Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bill Bailey: Bewilderness (2001)

"I'm English, and as such, I crave disappointment." - Bill Bailey

If that above statement is true, then Bill Bailey would be disappointed with the DVD of his own show Bewilderness, for there is nothing disappointing about it. A comedy show with small doses of rock concert and piano recital thrown in, Bailey spends nearly 80 minutes repeatedly attempting to start his show, with very humorous results. While there is some banter with the audience here and there, for the most part he sticks to his script, which occasionally borders on poetry. He refers to gas (petrol) stations as "...cathedrals of despair...where baseball-capped ghouls of the night lord it over their congealed bean kingdoms." The bit actually continues even further with rare voles flicking the beans off orchids onto makes sense if you watch it, but in addition to being funny, you realize what a talented writer Bailey is.

While he does spend much of the showing looking somewhat bewildered, that's the point. Although he does go on to these amazing flights of fancy with bizarre and well-written bits, he never presents them in any sort of pretentious way. He comes across as a very genuine, regular bloke, which is a great part of his appeal. This is done on purpose, because with his musical talents (he plays guitar a few times in the show, and frequently makes brief stops behind a couple keyboards onstage...and there's a kazoo showcase of 80's pop hits not to be missed) he could be somewhat distanced from the everyday folk seeing the show. Thankfully, not the case.

Being English, and spending most of his time in Europe, he is a keen, if slightly twisted in a very inventive way, observer of the European state. For example, his take on Holland's low crime rate is; "'s very, very flat, so you can see people coming from miles off." He also cleverly incorporates familiar sounds from the keyboards into his routines, adding a unique and extra dimension to his comedy. And speaking from firsthand experience, his impression of a Slayer concert is spot on...which naturally leads directly to a Geoffrey Chaucer version of the classic "3 men go into a pub" joke.

Filmed around the same time as the first series of Black Books, you can see somewhat of a resemblance personality-wise between Bailey himself and the character of Manny, whom Bailey portrayed in the show, which featured Dylan Moran. If you are a fan of either Black Books, Moran, or Bailey himself, you would be wise to pick this up.

Bailey even manages to answer the age old, previously unanswerable question of "Where do you get your ideas?" His perfectly logical (within the realms of his bewildered mind) answer: "I start with the laugh, and work backwards."

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