I can't say I've ever had a stitch from laughing so hard at a show before which points to two things; firstly that I am probably horrendously unfit, and secondly that Bill Bailey is one of the greatest comics around today.
Qualmpeddler contains all of the qualities of a patented Bill Bailey show: political jibes, amusing anecdotes, off the cuff humour, psychedelic images and lights, and a vast array of unusual instruments played by Bailey; all of it absurd and brilliant. Whether it is brilliantly absurd or absurdly brilliant I can't quite decide but that is the magic of Bill Bailey.
Bailey opened the show with political jibes so derisive and scathing they would make Frankie Boyle blush. Among others, Tony Abbot, Mitt Romney and David Cameron were all so thoroughly insulted I heard the women in the row behind me whisper to her partner "damn, they got served!", and if outdated slang doesn't convey to you the insult, I don't know what will.
Bailey went on to talk about the state of cognitive dissonance the modern world often left him in, talking in particular about the cult of vacuous celebrity using as an example British "celebrity" Chantelle Houghton, famous for Big Brother, sleeping around and thinking the sun and the moon are the same thing. What followed was possibly my favourite part of the show. He asked if there was an Australian equivalent to this kind of famous-for-nothing celebrity to which the audience (of course!) replied "Lara Bingle." Having understandably not heard of Lara Bingle, Bailey asked what she was famous for. Shouts of "nothing," "second-rate model," and "crap TV show" echoed across the hall, but above all these was the yell "where the bloody hell are you?" which Bailey took to be what he described as "the most existential heckle he had ever received." For a good five minutes he ranted away at the heckler before remembering (god knows how) about the ad from which the phrase originated, he then proceeded to improvise an entire set on stupid tourism advertisements attacking Malaysia, New Zealand and Scotland's lacklustre ads.
Funny accents and speech are well travelled grounds for comedians (I'm looking at you Adam Hills) but Bailey went at it in a new, humorous way making light of his native West-Country English accent, as well as taking a poke at the Danish accent in his favourite show The Killing. Language was further explored in his diatribe against text acronyms such as LMAO(laughing my arse off), which he found particularly infuriating; commenting "is it how French cats talk about Chairman Mao?" Bailey attempted to reclaim text acronyms with ridiculously humorous results.
A lot of Bailey's show was influenced by his recent trip to China, entertaining us with his difficulties speaking Mandarin, culminating in the daring rescue of a Eurasian Eagle Owl from a Beijing restaurant, remarking "'There is no Chinese phrase book that gives you the words "You hold the owl's feet while I cut the sellotape off with the nail scissors."
It wouldn't be a Bill Bailey show without music, and Qualmpeddler didn't disappoint. The audience were treated to Jamaican reggae and dub-step remixes of the previously dull Downton Abbey theme song, complete with flashing images of badgers, a light show and voice clips from the series. Bailey ended after three encores (yes three!) in typical, magical, flamboyant style with what I can confidently describe as the very first rubber bicycle horn death metal song.
I've been a fan of Bill Bailey's for a long time; QI, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and Black Books are among my favourite shows and now after seeing him live I am sure that Bill Bailey is a freaking genius.
Qualmpeddler has been so popular in Sydney that one more show has been added for Wednesday 19 September. He will be playing Brisbane at QPAC on 21, 23, 24 and 25 September. Tickets are available here. If you've missed out a DVD will probably be out within the year.