Black Books Wiki
Bill Bailey
Biographical information

January 13, 1964



Current nation of residence

Hammersmith, London, UK



Eye colour


Hair colour



Bill Bailey's Official Website

Years Active

1989 - present

In Black Books

Manny Bianco

Notable Roles

Bill Bailey (born Mark Bailey, January 13, 1964) is a stand-up comedian, actor and musician. He is famous for introducing music into his stand-up act and for his appearances on such programmes as Black Books, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You and Jonathan Creek.


Early life[]

Bailey was born on January 13, 1964, in Bath and was raised in Keynsham, a town between Bath and Bristol. The only child of a hospital ward sister and a general practitioner, he lived in a house which also doubled as his father's surgery. Bailey attended King Edward's School in Bath, in which he was considered a gifted student with a skill for learning. However, at the age of 15, he began to drift away from acedemics and towards music and performing in the school band, Behind Closed Doors.

However, he remained in school and was the only student to study A-level music and passed with an A-grade. He was also a talented sportsmen, and was captain of the KES 2nd XI cricket team in 1982. He earned his nickname Bill by his music teacher, Ian Phillips, as he was so good as playing the song, Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey. After school, he briefly attended Westfield College, however, he left a year later.

In his earlier years, he performed with a band entitled The Famous Five, who Bailey admits was very bad and unusually had only four members. However, he continued to pursue a career in music and received an Associateship Diploma from the London College of Music as well as being made an honorary member of the Society of Crematorium Organists. However, he always felt an urge to add jokes and comedy into his musical performances, which influenced him to pursue a career in comedy.

He had a variety of jobs before becoming a comedian, including a hotel lounge pianist, a crementorium organist and a musician for a mind-reading dog, and even claims to have been a door-to-door door salesman.

Career in stand-up comedy[]

Bailey began to perform stand-up comedy, and toured the country with comedians such as Mark Lamarr. In 1986, he formed a comedy double act with fellow King Edward's School pupil Toby Longworth, who was later replaced by Martin Stubbs in 1988. They achieved a certain amount of success in the comedy circuit with their off-the-wall musical act, and followed a rigourous schedule, sometimes performing three or four gigs a night. It was here that Bailey developed his own unique style of comedy, with musical parodies and disections of various traditional jokes. When a critic complained that the act was short on jokes, Bailey returned to the stage the following night and performed a routine comprised entirely of punchlines.

After Stubbs left the act, Bailey joined fellow comedian Sean Lock, and performed a show entitled Rock, about an aging rockstar and his roadie. The show did not prove popular and Bailey turned solo in 1995 and started performing his one-man show, Cosmic Jam. This time, the show impressed audiences, and was recorded at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London and was later broadcasted in 1996 on Channel 4. Only after Bailey earned international status was the show released on DVD in 2005.

After winning a Time Out, he was nominated for a Perrier Award, and was beaten by Black Books co-star Dylan Moran by the narrowest margin in the award's history. Bailey went on to win the Best Live Stand-Up award at the British Comedy Awards in 1999.

In 2001, Bailey toured the globe with his sell-out tour, Bewilderness, which thrusted him into the public eye and earned him a wide fanbase. In the show, Bailey parodied such theme tunes as The Magic Roundabout and Countdown, and demonstrated his unique style of disecting traditional jokes. A DVD of the show was recorded in Swansea and the show also proved popular in America.

In 2003, Bailey performed his next show, Part Troll, which proved popular with critics and fans alike. He first performed it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before transferring it to the West End, where tickets sold out in less than 24 hours and the show had to be extended. He then toured the globe with the show, performing in such countries as America, Australia and New Zealand. The show sees the first appearance of Bailey's political humour, in which he gives his comical views on the Iraq war and George Bush.

2006 saw Bailey performing his next show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, entitled Steampunk. Despite expectations of it being the fastest selling show in the festival's history, a ticketing mix up meant that the last 10% of tickets had to be sold in person, meaning that the show sold out at a slower pace then it should have.

Bailey then performed three sell-out nights of his next show, Tinselworm, in Manchester, which culminated in the Wembley Arena. In October 2008, he performed Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, a mix of clasiical music and comedy, at the Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Anne Dudley.

Televison work[]

Bailey made his first appearance on television very early on in his career, although it was not for comedy but for playing the piano for a mind-reading dog on the children's TV show, Motormouth. The dog, who clearly did not possess any psychic powers, caused the trick to go wrong which Bailey later talked about on the TV show Room 101. In 1991, he began appearing in such stand-up comedy shows as The Happening, Packing Them In, The Stand Up Show, and The Comedy Store. He was also the team captain for two panel shows, an ITV musical quiz pilot, Pop Dogs, and the short-lived sci-fi panel show, Space Cadets.

Over the next few years, Bailey made guest appearances on such shows as Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Des O'Connor Tonight, Coast to Coast and three episodes of Black Books sister show, Spaced, in which he played comic-shop manager Bilbo Bagshot. In 1998, Bailey was given his own show, Is It Bill Bailey?, which he wrote and presented.

In the same year, Dylan Moran approached Bailey with a pilot script of Black Books, a sitcom about a grumpy bookshop owner, his halfwit assistant and their eccentric neighbour. The show was commisioned in 2000 and Bailey starred as Manny Bianco. The show ran until 2004 with three series of six episodes each. The show attracted much attention from fans and critics alike, and provided Bailey with a lot of public awareness. This fanbase gained him popularity and Bailey's 2001 stand-up comedy show, Bewilderness, proved a success, with The New York Times commenting that he was 'a treat for the funny bone, the brain and the ear' and The Telegraph calling him 'a hobbit with a wicked sense of humour'.

Bewilderness demonstrated Bailey's wide musical knowledge, and when Sean Hughes left the musical panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2002, Bailey became the perfect candidate to replace him. He remained as team captain for six years before leaving in 2008 to return to stand-up comedy. Bailey has also appeared on panel show QI since 2003, appearing alongside Alan Davies and Stephen Fry. He appearaed with Alan Davies again when he was cast as struggling street magician Kenny Starkiss in mystery/drama series Jonathan Creek.

Bailey then went on to host the wildlife documentry series, Wild Thing I Love You, in which he and a team of zoologists attempt to preserve Britain's most endangered wildlife. He also appeared in E4's drama/comedy series Skins, in which he played Maxxie's father, Walter Oliver. He went on to appear in other TV shows such as Grand Designs Live, 15 Storeys High, Hustle and TV Heaven, Telly Hell.

In 2009, Bailey hosted his own show, Bill Bailey's Birdwatching Bonanza, in which he coached two teams of celebrities through various birdwatching challenges.

In 2007, fans started a petition to try to persuade Bill to audition for a role as a dwarf in the 2010 film The Hobbit. The petition reached its target amount of signatures, and was sent off to the producers. It was hoped that Bailey's Tinselworm tour would take him to New Zealand, where the film was in pre-production, that he would be able to audition. In 2008, Bailey planned to put himself forward for Britain's Eurovision Song Contest Entry, after more fan petitions encouraged him to do so.

Bailey is currently working on a film project about the explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, in the form of an Indonesian travelogue.

Personal life[]

Bill Bailey married his wife, Krisitin Bailey, a former costume designer, in 1998 in Indonesia. He is an avid Star Trek fan, and named his son Dax (born 2003) after the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character.

He is a supportor of Queen Park Rangers and currently resides in Hammersmith, London.

Awards and achievements[]

Bailey won the Time Out Magazine Comedy Award Winner in 1995, and the Edinburgh Festival Critics' Award Winner in 1996. He was nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1996, and lost to Black Books co-star Dylan Moran. Moran later stated the award was 'a load of media rubbish', and felt that the award should have gone to Bailey.

He was also awarded the title of Best Actor at the 1986 Institut Français awards. Bailey was listed by The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy in 2003, and ranked #7 in the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups hosted by Channel 4.


Year Title Type Role
Late 1980s Motormouth Children's TV show Himself (pianist)
1992 Maid Marian and her Merry Men Children's TV show Court jester to King John
1994 Blue Heaven TV sitcom Boris
1995 Cosmic Jam Comedy tour Himself
1996 Asylum TV sitcom Patient
1997 Bill Bailey Live Televised version of Cosmic Jam Himself
Space Cadets Panel show Himself (team captain)
1998 Light Lunch Comedy chat show Himself
Is It Bill Bailey? Stand-up/sketch show Himself
1998-2008 Never Mind the Buzzcocks Comedy panel show Himself (guest/team captain)
1999 Spaced TV sitcom Bilbo Bagshot
The Stick Up Film Mr. Tubbs
My Wife Comedy short Narrator (voice)
World Cup Comedy Comedy show Himself (guest)
1999, 2001, 2005, 2007 - 2009 Have I Got News For You Comedy panel show Himself (guest/guest host)
2000 Saving Grace Film Vince
Room 101 Comedy chat show Himself (guest)
Head On Comedy Comedy show Himself
Full Mountie Comedy Himself
2000-2004 Black Books TV sitcom Manny Bianco
2001 Bewilderness Comedy tour Himself
2001, 2003 Jonathan Creek Crime/drama TV series Kenny Starkiss
2002 Late Nigh with Conan O'Brien Chat show Himself (guest)
2002, 2008 Rove Live Comedy chat show Himself
2003 - 2009 Friday Night with Jonathan Ross Chat show Himself (guest)
2003 - 2010 QI Comedy panel show Himself (guest)
2004 Wild West Comedy Doug
Terkel in Trouble Animation Narrator (voice)
15 Storeys High TV sitcom Mr. Pirbright
Bill Bailey: Part Troll Comedy tour Himself
Top Gear Motoring magazine Himself (guest)
Skip to the End Documentary Himself (guest)
2004 - 2008 Richard and Judy Chat show Himself (guest)
2006 The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Chat show Himself (guest)
Wild Thing: I Love You Documentary Himself (presenter)
TV Heaven, Telly Hell Comedy chat show Himself (guest)
2007 More Boys Who Do Comedy Documentary Himself (guest)
Buzzcocks ... Imagine a Mildly Amusing Panel Game Documentary Himself (guest)
The Comedy Map of Britain Documentary Himself (guest)
100 Greatest Stand-Ups Documentary Himself (guest)
2008 Love Soup Comedy drama Elliot Anderson
Skins Comedy drama Walter Oliver
Bill Bailey: Tinselworm Comedy tour Himself
Blackadder's Most Cunning Moments Documentary Himself (guest)
Blackadder Exclusive: The Whole Rotton Saga Documentary Himself (guest)
This Week News chat show Himself (guest)
The Beatbox Choir Documentary Himself (guest)
2009 The Graham Norton Show Chat show Himself (guest)
Hustle Drama Cyclops
Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra Comedy/musical tour Himself
Xposé News/talk show Himself (guest)
2010 Bill Bailey's Birdwatching Bonanza Documentary Himself (presenter)
The ONE Show Chat show Himself (guest)
Live from Studio Five Chat show Himself (guest)
Burke and Hare Film Angus
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Film Farmer MacReadie

Behind the scenes[]

  • Bailey can speak fluent German.
  • His favourite musical artists include David Bowie, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Dandy Warhols, Talking Heads, The Clash, Beck and Elvis Costello.
  • He was best man at friend and QI co-star Alan Davies' wedding in January, 2007.
  • He has perfect pitch.
  • Bailey was born in the same year (1965) as his charcter in Black Books, Manny Bianco.
  • He is a member of the punk band Beergut 100.

External links[]