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Bailey, Bill (1964-)


Main image of Bailey, Bill (1964-)

Initially a stand-up comedian renowned for verbal and musical erudition, Bill Bailey has also proved himself to be a versatile comic actor. He was born on 24th February 1964 in Bath, as Mark Bailey, taking his stage name from the wartime song 'Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?', which he heard at school. Upon leaving, he began a stand-up career that netted him the 1995 Time Out comedy award and saw him come a close runner-up in the 1996 Perrier Awards to Dylan Moran, his eventual co-star in Black Books (Channel 4, 2000-04).

After brief TV appearances in showcases such as The Stand-Up Show (ITV, 1995), he made Is It Bill Bailey? (BBC, 1998), showcasing his inimitable brand of anarchic humour alongside his musical prowess. It was directed by Edgar Wright and featured Simon Pegg, who later cast Bailey in a small but amusing recurring role as comic bookshop owner 'Bilbo Bagshot', in their cult TV series Spaced (Channel 4, 1999).

He had a small but uproarious part as an unsuccessful gangster-cum-hippie in the cannabis comedy Saving Grace (d. Nigel Cole, 2000), and achieved fame as the put-upon bookshop assistant Manny Bianco in the cult sitcom Black Books. Using his bewildered hippyish appearance to hilarious comic effect, he established a twisted rapport with Dylan Moran that drew comparisons with such classics as Steptoe and Son (BBC, 1962-74). A regular fixture on Have I Got News For You (BBC, 1990-) and QI (BBC, 2003-), from 2002 he became a team captain on the popular music quiz Never Mind The Buzzcocks (BBC, 1996-), all of which benefited from his quick-fire wit and subversive humour. He had a vocal cameo as a doomed whale in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (US/UK, 2005), before reuniting with Wright and Pegg for Hot Fuzz (2007).

Alexander Larman

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Thumbnail image of Black Books (2000-04)Black Books (2000-04)

Cult sitcom about a grumpy, alcoholic Irish bookseller

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