Man at His Best

Bill Bailey: What I've Learned

The musical comedy legend shares some wit and wisdom.

BY Nick Pope | Aug 18, 2016 | Music

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The funniest thing in the world? The general level of linguistic absurdity that surrounds us on a daily basis. Once, I was watching TV and Kelly Brook's ex (David Mackintosh) said, "I've had a terrible day. I was delivering a van load of dead badgers and I crashed." Every time I think about it, I laugh.

My old telesales boss used to force us to wear a tie. I kept asking "Why? They can't see us. We're on the phone!" That job lasted 5 minutes.

I own a latex mask of my own face. It's just disturbing. I was headlining Sonisphere festival and I knew there would be some fans in the crowd who'd made their way over from Slipknot, so I decided to get my very own mask as tribute. My young son was wearing it backstage and it terrified the hell out of all the hardcore metal heads. This little creature running around with my face - it's not right.

My granddad had a very strict protestant work ethic. He taught me to keep going, through all manner of trauma, hardship and failure. There was one gig in New Zealand where I got the whole tenor of the evening wrong and insulted their entire nation. But you have to stick at something and put in the hours. That way you can enjoy it more.

It was never my plan to become a professional comedian. I started out in a double-act with my mate. Then I fancied doing a solo Edinburgh show. It went well, and I got a DVD and tour of Australia out of it. It was only when I drew a huge crowd at Glastonbury that I thought: "Well, this is something I could continue to do for a while."

Po-faced electronic music is just naturally funny. I went to a Kraftwerk gig once and it was unintentionally hilarious. Four blokes in suits who looked like they were checking their emails, but really they were coming up with groundbreaking music.

I was the only kid in my A-level music class. That probably helped me, but I just had a very intense, innate affinity for music. I could pick up tunes on the piano, and I tought myself the drums and guitar.

My favourite album is Remain in Light by Talking Heads. As a kid growing up in the West Country, it sounded so grown-up, intellectual, impenetrable and strange, like something from the other side of the world.

Storytelling is an ancient skill. Comedians who only tell jokes always demean storytellers like Billy Connolly, but if it were a different age he'd be a raconteur, or a troubadour, or a great poet. He's had a big influence on me.

2016 is a time to reflect on masculinity and what it means. Being a man is much harder to define than it once was. It used to be 'blokes do this, and girls do this'. Not anymore.

Women have experienced an enormous amount of change, and there's a definite sense of things moving in the right direction. It can always be improved but they have better jobs and are represented more in society than ever before. For young men, the speed of change can be baffling. It's difficult to navigate parity, and identity, sexuality, and whether you actually feel like a bloke or not. But it's progress, and it's good.

From: Esquire UK.