With his Limboland tour continuing for some time yet – doing the rounds up and down the country until December’s switch to the capital – I should walk the line carefully here, not giving away too much for those yet to catch this Bath-born comic and musical genius.
But however well I phrase it, you’ll get it better first-hand judging by my night to remember in Lancashire.
With the horror of Friday night in Paris stamped on us all, Bill was quick to jump in and slam all those intent on attacking the age-old concept of fun and good times, breaking the ice in doing so.
From there he was up and running, tackling domestic politics in support of the NHS, railing against the PM and IDS, among others. This being Bill, there was plenty of veering off too, something he’s taken to art-form level, and he was soon treating us to his jarring new animal liberation anthem, The Day the Chickens Marched on Kiev.
From there we covered Bill’s failed attempts at Skype conversations with his Dad and the songs we play in our heads as we walk, leading to an examination of the effectiveness of the Star Wars theme and its Imperial March in such situations.
The Daily Mail was his next target, not least dwelling on how certain scandals are written off as youthful high jinks while others – far less inflammatory – are capitalised upon, not least a certain well-documented incident which in some press quarters received about as much interest ‘as a chord change at a One Direction concert’. He was on a roll now, that particular boy band getting a right pasting, Bill describing its remaining members as resembling ‘four blank Scrabble tiles’.
His switch between subjects and observations continued apace, coming at us pinball-style while gradually leading to his main theme, Limboland, that corridor of despair where life doesn’t quite match up to how we might have expected it to. That included a look at British definitions of pleasure, first explaining the Danish term hygge, loosely translated as cosiness. And believe it or not, there was even a visitor from Jutland in the crowd to help out with the pronunciation.
As Bill suggested, we have differing definitions – cue several examples of true happiness, British style, such as finding receipts for faulty electrical appliances, before a spot-on appraisal of the phrase, ‘Not too bad … all things considered’.
As he digressed again, I particularly enjoyed his alternative version of the haiku, a more football-oriented 4-4-2 formation poem, as given in the example:
I hold you close,
You look morose,
Before the interval he even tackled Happy Birthday in a minor key on the grand piano, and then in Kurt Weill style (although neither are likely to lead to children’s party bookings if the day-job falls through).
The music theme continued when Bill returned with a brief examination of shoe-gazing indie, before an evaluation of the rock riff and acceptable facial accompaniments, not least advice to avoid the ‘concentrating’ look, which doesn’t quite carry the same kudos.
We also learned the ‘chord progression of Satan’, Death Metal style, as tested on several mainstream tunes, not least crowd suggestions Lady in Red and If You’re Happy and You Know It.
Returning to his main theme and that ‘true nature of happiness’, he regaled us with the rib-aching tale of his extended family trip to Tromso to see the Northern Lights. And then came his revelatory glimpse into the working of the male ‘tombola’ mind, including honest responses to the partner’s standard question, ‘What are you thinking of?’ which rang a bell for a fair few of us.
Bill’s climax followed, so to speak, as we helped him record his own take on a hit in the style of ‘vegan chancer’ Moby. And there was still time for another great tale illustrating his ‘life’s great disappointment’ theme, involving Bill and his mate getting tongue-tied while meeting Sir Paul McCartney, our comic master then leaving us with an inspired Jamaican ragga dub take on Downton Abbey.
On a dark and wet weekend when it seemed that the world was on a collective low, our special guest gave us plenty to smile about. Thanks for that, Bill. And come back soon.