Top of the Bill
Bill Bailey is fond of the Irish, he tells Eamon Sweeney
Irish Bill Bailey fans are in for a treat, as his forthcoming shows at the O2 will be recorded for DVD posterity as Dandelion Mind. "Over the years, I've always enjoyed doing Ireland immensely," Bailey reveals.
"This is the culmination of a plan I've had for a long time to play and record a show in Dublin. And this is partly because the audiences are truly great; they're fantastic and responsive and always up for it.
"In most places around the world you can bet there's a certain pattern to the way audiences react on a given night," he continues. "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday tend to be a bit muted. On Thursday, they liven up a bit. Fridays are usually the best night because people are in a good mood at the end of the week. Saturday is not quite as up for it, as people have spent the day at home pottering about and they've got dressed up and just want to be entertained.
"There's a pattern, but that doesn't apply to Dublin, they're at the same level on Monday as they are on a Friday night, perhaps even more so."
Since a fondly remembered six-night stand in the Olympia in 2008 and last year's Bill Bailey's Essential Guide to the Orchestra, Bailey has been an impressively prolific comic.
"I've actually scaled back TV quite a lot," he reveals. "I don't do Never Mind the Buzzcocks anymore, so there's a whole chunk of time in a year to do what I want. The projects I do now such as QI (hosted by Stephen Fry) don't take up huge swathes of time. I love live performance. It's the area where you have most control over what you're doing."
Speaking of TV, the Holy Grail for most stand-ups is a prime-time television slot. Meanwhile, so many successful TV comics yearn for accomplishment on the live stage.
"For me, TV has always been an incidental career that happened because of stand-up, which I'd been doing for years," he says.
"I auditioned for the role in Black Books and I was lucky enough to get that, which became a bit of a cult favourite. I was lucky to get Never Mind the Buzzcocks because Mark Lamarr wanted me to do it and so did Phil Jupitus, so when Sean Hughes left there was an opportunity."
Bailey once revealed in his stand-up show that he auditioned for the part of the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings, which is funny considering that "Gandalf" was one of the numerous insults he received off Dylan Moran in Black Books. Fans set up an online petition lobbying for him to be cast in a 2010 adaptation of The Hobbit.
"I'm a bit wary of these online petitions," he confesses. "I don't know if they have any use at all, or have the complete opposite effect that will prevent you from getting any parts. Directors will be thinking, 'Oh man, here's the petition guy again'. Obviously, I'm very flattered that people have gone to the trouble of taking these things up and God bless them for that. The Hobbit has been in stop-start mode for over a year with studios and directors backing out. It would be great fun."
Both Bailey and Irishman Dylan Moran's most enduring legacy could prove to be Black Books. It stands up as tremendous comedy on repeat viewings all these years later. Does he ever consider returning to it?
"I don't know," he answers. "It's one of those things that we've spoken about. From my memory at the time, Dylan had a tremendous amount of pressure and it took its toll on him to keep the quality up and keep getting it done.
"Once TV gets hold of you, they want more. What started out being fun turned into a contractual obligation. I'd understand if he never wants to put himself through that again. I'd love to work with Dylan again on something. Every time we meet up, by the stage we get round to talking about something, it's so late and too much wine has been taken."
Moran just pipped Bill Bailey to the Perrier Award in 1998, which was the closest vote in the illustrious comedy gong's history. Is it in anyway strange that the pair have since become such close friends and collaborators? "Nah, there's lifelong seething resentment," Bailey chuckles. "Eventually, I'll pay for a hit-man to take him out."
Bill Bailey plays the O2 on Thursday, September 30 and Friday, October 1