Review: Bill Bailey has York audience crying with laughter. And vice versa

Comedy superpower: Bill Bailey
Comedy superpower: Bill Bailey
Comedy superpower: Bill Bailey

Review: Bill Bailey – Qualmpeddler
Venue: York Barbican, October 30

“This has been the weirdest night of my life,” gasped a shell-shocked Bill Bailey, surveying a York Barbican audience he is unlikely ever to forget.

Being a touring stand up comedian is surely one of the toughest jobs around. Not only is there the pressure of having to be top of your game every single night, there is the added minefield of entertaining a crowd of mad, heckling strangers who have all paid good money to see you perform.

Fortunately for Bill Bailey his experience as a comedy superpower saw him through a tricky opening night of his new show Qualmpeddler at the York Barbican.

Perhaps it was his light-hearted jibes at Yorkshire’s recent triumph at being named the third best place on earth – “It’s nice, but come on!!” – but the Barbican crowd took a little while to fully warm up.

It was the musical side of the performance (a much-loved fixture of all Bill Bailey’s shows) in which the good people of York ran aground, displaying a hilarious lack of rhythm and clapping ability as the multi-talented Bailey displayed his far superior musical talent on a variety of exotic instruments.

It is rare to see a comedian crying tears of laughter at his own audience, head in hands and wondering how on earth he is going to get through the next two hours.

Thankfully the clapping debacle was soon forgotten as Bailey poured out his thoughts (pipe in mouth) on subjects such as politics, the evil of reality TV and the age old question of how many gummy bears can be inserted into a remote control helicopter before compromising its airworthiness (one, it turns out).

It is these leaps from satire to the insane, inner workings of his brain that makes Bill Bailey such a popular and successful comedian. In doing so he delivers a recipe for a happy life, tackling the troubles of the world before lightening the mood with bizarre and gut-burstingly hilarious musings and theories.

It is a lesson in how life should not be taken too seriously and enjoyed for all of its quirks.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the end of the performance, in which a heart-warming piece of footage shows Bailey releasing a previously cooking pot bound owl (yes, owl) into the wilderness of Southern China.

It perfectly encapsulates his message of capturing life’s beautiful moments, and the more bizarre and weird they are the better.