Much loved comedian and actor Bill Bailey received an honorary degree at the University of Bath’s summer graduations on Wednesday 11 July.
Bailey, one of the nation’s favourite comedians, known for his originality, musicality and quirky comedy, was born in Bath, grew up in Keynsham and attended King Edward’s School in the city.
His breakthrough to national attention came at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1994, followed by winning a Time Out award in 1995 and a nomination for the Perrier Award in 1996. He also won the Best Live Stand-Up award at the British Comedy Awards in 1999.
His role as put-upon Manny, assistant to bookshop owner Bernard in the acclaimed TV series Black Books, made Bailey a recognisable TV face in 2000. He followed this with six years as team captain on the TV comedy quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks and has made frequent appearances on QI and Have I Got News for You.
He continues to tour internationally as a comedian, with shows such as Bewilderness, Part-Troll, Tinselworm, Qualmpeddler and Limboland.
He is also a successful actor, TV presenter, musician and author who devotes much energy to his interests as a naturalist and conservationist and to his roles in promoting cancer research.
Bill Bailey said: “I am delighted to receive this award, which is not only a great honour, but for me has a huge emotional weight, as Bath is a city which is always in my heart. Bath is the city where I grew up, went to school, lived my formative years, played in my first band and performed my first ever comedy gig.”
His cerebral humour and style have been described “Reithian”, in that he educates, informs and entertains. A classically trained musician and multi-instrumentalist, he integrates many musical forms into his comedy shows. His ability to entertain and educate was amply demonstrated by his show Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
He has a great interest in the environment and conservation of wildlife and habitats. In 2013, he presented a BBC documentary Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero, expounding on the work of the explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator of the theory of evolution. He is Patron of the Wallace Memorial Fund, which raised £50,000 for a bronze statue at the Natural History Museum.
Close family members have suffered from cancer and he threw himself into raising funds for research and promoting important messages for cancer patients, their friends and families. He was a patron and activist for Prostate Cancer UK, launching Men United vs. Prostate Cancer in 2014; this initiative raises funds for research and promotes awareness of the disease amongst groups at higher risk. He has recently completed “Bill’s Ridgeway Walk”, to raise money for cancer research through Stand Up To Cancer.
Professor Mike Threadgill, who delivered Bill’s oration at the graduation ceremony, said: “Bill Bailey is a ‘local boy made good’. He is an extraordinary and individual performer in comedy, music and acting. He is an extraordinary communicator and advocate for causes in the environment and cancer and thoroughly deserves this honorary degree.”