Bailey's not bitter over Hobbit snub

STEPHANIE HOLMES
Last updated 12:22 08/07/2012
Bill Bailey
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ROCK ON: Bill Bailey is bringing his blend of music and comedy back to New Zealand.

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No matter how grateful he is for the support, Bill Bailey thinks the online petition to get him a part in The Hobbit might have worked against him.

Back in 2007, fans started campaigning to get the comedian and actor a role in Sir Peter Jackson's movie, eventually gaining almost 1500 signatures. When he was last in New Zealand in 2010, Bailey even auditioned for a role. But sadly, it came to nothing and the man who once called his stand-up tour "Part Troll" will not be appearing in Jackson's latest epic. Bailey isn't bitter.

"You hand the director a load of signatures, it would probably wind him up eventually," Bailey says, laughing, on the phone from his home in London. "'Oh God, I just want a resume. I don't want all of these signatures, cluttering up the desk'. But I think I'm going to try to write a musical based on The Hobbit. That's the way to go."

Who knows if he's serious?

He is certainly qualified for the job. A classically trained musician, Bailey is a man of supreme talent who always incorporates many songs and compositions into his stand-up comedy shows. In fact, his musical prowess led to a headlining spot on the main stage at the Sonisphere heavy metal festival in Britain last year, playing to a crowd of about 65,000 leather-clad, long haired rockers.

"I actually got a band together, and they were all very, very good musicians and we sort of rehearsed a bit before the show and I basically wrote a couple of new songs, and we did arrangements of my songs in the metal style," Bailey says. "It was daunting, I have to say. That number of people, and particularly metal fans . . . all the other bands that were on - Slayer and Metallica and Anthrax, and me.

"Metal fans are brilliant. They're so enthusiastic and they were really up for it and they completely embraced it. It was quite a tough evening really because it was raining, it was cold, a lot of people were standing about but nonetheless it was a blast. I'd love to do something like that again. It was quite extraordinary."

A CD of the music Bailey played at Sonisphere, Bill Bailey in Metal, was released in November.

Bailey is returning to New Zealand in October with his latest comedy tour, Qualmpeddler, which will feature his usual blend of "musical mash-ups, twisted logic, some political ranting, brilliant visuals and animation, a clear-eyed yet surreal view of the modern world, plus some new explorations of language inspired by a trip to China, where Bailey's experiences were stranger than surreal," so says the promotional material.

Intriguingly, it could also feature a dubstep version of Downton Abbey and Bailey discussing whether a Spice Girls reunion is part of the Mayan end of days prophecy.

"It's the usual multi-media kind of spectacle, as it were, because I love to use screens and films and visuals in the show because I just think it's another element," Bailey says. "I like to mix up the comedy, the way the comedy is presented, so it gives the show a bit of light and shade."

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Bailey says a show takes, on average, two years to develop from initial concept to being ready to perform and right now he's still fine-tuning Qualmpeddler, which he will tour first in Australia before arriving here for shows in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. "When I get to New Zealand of course it will be absolutely polished. Like a fine pebble. Like a piece of quartz."

Despite not casting him in our movies, Bailey says he loves New Zealand, especially as he and his family - wife Kristin and 9-year-old son Dax - enjoy exploring the great outdoors.

"If I'm away we'll go and try to do something like rafting or we like to go biking, quad biking, walking, hiking, that sort of thing, a bit of bird watching occasionally if I get the chance. So, outdoorsy stuff, I think because most of my professional life I'm indoors."

There hasn't been much time to enjoy the great outdoors in Britain so far this year, with the country suffering from a disappointing northern hemisphere summer.

There had been a period of good weather on the day Bailey spoke to Culture but, he says, "it has been pretty abysmal really and even by good English summer standards.

Freezing cold rain and wind is what we've been having. Which rather put the dampeners on the Queen's diamond jubilee floating flotilla pageant, which was a rather damp affair."

He was out of the country during last month's jubilee celebrations, but he says he caught some of it on TV.

"There was a lot of footage of boats sort of aimlessly pootling around in the Thames . . .There was this huge parade and a pageant and a concert with Elton John and Grace Jones and lord knows who else and [the Queen] didn't do anything.

"She didn't say thanks, or 'I could have done without Cheryl Cole but the rest of it was OK'.

She didn't say that. She said nothing!"

He may be derisive of the Queen and assures me he is not a royalist, but it turns out Bailey has met quite a large proportion of the Royal Family, including the ever-popular Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

"William and Kate came to my show actually, and we sort of smuggled them in to the stage door and they were lovely. Really pleasant, charming, down-to- earth people."

Unlike his former Black Books co-star Dylan Moran, Bailey comes across as a cheerful kind of man; more wide-eyed with wonderment than downright depression. But with the ongoing global financial crisis and political instability, Bailey admits to sometimes feeling gloomy about the world's future.

"Europe is coming apart at the seams and it makes you think whether this was always going to happen, whether it was on the cards and has been for a long time. We're in a crisis but I think there's also a bit of chicanery with governments trying to make a bit of capital out of it.

"You say to everyone, 'Oh, things are bad' and then you bung through a load of strict legislation while everyone is just terrified," he says. "So yeah, it's a time of reflection, I think, and a time of qualms. A time to peddle some qualms."

Bill Bailey's Qualmpeddler: Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, September 28-29, and CBS Canterbury Arena, Christchurch, October 1, ticketek.co.nz; ASB Theatre, Auckland, October 3-4, the-edge.co.nz

- Sunday Star Times

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