Bill Bailey was a British comedian, musician and actor recognized for his trademark long hair and beard. His diverse career included stints as a rock musician, stand-up comic, quiz show fixture and familiar actor in both television and film. His wide-ranging talents and distinctive look, as well as an unapologetic fondness for nerdish pursuits (his son Dax was named for a character in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated 1993-99)) earned him an especially unique and devoted fan base.
Born Mark Bailey (his stage name was inspired by the father of an early girlfriend, who used to sing the jazz standard "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" at him) to a medically-inclined family, he grew up largely in the small town of Keynsham in Britain's West Country. Bailey and his school friend Toby Longworth formed a comedy duo called the Rubber Bishops in 1984, and performed for several years throughout the U.K., perfecting a blend of music and surreal comedy that remained his trademark. His first solo comedy show, a one man effort called "Cosmic Jam," toured England successfully and was eventually filmed for TV. He wrote and acted in an episode of comedy series entitled "Asylum" (Paramount Comedy 1996) best known for being the first collaboration between director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg. Following another stand-up special, "Bill Bailey Live" (1997), Bailey wrote and starred in his own sketch comedy series "Is It Bill Bailey?" (BBC 1998), which also co-starred Pegg. That partnership continued when Bailey appeared in several episodes of Pegg and Wright's cult favorite sitcom "Spaced" (Channel 4 1999-2001) as Bilbo Bagshot, the boss of Pegg's struggling comic-book writer Tim.
Bailey put his musical knowledge to good use as a regular panelist on the popular music-themed quiz show "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" (BBC 1996- ), eventually becoming a regular team captain, a role he held until 2008. He also served as a frequent panelist on Stephen Fry's general knowledge quiz show "QI" (BBC 2003- ), often revealing a surprising wealth of knowledge about arcane subjects. His highest-profile success in scripted television came with his role on Graham Linehan's sitcom "Black Books" (Channel 4 2000-04), on which he co-starred opposite Dylan Moran and Tamsin Grieg as Manny Bianco, an earnest but peculiar bookstore clerk.
Along with occasional guest roles on popular series such as his "QI" compatriot Alan Davies' comic mystery "Jonathan Creek" (BBC 1997-2014) and the controversial teen drama "Skins" (E4 2007-2013), Bailey appeared in films ranging from Wright and Pegg's police spoof "Hot Fuzz" (2007) to the family comedy "Nanny McPhee Returns" (2010). However, he spent the majority of his time on tour as a stand-up comic, releasing DVDs of his live performances every couple of years.