Bill Bailey: ‘Why can’t I find a decent coffee in Spain?’

Bill Bailey, musician extraordinaire and stand-up comedy is bringing his live show Larks In Transit to Spain.

Bill Bailey: 'Why can't I find a decent coffee in Spain?'
Photos by Andy Hollingworth

Ahead of gigs planned in Madrid, Barcelona and Torremolinos, the comic made famous for his role in sitcom Black Books spoke exclusively to The Local about the Spanish leg of his European tour.

His Spanish dates come in the wake of a tour first around Britain and then other parts of Europe

“The show I’m bringing to Spain , Larks in Transit, is particularly well travelled, and has just been well received all round Norway, Iceland, Sweden , Denmark and Belgium so it’s perhaps my most international show yet,” explains Bailey. 

British comedy can draw big crowds in Spain, with Eddie Izzard performing sell out dates in Madrid recently, even learning Spanish for the occasion. Fellow Black Books star Dylan Moran also toured Spain last year.

“I’ve found that in the last few years there’s been huge amount of interest in English-speaking comedy around Europe and indeed around the world. I’ve performed my show in places I would never have imagined former Soviet bloc countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia as well as those further afield like Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. 

“I think YouTube has had a large part to play in this, as anyone can now see all kinds of comedy online,” adds Bailey. 

So can his Spanish audience expect to hear him tackling the local lingo?

“I like to learn some of each language for a few greetings, and I do a few checks to find out if a few cultural references will work, but other than that I tend not to change or adapt, I find that the show is well worked out, and balanced.”

He knows both Madrid and Barcelona having visited the cities on holiday but has also added a gig in Torremolinos. Why Torremolinos?

“Come on it’s sunny! It’s freezing in London, pouring with rain, we’re in the grip of Storm Beyonce or whatever, and I need some sun. Plus, it’s the holiday destination of my youth, and I’ve not been back in a long while,” he explains.

He is also hoping to find in a bit of mountain biking in breaks between shows… and eating. 

“I love the food, and the biking.. so I’m looking forward to tapas, and taking to the mountain bike trails.”

But he admits he is baffled as to why he can’t find a decent coffee in Spain.

“I was just in Baqueira Beret for half term skiing with my son, and couldn’t get decent coffee,” he revealed.  “So I’m bringing my own hand press!”

Anyone familiar with Bailey’s humour will know he is a master of all musical instruments and this latest show also includes musical interludes. So can we expect any Spanish influences to appear? 

“Perhaps some opera, some flamenco,” he hinted.

And, in his first tour to Europe since 31st January when the UK left the European Union, will he be mentioning the ‘B’ word?

“You can’t not mention it. It’s the elephant in the room. But I won’t dwell on it .. I might mention it in passing,” he says. Asked if there was anything ‘funny’ about Brexit? He replied with an emphatic: “Not really”.

I ask Bailey who is an avid birdwatcher – he is author Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to British Birds –  if he has a favourite bird, and he recalls one he recently saw in Spain.

“I watched a Gryphon vulture soaring in the Pyrenees recently at nearly 3000 metres up, and apparently they go much higher, cruising at altitude looking for leftovers, that’s my kind of life.”

So what plans does Bailey have for the future? Is there a Black Books sequel on the cards? And would he like to play Doctor Who?

“Yes, I think I’d be an excellent Doctor.. perhaps one who also has an interest in owls, and owl conservation, uses his powers to stop the destruction of habitat.

“As to a Black Books sequel, I wouldn’t have thought so.. maybe a musical , or branded swimwear maybe?”

And finally, does he have a favourite ‘knock knock’ joke? 

“It’s actually a backwards one that happened by accident,” he recounts. “My wife opened a cracker at Christmas, there was a knock knock joke in it, she read it out as “Who’s there? Then someone replied Knock Knock ….. .. mysterious, brilliant.”

Bill Bailey is performing in Madrid on March 2nd, Barcelona, March 3rd and Torremolinos on March 5th. For more information about tour dates and tickets click HERE

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like a Spaniard

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Does humour really exist in German-speaking Switzerland?

It’s the perception of many foreigners, that in the cold calm controlled social landscape of the German speaking cantons, humour does not exist. But it does, writes Shane Norton, who runs comedy nights in Basel and Zurich that are taking place this weekend.

Does humour really exist in German-speaking Switzerland?
Photo: AFP
It’s not that Swiss Germans don’t have a sense of humour it’s just they bury it very deeply below a shield of neutrality and politeness.
Give them time (think years rather than minutes) and you’ll finally get to it. In stark contrast to my own British culture, humour in German speaking Switzerland has a clear time and place.
And that place is not public, it’s confined to loved ones and friends and as we know, making friends in Switzerland takes time.
And as foreigners that’s hard to understand. When I first arrived, I started work and after just two weeks my colleague came to me with a stern warning.
They had noticed something bad in my behaviour.
Her claim “When we have meetings, for the first five minutes you make jokes”, I stood there feeling shocked as she explained “and it just comes across as you don’t take it very seriously.”
So I apologised profusely and promised to take things very seriously and stop making jokes. Later that
afternoon. The managing director for that part of the business came in and she jumped out of her seat, she was like “Herr Müller, it is so nice for you to come visit us. Let me introduce you to our new colleague, Shane Norton, he's an expert is this, that and everything, we're so happy to have him he’s been such a great help”.
To which I replied, “Don’t listen to her, I only make the tea”.
He didn’t even blink, her shoulders sunk and I stood there realising that old habits break hard.
In its most obvious form, Swiss German humour consists of an apologetic inward self-depreciation, dig deeper and you’ll find much of the normal venting of sarcastic frustration.
Shane Norton. Pic Shane Norton.
I once got told by Swiss colleagues that I had the Swiss German humour down perfectly. I don’t know how I did that, innine years of living in Zurich and speaking German, I’ve hardly seen it.
My colleagues’ comments can only lead me to think that the stripped-down British humour that I now deliver is now comparable to Swiss humour.
After years living here and countless awkward reactions I feel I have shed many of the fine things in British humour that the Swiss don’t understand.
Double meanings, extreme points of view, dry faced irony and full absurdity have all been weened out to leave nothing but grumbled sarcasm.
You see those things don’t go down well in a country that values neutrality, reliability and harmony.
You can’t mock a colleague, without breaking neutrality and risking their feelings.
You can’t present a strange and wacky idea, if people will believe you. And you certainly can’t get wild, noisy and outspoken without upsetting the Swiss social harmony.
And as is so common, it takes a foreigner to break that social harmony.
I never wanted to become a comedian. I just told jokes and Swiss people pulled up chairs. In other countries, if you tell a joke, people tell jokes back.
In Switzerland, you need immigrants for that. And that’s how it happened.
Rather than being one of the joking Brits, in Switzerland, I commonly found myself being the lone entertainer to groups of laughing Swiss Germans. So finally, I thought I might as well take it to the stage.
That was all a little over one year ago. It’s been a whirlwind since with weekly shows, a developing repertoire and a slow return of my comical freedom, which has seen me develop a growing ease to once again say what
I want, express my emotions and act outside the socially expected Swiss boundaries, albeit all within the safe boundaries of the stage.
The Zurich scene has exploded since then, with numerous open mic nights and professional shows.
The number of performers is growing and audiences can’t get enough. I think there is a huge demand with laughter starved expats who know the world can be different and open mind Swiss people who realise the world can be different.
The Swiss germans in our ranks are getting funnier, but in my opinion, they’ll always have an uphill struggle while the strong social pressure to conform remains.
Shane Norton is organiser and host of Comedy Kiss’s English-Speaking Stand-Up events. His new
series “The Big Comedy Kiss” is premiering this weekend on Saturday at Theater Fauteuil in Basel
and on Sunday at Labor5 in Zurich. Headlining the show is award winning UK comedian Alun
Cochrane alongside Scottish Comedian of the year finalist Grant Gallacher. Also appearing will be
local comics Eddie Ramirez and Jack Roberts, there to ensure a local twist and a good laugh at the
expense of local Swiss people and expats alike. Find more details under