Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Talking Shop: Bill Bailey

Bill Bailey
Bailey helped judge the funniest children's books from the past year

Comedian Bill Bailey is best known for his live musical shows and as a former team captain on BBC Two quiz show Nevermind the Buzzcocks.

But in a change from being on stage, his funnyman skills were called into use to judge this year's Roald Dahl Funny Prize which honours humorous books for children.

Bailey, along with his fellows judges (and advice from his five-year-old son Dax), chose Grubtown Tales: Stinking Rich and Just Plain Stinky by Philip Ardagh and Sam Lloyd's Mr Pusskins Best in Show to take home the awards.

Judging a funny book prize seems like it would be quite a fun job...

It was great fun - the place was overflowing with books and lots of people reading and laughing out loud.

The books in the 0-6 age group category are fairly short that you can get through them quickly, but we had a lot of kids on hand to help give us the thumbs up.

Is this the first time you've judged such a competition?

I was actually on the panel of the Guardian First Book prize a few years ago. There were some fantastic books and it wasn't just one genre. But this was a bit of a shared, fun experience with the family.

Did you get your five-year-old son to help you decide the finalists?

We agreed on the final shortlist. There was another book called The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg which was fantastic high concept book about a pencil that comes alive and starts to rub out the words in the book.

But in the end it's down to the funny - it's about your reaction and your delight you have with the story and the illustrations and I had to always keep that in mind in terms of picking the best ones.

Can it be difficult to be funny and original in children's books?

Bill Bailey
Bailey is best known as a former team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks

There are a lot of generic kids books around and they have quite similar subject matters. There are certain things that are guaranteed to get a laugh like gross out comedy humour and pants on people's heads and aliens and monsters.

What we're trying to look for is the funny, but also the originality and that's what got the reaction from the kids. The story isn't so crucial in an illustrated book, but it's still important and you need to go on a journey.

The ones that work best are the brilliant contained vignettes with blasts of fun and energy.

Do you think humour for children is different from humour for adults?

It isn't quite as easy as you imagine - it's quite hard to get right I think.

You have to have something that kids can return to - delight in the illustration or a passage they'll love to repeat. A lot of kids have quite a developed sense of humour from about the age of 10 but books aren't around to cater for that.

Do you think you'll give writing a kids book a go now?

Yeah, why not?!

So what's next for you ?

I'm touring soon with my Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra show with orchestras all around the country over the next month.

Will you return to Never Mind the Buzzcocks?

Never say never. I may do - I'm touring first, working next year probably overseas and writing a new show. Buzzcocks normally starts recording in October so I may do, we'll see.

Bill Bailey was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Genevieve Hassan

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