News Column

Bill has qualms. And he is going to share!

October 3, 2013


Watch out, Bill Bailey's about and he's peddling qualms. He's a qualmpeddler (his name, not ours) and he's delivering his merry misgivings to... well, anyone who'll listen, really.

Bill had doubts about the modern world, but these have now grown into qualms.

They will be aired, he says, barely controlled in fact, about everything from the Coalition and baking, to world war and the consequences of lies. There will be a few jokes, animation, country and western dancing and a story about an owl... Yes, an owl.

It's a musical mash-up, featuring folk bouzouki, horntallica, the traditional song, Scarborough Fair, Rammstein-style (it works surprisingly well) and a Jamaican dub version of Downton Abbey.

Unsurprisingly, Qualmpeddler has the all classic Bill Bailey elements, trademark musical mash-ups, multi-lingual riffs, films, songs, philosophising and silliness. I like the name, he says, still hellbent on blathering.

Having qualms about something; I've always loved that expression. My grandmother used it a lot. She had qualms about anything, be it a nuclear war, or how her scones came out, he laughs.

A peddler is someone selling their wares around the country but when I came to research the word, as I always do before committing to a title, I was delighted to find out peddlers not only have wares, but they also tell jokes and sing songs.

The more I read, the more it seemed appropriate. Like it was a euphemism for what stand-up comedians are.

Oh, I wish he would peddle qualms my way, starts Bill in a medieval accent.

Hey you, peddler, come hither, put down those pots and pans and amuse me with an anecdote. The unusual tour image, which is a pastiche of a Maoera Chinese propaganda campaign, features a variety of famous faces.

I actually collect these sort of posters, he says. I think it's the juxtaposition between cruelty and beautiful nature that appeals.

All the people pictured have induced qualms; from Justin Beiber to Ming the Merciless. They all get a mention.

Bill admits writing music, as well as jokes, skits and silliness, takes time.

I usually have to rehearse at home, he explains. It has to be bang on, but it works to my favour.

The stand-up is semi-improvisational; the music provides structure.

Even if a show is teetering off the rails, I know there's a structured bit coming up - it gives me more latitude.

There was little latitude, however, when Bill performed one of the biggest comedy gigs in the world at the Sonisphere Rock Festival in 2011.

Standing in front of 60,000 rock fans was a life-changing experience for the Never Mind the Buzzcocks panelist.

Ah, it was quite extraordinary.

Headlining... before Slipknot, he exhales.

I had to be mindful of the fact I was playing to Slipknot fans. It was quite daunting. This was a metal fest, after all.

It's not like those fluffy festivals where they have poetry tents and hair braiding.

I thought, if it all goes wrong, I'm just going to be flung about like a dolly in a mosh pit. There'll be nothing left, except hair and plectrums.

Fortunately, for his sake, it went well.

It was great fun, I got a band together and we did metal versions of all my songs, linking them up with stand-up.

It chucked it down, rained all over the stage and I had about six effect pedals, so worried I might get frazzled.

'That Bill Bailey,' they'd have said, 'he's brilliant, he exploded and didn't delay Slipnot'.

It was life-changing in some ways. It was the vindication of my style of comedy in a musical context - like saying comedy can work on a big stage and not be relegated to a small tent somewhere.

That comedy is like rock and roll. Yeah, I was nervous. Way more nervous than for a gig normally. But I enjoyed it.

It gave me a confidence that I could do anything.

That said, hanging out with Baboons was pretty scary, too.

Bill followed the various antics of three troops of Baboons living in Cape Town for an ITV documentary.

A big adult male Baboon weighs a lot and has teeth as big as a lion's.

This thing came up to me, gave me a chilling look and a 'don't mess with me' face. Well, I didn't.

The BBC are keen to send me to Alaska for another wildlife show. I hope not to be banished there, he laughs.

Otherwise, this will be my last tour.

info BILL Bailey's live show, Qualmpeddler, is at De Montfort Hall on October 14 and 15 . The show is released on DVD on November 18.

For tickets, call 0116 233 3111 or visit:

I had to be mindful I was playing to Slipknot fans. It was daunting. This was a metal fest. It's not like those fluffy festivals where they have poetry tents Bill Bailey

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