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airport, cab can send you crazy. I have days out and get out in the countryside. You have to feed your brain. I read a lot. I've got a few books on the go. You have to stay mentally sharp because you've got a different show every night, a different audience to work with."

But is he still an expert on service stations?

God awful hour. I plan things much more now. It is less haphazard."

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New Balance Light Grey

"No! Avoid at all costs There is too much temptation to buy some God awful food at some New Balance Shoes Price

"You have to stay healthy and watch what you eat, so no Ginster's pasties and bottles of absinthe. You've got to get out and about too. Being on tour and the cycle of hotel, New Balance Womens

Now, at the age of 49 and one of the biggest and most bankable names in comedy, things have (thankfully) changed. Although he was back in sunny Wolverhampton last weekend with his new show Qualmpeddler.

"I was on the train coming into Euston and a voice came over the intercom and said "Good morning and welcome aboard. My name is Debbie and I'll be in charge of the buffet service on this train. There will be no buffet service on this train today." Well why are you here then? Just come along for a free trip have you?

"You can find the surreal in anything though, like backstage at gigs there's always signs that say things like 'This sink does not work' or 'This door should be kept closed forever and never opened'.

As ever, fans can expect off the wall humour, musical interludes and silliness on a grand scale. It comes to these shores after a sell out run in Australia and New Zealand, which produced reviews labelling him a "true 21st century polymath a unique comedy gift, pitch perfect musician and talented actor".

"I've collected them since childhood. People would go on holiday and bring me back a strange looking African drum. Once you've mentioned that you like and collect instruments, people just bring you them. 'Bill, I saw these bongos and thought of you', 'Bill, how about this thumb piano?'.

Steve Bull, Slade, The Civic: Wolverhampton in a nutshell for most. Not Bill Bailey.

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New Balance Light Grey

New Balance Light Grey

And now, after the monster tours that were Bewilderness, Part Troll and Tinselworm, he's back on the road with Qualmpeddler. As well as being at the Civic last night and this, he will bring the show back to the West Mids with an appearance at Birmingham Symphony Hall on September 22.

"My son plays the piano and the cello and he's got his eye on the car horns too, when he comes to watch the shows he's like 'Dad, can I come on at the end and play the horns?'.

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"He's got the sense of humour too. He writes poems and has some pretty hilarious ideas. Even when he was three, four, five he was making up jokes that went off at really strange tangents, I was like 'Aha, there is some family resemblance then'. He's now talking about doing his first stand up."

There's only one thing that springs to mind when the comedian thinks of good old Wulfrunia fruit flans.

Stints with an experimental theatre group, as a lounge pianist and keyboard player in a jazz trio followed but it was a John Hegley gig that inspired him to fuse his exceptional musical talent, jokes and theatricality to become a stand up comedian.

"The new show talks about politics, the coalition government, the recession, reality TV and there's a reggae Downton Abbey and an Eastern Europe inspired Match of the Day theme tune," Bill says.

"It's totally different now to how it was when I was in my 20s," Bill tells the Star. "Back then, you could go out to a party and get up in the morning and do whatever you want but I can't do that anymore. You have to stay well that's the key. You can't get ill on tour, it's impossible to shake off.

For Bill and Dax stand up is about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. After all, this is the man who branded the Argos catalogue the laminated book of dreams and jazz as sounding like "an armadillo let loose on a keyboard". Don't even get him started on James Blunt.

Lutes? Horns? Mandolins? Just how has Bill come to be in possession of such a unique collection of instruments?

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Raised in the West Country, his father was a doctor, his mother a hospital ward sister, Bills first ventured on to New Balance White And Green

I'll be delighted Express Star

the stage with his band The Famous Five. There were four of them.

"I have lots of Eastern European instruments and lutes and mandolins. I also have a set of tuned horns that I'm very proud of. They are things of beauty. The are tuned over two octaves and I attempt to play the 1812 Overture on them. I say attempt because it really is testing the upper realms of my ability."

"When we got there, it was just one really big fruit flan. 'Welcome to Wolverhampton New Balance Light Grey have a fruit flan'.

And it's clearly a passion he's passed on to his nine year old son Dax.

"I have a huge collection of guitars, Persian instruments, percussion, Medieval instruments, old electronic keyboards. I get terrible grief from my wife if I bring them into the house so I keep them in a lock up. I have a studio in my office too so I have some of the stuff there."

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"It's only when you travel that you realise just how managed and observed and tested and safety conscious Britain is. These signs, these red pointing arrows, they're not in other countries, you know. Overseas, if there's a cliff edge then there's a cliff edge, there's nothing around it. Here, there would be signs and fences and pictures of little men falling over the cliff. It's ridiculous."

"When I first started out with the Rubber Bishops, we did a student gig at Wolverhampton uni and they tempted us there with promises of food and drink backstage, some sort of primitive rider," he recalls.

And it was in between songs that he began slipping in the odd joke, much to the annoyance of the other members but the delight of the crowd.

He worked as part of the Rubber Bishops first with Longworth and then Martin Stubbs until 1994 before going solo, with Edinburgh rave reviews and Perrier nominations following. By the late 90s, he was a genuine comedy star, with TV shows and successful tours under his belt.

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"Life is remarkably ordinary but it's not just what you see," he says. "You have to look through a prism at the day to day world. You can find the surreal in anything, see the oddities. As my old aunt used to say 'There's nowt as queer as folk'.

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