Qualms about the big questions? Comedy may have the answers
Comedian Bill Bailey reveals his many qualms about the mystery of life to Lynne Brighouse .
COMEDIAN Bill Bailey has reached the age where he is beginning to have qualms.
He seems to be experiencing serious disquiet about the big unanswered questions of existence – but what better way of diffusing all that existential anxiety than with a good old dollop of humour?
Bill's new show, Qualmpeddler, is, he says, a comic exploration of all kinds of qualms, big and small.
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"I think my show tends to reflect the age I've reached and the type of subjects I am thinking about," said Bill who, at 49, is now officially middle-aged, so is riding on a wave of maturity and, as a parent, responsibility.
Does that mean his sharp, witty stand-up act is in danger of losing some of its irreverent edge?
"Not at all," he said. "I always aim for a style of humour that is likely to appeal to people of all kinds of background and ages. It's just the subject matter that has changed.
"When we are in our 20s, they are carefree fun-filled times – and rightly so.
"But my comedy has always reflected where I am in life, what I'm thinking about and what appeals to me.
"What I find funny and appealing changes through time and I feel that I have outgrown certain topics and interests so I will leave that to the younger comedians. I have a family now and your perspective changes."
In his show, Bill intends to visit both ends of the "qualm spectrum", from silly light-hearted concerns to the weightier subjects that threaten to keep him awake at night.
"I think comedy can be a useful way of confronting the major questions of life," he said. "We all come to the point where we ask ourselves why we are here and what it all means and, if we can do that in small chunks, with humour, it is not so daunting."
Despite his recent theme of apprehension, Bill concedes that, on the whole, he has had a very charmed and satisfying life which has enabled him to indulge his many and various interests and talents as a performer.
"For a long time, when I was younger, I thought my future lay in music and becoming a pop star.
"In my teenage years, I took part in some comedy sketches and end-of-term shows at school. I also performed songs in local night clubs but it was the comedy which won through and it has become the main thrust of my work ever since."
Bill has successfully created a career which spans music, comedy and acting, with roles in sitcoms such as Black Books and regular slots on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
"I really enjoy words and playing around with them and it seems to have worked for me in terms of my comedy, which, in turn, has opened other doors."
Bill also found an outlet for one of his other big interests – the natural world – becoming the presenter of several wildlife shows, including Channel 4's Wild Thing I Love You and ITV's Baboons With Bill Bailey.
"I've been interested in nature from a young age. My mum used to take us on family days out to bird sanctuaries and nature reserves as kids. I enjoyed naming things, knowing what they were called and identifying them. I do the same with my own son now".
Although he enjoyed doing these shows and explores different avenues of work whenever he gets the chance, comedy is his life's work.
"It is my main interest. Comedy has evolved hugely over the last few decades. Audiences are much more savvy and sophisticated than they used to be so the comedy has to be fast-paced.
"The old mother-in-law jokes just don't have a place any more. Society has moved on and audiences are offered more intelligent stand-up humour."
Recently, you may have seen Bill on TV in an advertising campaign which is close to his heart – to raise awareness of prostate cancer.
"A member of my family went through it and I also lost my mother to cancer so I've had close first-hand experience of its effects," he said.
"It was serendipity that I became involved in the campaign – a combination of circumstances. I am around the age of people who fall into the danger zone for prostate cancer, which is 50 upwards, and it so happened that the charity's HQ is round the corner from where I live. I was approached to do the advert and it felt the right thing to do.
"We do need to talk more about this and raise awareness. Women tend to be much more proactive about their health while many men still tend to ignore it but, if we can get the message across with humour, people are often more receptive to listening."
WHAT: Qualmpeddler – Bill Bailey.
WHERE: Derby Assembly Rooms.
WHEN: April 29 and 30.
TICKETS: Call Derby 255800 or visit www.derbylive.co.uk.