Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Live Review: Bill Bailey a total hoot

Comedian Bill Bailey embraced oddity, death metal, Brexit  and  Invercargill on his final night. Photo / Supplied
Comedian Bill Bailey embraced oddity, death metal, Brexit and Invercargill on his final night. Photo / Supplied

Bill Bailey had spent the day paddleboarding in Takapuna. but the poor devil had clearly forgotten to slip, slop, slap. He was as red as a beetroot. Only much funnier.

It was the last date of his extensive New Zealand tour and he was in fine form. Later he'd sing a heartfelt ode to the emptiness of Invercargill, a song so new he still needed the lyric sheet, but first he had something he wanted to get off his chest.

While out paddleboarding (and burning up ...) he'd begun to feel homesick, he says.

"Not in that I miss home," he clarifies, "more that when I think about home, I feel sick."

This was his cue to launch into an extended rant about Brexit. It was very funny, very wordy and very free associative.

What started with Bailey's face-palming disbelief at the stupidity of his fellow countrymen, quickly spiralled out to include Twitter trolls, hacked emails, bizarre Indonesian greetings, eavesdropping in cafes and more than a couple of shout-outs to the Auckland Barn Owl Society.

As well as being a funny bloke Bailey's also a skilled muso, so the stage was littered with instruments. There was the expected stuff like guitars and synths, but also more obscure things like a Theremin, a mandolin and an African drum box. For the encore he wheeled out a table full of jingle bells with which he busted out some classic rock.

But he eased into the music and spent the night flitting between story and song.

He began with a dark interpretation of Happy Birthday in a Berlin cabaret style, then moved into an epic-sized and quite brilliant reimagining of the iPhone's annoying marimba ringtone and finished off with a death-metal cover of The Teddy Bears' Picnic.

Bailey's an incredibly likeable comic. His conversational and easy-going style belies the craft and intelligence that obviously goes into creating these gags.

Who else could pull off a section of comedic poetry while also explaining the rules of structure, form and rhythmic metre that each employed?

Or get away with a brutal - although not incorrect - dissing of Elton John? Or tell a long-winded deconstruction of non-comedy that encompassed racsim, Lionel Ritchie and a horse from Kent?

Bailey's embrace of oddity and flabbergasted air of bewilderment provided a steady stream of laughs. He's consistently humourous, even if he's not gut-busting.

The show's highlight and one moment of totally uncontrollable, eye-watering laughter came near the end when he vividly recounted and re-enacted the time he met his musical hero, Paul McCartney.

So it was fun night. There were no lulls and plenty of lols. The show's a total hoot. A fitting description considering all the jokes about bird watching.


Who: Bill Bailey
Where:ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
When: Thursday, September 27

- NZ Herald

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