The A-Z of Bill Bailey

The complete alphabet of Britain's only stand-up, dancer and kazoo impressario

A is for Amoebas

Everything started with amoebas, including Bill Bailey’s career. Forming The Rubber Bishops double act in 1984 with actor Toby Longworth, Bailey began stand-up by making jokes out of other jokes – including the early classic, (“How many amoebas does it take to change a lightbulb? One, no two! No four! No eight…”). 10 years later he was partnered up with Sean Lock at The Fringe, before kickstarting his solo career.

B is for Black Books

While Bill Bailey is primarily known for his stand-up performances, generally funny enough merely being himself – he turned in a brilliant display in sitcom Black Books (2000-2004), alongside Dylan Moran and Tamsin Greig, playing the eccentric if infectiously optimistic shop assistant Manny Bianco. 

Best Of Manny | Black Books | Series 1

C is for Charity Work

Bill Bailey a keen supporter of multiple causes, and puts his money where his mouth is. His passion for wildlife has made him a supporter of the International Animal Rescue, and he’s even a patron of the Sumatran Orangutan Society. Bailey has also completed fundraisers for the NHS, and for grieving children. Not to mention his seven-day walk to raise money for cancer charity Macmillan, in aid of his dear friend Sean Lock. What a lovely man. 

D is for Dax

Bill Bailey has one son, the teenager Dax. While Bailey generally keeps his family private, Dax was seen on the telly supporting his dad during Strictly Come Dancing (which we’ll obviously come to later…). 

E is for Environmentalist

It’s not just a matter of putting his name to good causes, Bill Bailey’s television output has often been led by his passion and love for the environment, and for the conservation of wildlife. He has made a TV series on naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace called Jungle Hero, and he presented a wildlife series called Wild Thing… I Love You. For his work in environmental conservation, Bailey received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. 

F is for Fringe

We’re not talking about his wonderful haircut, but of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is something of a rite of passage for all British comedians starting out. For Bailey, he has something of a love-hate relationship with the festival, admitting once that a difficult experience in 1994 almost made him quit comedy for telesales. Thank God he didn’t. 

Bill Bailey - U2 Failure - Part Troll

G is for Guitar

One of many instruments that Bailey can play (apparently, he’s now up to 63, including the theremin and the kazoo). But the guitar holds a special resonance, as his talent for the instrument at school saw him perform the classic track ‘Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey’, and led to his music teacher giving him the nickname ‘Bill’, which as we all know, rather stuck. 

H is for Hot Fuzz

Bailey’s very occasional deviations into cinema have always been enjoyable to witness, but none more so than his role in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, alongside Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as the comedian plays two roles in the film. It wasn’t his first collaboration with this collective either, having been in Spaced, too. 

I is for Indonesia

When we think of Bill Bailey we don’t often imagine a hopeless romantic, but picture this scene: he got married, on a whim, in 1998. There was a lagoon, a smoking volcano, an old church – and the striking beauty of the landscape encouraged him and his wife to marry, there and then. 

J is for John Hegley

It’s fair to say that there aren’t too many comedy acts quite like Bailey’s. Though original he may be, that’s not to say he isn’t influenced and inspired by others. One such comic he has namechecked as a major influence on his career is John Hegley. As Bailey told The Guardian, “His combination of words, pictures, music and songs – that’s something that formed the core of my own act”. 

K is for Kristin Bailey

We mentioned the beautiful marriage in Indonesia, so figured it was only fair to mention who the marriage was to, and it was Kristin Bailey. The pair met – you guessed it – at a comedy show, in 1987 while she was managing a bar in Edinburgh. 

L is for Labour

Bailey is a member of the Labour Party, and has often used his platform to discuss his political views, even appearing in their election broadcast back in 2010. 

M is for Mark

Bill was a nickname given to him by a teacher at school, which means he has another real name (shock!) – and that name is Mark. Mark Robert Bailey, to be precise. 

Never Mind The Buzzcocks | Bill Bailey & Martha Reeves | Intro's Round

N is for Nevermind The Buzzcocks

Bill Bailey first took over as one of the team captains on musical-panel show Nevermind The Buzzcocks back in 2002, to replace Sean Hughes. Opposite fellow captain Phil Jupitus, Bailey saw in the end of the era that was Mark Lamarr, and the beginning of the next, as Simon Amstell took over as host. 

O is for Orchestra

Given Bailey’s aptitude for musical performance, and ability to play such a myriad of instruments, it’s no surprise that he did a TV special back in 2009 called Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra, which was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. In this show the comedian gave us an irreverent and in-depth journey into an orchestra, in the only way he knows how. 

P is for Perfect pitch 

Bill Bailey has perfect-pitch. Genuinely. He realised this when he picked out the pitch of a hoover. As he said himself, “It occurs entirely at random in about one in every 10, 000 of us, and I’m one of them”. He’s just showing off now. 

Q is for Queens Park Rangers

Bill Bailey is an avid Queens Park Rangers fan. Though hailing from Bath, Somerset – the comedian has taken up residence in Hammersmith, and calls West London his home, meaning he can walk to Loftus Road on match days. Which is handy for a quick getaway when they’re losing, which happens a fair bit (sorry, Rangers fans). 

R is for Royal Opera House

Bailey recorded his live stand-up special Larks in Transit at the Royal Opera House. Which may not sound that noteworthy originally, until you learn that he was the first British comedian to have played the main stage at the prestigious London venue in its entire 156 year history, up until that point. 

Bill and Oti Tango to Enter Sandman ✨ Week 8 Semi-final ✨ BBC Strictly 2020

S is for Strictly Come Dancing

We did say we’d come to this – and how can we not? Bill Bailey not only featured on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2020, but he only went and bloody won it. Considered by some viewers, initially, as something of a novelty act, he soon shut any doubters up when he tangoed his way to victory alongside Oti Mabuse.

T is for Thoughtifier

Bill is back on stage in 2024 and 2025 with his new tour, Thoughtifier, which he has described as a “magical, musical mystery tour of the human mind”. He’s also described it as “An intriguing device amplifying the thoughts of a curious mind using music, channeled through a human instrument, typically resembling Bill Bailey”.

U is for Unique

There isn’t anybody quite like Bill Bailey on the UK comedy scene, and you’d be hard pressed to draw any real comparisons. In an industry so reliant on standing out, here’s a man who has always done just that – with such a creative blend of surrealist humour and music, managing to be irreverent and yet profound at the same time. Add to that all the causes he is passionate about, and we’re left with a real one of a kind. 

V is for Virtuoso

Another word to describe the man, sure, but also… how many other comedians can play the bagpipes? (Hopefully, not many).

Bill Bailey plays the bagpipes on Have I Got News For You

W is for Whale

Another of Bailey’s brief flirtations with cinema, came in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, where he voiced ‘The Whale’. A Magrathean Sperm Whale, to be precise.  

X is for X 

Bill Bailey isn’t hugely active on social media, but does occasionally post on ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter, thankfully, for this format), giving us a little insight into the unpredictable world that is his life. But above all, it’s where he can post things that really mean something to him, epitomised in the fact that both his profile picture and header photo are about his dearest friend, the late, great Sean Lock. 

Y is for Yellow Longbill

No, that’s not his nickname from school (though weirdly it could work?) But it’s the name of a bird, and while we have absolutely zero idea if Bailey has ever actually sighted one, given he’s such a keen birdwatcher, and given he likes to travel, and given it’s hard to think of anything with the letter ‘Y’ – we’re just going to assume he has. 

Z is for Zealand

Of the New variety. Bailey has an ongoing connection to New Zealand; he tours there frequently, the crowds love him, and was even very close to being cast in Lord Of The Rings, which was filmed over there, having auditioned for the role of Gimli the dwarf.

Bill Bailey returns to UK stages throughout 2024 and 2025 with Thoughtifier. Tickets are on sale here