The pic is from Mr Goatley’s bit in the Fringe programme. I think his attire may be a reference to Arthur Dent in HHGTTG, I seem to vaguely remember something, but I could have dreamt it.

Some time later I found myself musing on Aidan’s question, indeed, what made me happy, really happy? Where was my happy place? Could I answer that without resorting to flippancy? You see, though I always do my best to present myself as a jovial and happy-go-lucky chap, I am no stranger to melancholy; I knew I’d been slowly sinking into the doldrums for some time, my spark wasn’t very sparky anymore, more like an ember. Oh sure, Edinburgh in August (when there’s a Fringe on!) but what about the rest of it? I mulled over it for some time, if I could figure out the true honest answer could I use it as a compass to lead myself out of the doldrums on to firmer ground?

Actually, it’s the reason why I like the Fringe so much, it’s that blissed out fuzziness of witnessing a great feelgood show (usually accompanied by a goofy smile). It’s sitting listening to Aidan’s stories, it’s watching an hour of surreal sketches about three sperm, it’s the fun of watching a troup of actors allowing themselves to be dictated to by a roulette wheel of absurd scenarios.

And it’s being at a Logan’s Close gig, any time of the year. Oh yeah, there’s my Happy. No wonder this year’s been hard – I haven’t seen them since January! And on bands, one of my most memorable happy times was at the Fringe in 2005, late night in the Debating Hall at Teviot watching Bill Bailey’s band Beergut 100. The sheer exuberance of the band and the crowd was intoxicating, and when Kevin Eldon sang a seriously punked up The sun’ll come out tomorrow oh my heartses! The room was a big sweaty blob of happy!

As a young moose I used to daydream, as so many do, about being a great performer, acting or singing, both, I’d be amazing!! Once we get past the time of when our dreams were meant to somehow be happening (with no effort from ourselves), it’s woulda, coulda, shoulda. Then, one night, I don’t remember when, who or where, but I do remember having an epiphany, I was Audience – being a great audience is important, without an audience what is a show? I shouldn’t be looking up wishing I was the one on the stage, that’s not me; I’m the one giving my undivided attention, watching, listening, absorbing the atmosphere; I’m the one whooping and cheering and clapping, showing my appreciation to the performers.

Oo, that got a bit profound there! Thinking on it, I know it changed my perspective and my being. Would recognising my Happy bring on another change? Then 2020 came along and the whole world has been spun off kilter. Will Aidan ever get to do his Part Deux? Will hugging ever come back? There’s a great deal of Happy in hugging.

Bonne nuit, mes amis 💛