Bill Bailey points out during the beginning of Dandelion Mind that he was recently voted the seventh most intelligent person on TV. In a poll topped, obviously, by should-be Prime Minister Stephen Fry, Bailey is proud and right to make his audience aware of his intelligence. Such a statement may seem egotistical, but he manages to humble himself with silly and weird antics throughout the gig, and is self-deprecating (he feigns outrage at being beaten to sixth place on the list by fictional Lisa Simpson). It is when he reveals his sharp wit quietly and quickly that you really appreciate his style of comedy. In the face of many brash, rude and arrogant comedians, Bailey’s knowledge, inventiveness and bizarre ramblings are a wonderful thing to witness.
Unlike many comedians of his calibre, he tends to be quite apolitical. So it is surprising that he begins with a scathing critique of the Con-Dem government and the Pope. However, he is certainly not one for descending into angry dismissal, and instead turns out some hilariously original insults and comparisons, which he extends well to parody such things as L’Oreal adverts (“De-uglify your face!”). At one point, Bailey took on the role of a crazy art teacher and proceeded to criticise several classic paintings of Thomas the Apostle poking Christ’s wound. It was like an already borderline art teacher giving a lesson whilst high. He managed to take something high-brow and create original comedy from it, being silly and even educational!
Though he doesn’t utilise his vast musical talent as much as in previous shows – particularly Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra – he still manages to include an array of different instruments, musical parodies, and even gets the whole crowd to sing ‘California Dreaming’ in various styles. In an impressive display of physical energy, Bailey practically attacks a set of horns in a crazy horn-keyboard setup, reworking Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ brilliantly. Yet the move away from music may be welcome, allowing more time for his whimsical musings. He does, however, include a few film clips: his take on self-service machines in supermarkets featured a short clip that was particularly brilliant. I will never hear the phrase “unexpected item in the bagging area” in the same way again. He also finished the show with another film, which made use of several jokes that popped up throughout the set – a clever way of rounding the whole show up neatly and memorably.
For some, Bill Bailey’s meandering logic can be an issue. Like the title Dandelion Mind, taken from his song parodying whimsical female singer-songwriters (“usually called Katie”), his ideas can seem unconnected and scattered. The lack of a unifying structure to the show seems to combine with the tour’s overriding theme of doubt to create a sense of an uncertain or unfinished set, and it seems he has slowed down over the years. That said, Dandelion Mind was certainly a worthy show. Bailey more than makes up for any faults with his sharp wit and constantly zany imagination, and experiencing the wonderful working of his mind is a great privilege for anyone.
The new CD Bill Bailey in Metal is out now, alongside the Dandelion Mind DVD.