Bill Bailey has been the surprise package of Strictly Come Dancing 2020: to the extent that no is more surprised about his success on the show than himself.
Judge Craig Revel Horwood initially predicted Bailey would be “terrible” and the 55-year-old stand-up comedian and actor would make an early exit
However, week after week, he and professional partner Oti Mabuse have defied expectation and delivered entertainment, humour, grace and skill on the dance floor.
Bill told Radio Times: “We all need a bit of escapism, sparkle, sequins and ballroom. I’ve been performing comedy for nearly 30 years, so I’m used to putting on a show, but no one’s more surprised than me about all this.”
On Saturday, Bill and Oti danced an Argentine Tango to Phantom of the Opera from the Phantom of the Opera musical and scored 24 points, which left them a solid fourth on the leaderboard. The pair avoided the dance-off and will perform in next weekend’s semi-final.
Bill said: “I’m still slightly stunned and dazed by it all… I didn’t quite know how it would turn out, except that I knew I’d try my best and listen to Oti.”
Oti’s background as a dancer is incomparable. She came third in the world in 2014 in the Freestyle Latin dance category and won last year’s Strictly Come Dancing with Kelvin Fletcher, but even she said she was learning at the School of Bill.
She said: “I’ve learnt loads from Bill – the things he knows about dancing… I know the technique, but he knows the evolution – he really digs deep.”
She added: “It’s really refreshing what Bill is doing and how he’s pushing himself. He’s showing that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”
Could they celebrate Christmas as the new champions of Strictly Come Dancing? They remain the bookies’ favourites to lift the Glitterball Trophy.
Even if they don’t, they’ve been thinking about Christmas gifts for each other.
Bill said: “[I’d get Oti] Binoculars. I want to try to encourage Oti to take up birdwatching.”
Oti responded: “I’d get Bill a collection of first-edition books about dance or music – something very rare, very exclusive and very Bill Bailey’!”
Read the full interview in the Radio Times Christmas issue, out on Tuesday 8th December.
The Strictly Come Dancing semi-final takes place on BBC One on Saturday 12th December.