‘And that’s why Nicky Minaj didn’t sample a puffin’
“I don’t want to go all political,” says Bill Bailey at one point during Larks in Transit. But he can’t help himself. The man who’s mainly known for stoner whimsy and musical talent is as engaged in current affairs as more overt satirists.
And as a proud leftie with many a protest march under his belt, he’s angry that the wrong side is winning the arguments at the moment. He’s so angry with Donald Trump, in fact, that he can’t even bring himself to say the name out loud. Bailey is relatively restrained on this subject, satisfying himself with a challenge to the idea that men turn into neanderthals as soon as they’re in the “locker room”, and a ludicrous Trump impression.
Brett also comes into his crosshairs, naturally, in the form of an opiated cover of Summer Holiday. The casual wooziness of the song makes the lyrics all the more cutting, as he paints a bleak vision of a post-Brexit Britain. Refreshingly, for one of the country’s biggest comics, he’s unashamedly partisan on this subject, with zero interest in false balance or respectful disagreement. “I don’t mean that in a bad way” is a refrain he comes back to time and again. He has the charm to pull it off.
What Bailey mainly observes though is a country in chaos. Whether it’s Brexit or a half-arsed dinosaur park, what we do best is blind amateurism. We are the people who cheer when someone smashes a plate in a restaurant, and we’re cheering as the world goes to hell in a handcart.
There are some delightful moments of invention, like his deconstruction of the knock-knock joke, and a section in which he takes us through birdsong in pop music. Bailey is the only comic who will bestow you with the line “and that’s why Nicky Minaj didn’t sample a puffin”.
Elsewhere there is some Bailey by numbers, like his fallbacks of doing something in a west country accent, or switching a song into a minor or major key (You Are My Sunshine” and the American national anthem get the treatment). But in a two-hour show a few fallbacks hardly constitutes laziness.
Interestingly, it turns out that since he last toured, Bailey has “had a tilt” at Hollywood. We get a slightly tall tale about him getting caught doing something he shouldn’t have done, I doubt I’m the only person who’d like to hear more about this unlikely combination of person and place.
As expected there is plenty of musical tomfoolery and showboating. He turns his iPhone alarm into an elaborate musical number, a trick that follows in the footsteps of his knack for turning the mundane into the spectacular. As the show drifts to its conclusion he indulges in his love for the ludicrousness of metal (music). It sets him up for a delightfully silly climax to yet another superb show from our foremost comedy rock goblin.
Review by Paul Fleckney