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Bill Bailey - Earl Of Whimsy

5 October 2018 | 12:26 pm | Stephen Cribb

"If the first act was mostly about cutting social and political commentary and observational humour, the second half was more a showcase of his considerable musical talents."

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For those who don’t know what to expect, Bill Bailey’s appearance, in equal parts hirsute and follicley challenged, and role as the long-suffering Manny in Black Books establish an expectation of slapstick visual humour.

But in the first Australian show of his Earl Of Whimsy tour Bailey again demonstrated a wide-ranging comedic talent as well as an incredibly diverse musical ability.

Self-described as “leftie leaning” he didn’t miss any of the usual right-wing targets in his opening monologue, congratulating us Aussies on our ability to change Prime Ministers whenever we tired of them while the Brits are stuck with Theresa May.

His disdain for the British Prime Minister and her handling of Brexit was a recurring theme throughout the show, comparing Britain to a divorcee sitting in his car writing his CV on a pizza box while his ex-family continued to live in the well-appointed family home. A bit like cutting off both your nose and ears to spite the French, he lamented.

His clear disdain for the leader of the free world was such that he couldn’t bring himself to say his name. His physical impersonation of the “man with the big brain” involved an inspired comb over his famous grey mane (described by one UK critic as a shower curtain starting half way down the back of his bald head) complete with a flopping fringe a la The Donald. Probably the comedic highlight of the night.

If the first act was mostly about cutting social and political commentary and observational humour, the second half was more a showcase of his considerable musical talents.

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He adeptly played a diverse range of instruments and ranged across genres from classical to country to hard metal with lyrics that kept up the humour while dazzling the audience with his musicianship.

Bailey has described himself as one of the one in 10,000 people who has perfect pitch, and this was clearly evident in performances that included the clever use of bird songs, his interpretation of Tom Waits singing a very black version of Old MacDonald Had A Farm, and the musical highlight being his signature performance of Stairway To Heaven on cow bells.

Bailey says he was chuffed to be voted the seventh most intelligent person on TV until he learnt that Lisa Simpson came in at number six. There is no doubt however, that he is one of the most complete all-round talents ever to grace our TV screens and theatres.