Bill Bailey says he was ‘slightly riled’ by ‘unflattering’ commentary about him on Strictly

Bill Bailey says he was ‘slightly riled’ by ‘unflattering’ commentary about him on Strictly

Bill Bailey has confessed that he was not keen on being treated as the “novelty” act when he competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2020.

The comedian, 58, won the BBC One competition with his professional dancing partner Oti Mabuse. Their brilliant dance to “Rapper’s Delight” was a particular highlight during the lockdown series.

In a review of the series finale, Emma Bullimore wrote for The Independent: “The nation fell in love with the offbeat comedian over the past few weeks, as he shook off any suggestion of being a joke act.

“Working his sequinned socks off for every dance, from a Metallica-themed tango to his epic ‘Rapper’s Delight’ street dance, he proved it isn’t just whippersnappers who can waltz.”

Bailey’s success was at odds with assumptions that he would be the show’s “next Ed Balls” – the former Labour politician made headlines in 2016 with his extraordinary Salsa to “Gangnam Style”.

In a new interview with The Times, Bailey said: “I was slightly riled by that. There were lots of very unflattering pieces in papers and magazines, and, ‘Oh Bill, this’ll be fun, he’ll be out in week one or two, he’ll be the novelty one.’

“Or I’ll be the comedy one where they dress up as various figures, like animals, a stoat or a weasel or something, and get fired out of a cannon dressed as a badger.”

Mabuse and Bailey with the glitterball trophy (BBC/Guy Levy)
Mabuse and Bailey with the glitterball trophy (BBC/Guy Levy)

Presenter and singer HRVY, EastEnders star Maisie Smith and Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing were the other finalists in the 2020 series.

Speaking after his win at the time, Bailey said: “It feel surreal, it feels extraordinary, it feels wonderful. I never thought we’d get this far – never thought we’d get to the final.”

Bailey also talked about his bond with Mabuse in the new interview, saying: “You think on the face of it we’d have not much in common. You know, we’re different ages, different generations, different upbringings, countries, languages. But what we found we had in common was we have this kind of mutual respect for hard work.

“I said: ‘I’m quite competitive. I don’t want to give a poor account of myself. If I leave the show, it won’t be because I haven’t practised, it’ll be because I’m no good at it, but I’m going to give it my all.’ She took that as a challenge.”

Bailey is currently promoting the second series of Extraordinary Portraits, coming soon to BBC One, which will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS.