Strictly's Oti Mabuse told Bill Bailey she wasn't going to let him be The Fall Guy on the show

WHEN he first arrived on Strictly, most viewers assumed Bill Bailey was the joke contestant – but he had the last laugh when he took home the Glitterball trophy.

Now he has inspired “The Bill Effect”, which has seen older people sign up for dance classes in their droves, as well as several veteran entertainers vying to be on the BBC1 contest this autumn.

The 56-year-old comedian insists it was all down to his dance partner, Oti Mabuse, 30, having faith in his ability to win the competition.

Bill said: “With contestants who are a bit older, they are there as a kind of amusing sideshow, and I guess that’s what people imagined I would be. But Oti said, ‘No funny money’.

“And what she means by that is, ‘We’re not just going to do this for laughs — everyone just expects you to be the fall guy and I’m going to make sure you are absolutely not’.

“I’m also very ambitious and I like to work hard and put the hours in and so does she, so we have that kind of connection and that is why it worked so well.”

In fact, the pair worked so hard they often stayed in the rehearsal studio long after their rivals — who included actors Jamie Laing and Maisie Smith — had packed up for the day.

Bill said: “We worked and worked and worked and trained and trained, sometimes 12 hours a day. We put the hours in when everyone else was going home.

“I’d look out of the rehearsal room window and go, ‘Oh, there’s Jamie, where’s he going?’. And, ‘Oh, there’s Maisie’, and they were all going home.

‘I felt incredibly exposed, not in my comfort zone’

“I would say to Oti, ‘Well, where are they going, are we finished?’. And she would be like, ‘No, we are going to be a few more hours’. So we proved everyone wrong.”

Bill was speaking at the Canal & River Trust: Message In A Bottle Garden designed by Tracy Foster at RHS Hampton Court flower show. And he discussed how he was now working with the Canal & River Trust on several projects.

Bill said: “It’s something which is very close to my heart because I’m a keen paddle-boarder. And when you get out in the water, you see first-hand what the effects of plastic pollution are. It’s everywhere in canals and rivers.

“Wherever you go, there is plastic bobbing about and what is shocking is the sheer volume of it.

“We go out sometimes — a bunch of us — and we take a pole and we pick up some plastic and put it in a bucket and put it on top of the paddle board.

“You’re just staggered, shocked, by how much stuff you collect. So it’s a fantastic campaign.”

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