Bill Bailey tells ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar how the enforced lay-off due to the pandemic has made him appreciate performing live more than ever
He is longing for the day job. And if nothing too dramatic happens this week, on Sunday, 12 December, Bill Bailey will be back doing what, for him, is his bread and butter - touring the UK and beyond.His last tour was halted due to the Covid pandemic, but he is now back, with a new show called En Route To Normal waiting in the wings. The comedian, musician and actor acknowledges we are a way off normal, but says being without the live element of his work has given him a new found appreciation of touring and audiences. Some have written to him, he says, telling him that when they see him on this forthcoming tour, it will be the first time they have been in an audience for nearly two years.
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He is acutely aware of the support staff who have also been waiting for the resumption of live shows: technicians and touring support staff who will be relying on the work this Christmas, as much as the venues for which the festive season is normally a bumper time for box office takings.
This is a critical time for all.That is not to say that Bill Bailey has been idle during lockdown. He had a few firsts to his credit this summer: the first comedian to play the main stage at the Royal Opera House, and the first to perform on the main stage at Latitude Festival. I was at the latter, and his energy, inventiveness and lust for live performance was incredible. You can see why he has missed the interaction that goes with live comedy.
And then, of course, there was Strictly Come Dancing. No live tours meant he was available to accept the offer to appear on the BBC show last year, and, as he is one of those people who seem to excel at everything they try (he’s also a published writer and a registered zookeeper), of course he won! That has proved something of a game changer for him. Getting stopped on the street, becoming a tabloid interest, not to mention a new injection of dance moves into his routines!
He raises an eyebrow at the frequent mentions of the fact he was the oldest person to win the hit show - 'I’m only 55,' he protests - but happily accepts any influence his success might have had on getting older people to try dancing themselves.His tour is a long one, running through Christmas and New Year in the UK and Ireland before heading out to the rest of Europe, and onto Australia towards the end of 2022.Bill Bailey is clearly raring to go.