What is a tinselworm? It’s something I can’t stop thinking about since seeing Bill Bailey’s latest highly entertaining solo show of the same name – but it’s not the only thing.
To call what Bailey does simply stand-up – he doesn’t stand still for a minute - or even comedy seems reductionistic in the extreme.
Fans will be happy to see various Bailey trademarks all present and accounted for – albeit moved on a bit – in this new show, which comes to the West End following dates Down Under and a UK arena tour last year. It’s two Scientologists now changing the lightbulb, for instance, while The Killers are amongst the current pop music parodies, the audience chanting along to Bailey’s version of the “All the Things That I’ve Done” chorus: I’ve got ham but I’m not a hamster…
Putting his musical skills to further good use (Bailey is a classically trained musician), there’s also plenty of tinkling of the keyboards, pounding of the synthesiser (creating some very spooky doorbell ringtones) and strumming of numerous string instruments, not least an Iranian oud.
This is all interspersed of course with Bailey’s free-wheeling ramble through self-deprecating jibes and a wide range of big and small topics: from bouncy castles to the Obama moment, elements of the psyche, potential Olympic parade embarrassment, job interview questions, tattoos, conspiracy theories, the Haydon Collidor, Emo, panini and security at the Trocadero Centre.
For the most part, it’s delightfully silly fun, but what I love most about Bailey’s performance is that he doesn’t shy away from making you think – and dare I say it, feel – at the same time as he’s making your belly ache. The day after the show, I was Googling away to find out more about Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the novels of Thomas Pynchon, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard and UBS’s links to Nazi gold.
And I was also recalling the show’s closing: a short wordless film of Bailey and a potted plant in Hyde Park that, while whimsical, also seemed to me an incredibly moving portrait of the modern malaise, the loneliness of humanity.
I’m still not sure what tinselworm is, though I imagine it has something to do with Joe Magee’s quirky animations, another of the evening’s nice touches, and Bailey sticking a cheerful two fingers up at those pesky Creationists.