Howdy folks. Artist spotlight time on a man who could fit in a lot of categories if these were separated. Comedian, actor, presenter, musician, there is a hell of a lot to cover. BAFTA gave him a lifetime achievement award in 2003 and he is still working and currently on tour as a standup and having recorded the TV show ‘ Tracks Across America’ this year despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This did cause him to , as he put it,“nearly break my neck” while taking a shower on a train.
Speaking about this later he said that “ People with Parkinson’s shouldn’t take showers on trains. In the same way Vietnam veterans shouldn’t attend fireworks displays in swamps”
He started his entertainment career as a folk musician alongside Gerry Rafferty in The Humblebums. They split in 1971 and Connolly began to include funny stories into his live act. Gradually the stories replaced more and more of the music with his act gradually moving from ‘singer with funny bits’ to ‘Comedian with some songs thrown in.’
He continued his musical act throughout the 70s even getting a UK number 1 with D.I.V.O.R.C.E ( a parody of the Dolly Parton song)
His star rose and rose throughout the 70s in the UK. The UK chat show host Michael Parkinson said that there were two guests that would guarantee him big ratings, one was Muhammad Ali, the other was Billy Connolly.
That clip was from his first national TV appearance in 1975.At this point, he was still a comedian that told definite jokes but he was already moving into the more relaxed raconteur style that was his own thing. He’s been cited by comics like Eddie Izzard to have been the earliest comedian to be ‘alternative’ as opposed to the traditional set up/punchline style.
In 1978 he added another string to his bow as he made his feature film debut alongside Richard Burton in Absolution. At the current time he has 67 acting credits including a BAFTA nominatec turn in Mrs Brown and more importantly a part in the mighty Muppet Treasure Island
He’s built up quite the filmography for someone who’s still seen primarily as a comic. Disney voice work, serious character work in the likes of The Debt Collector (highly recommended) , Blockbuster fare like The Last Samuraithrough to , erm Garfield 2 (Hey , nobody’s perfect)
I’d say he’s in the top tier of comedian turned actors particularly as he continued to regularly do stand up tours. Up there with Robin Williams who he was firm friends with for 30 years.
What I enjoy the most about his work is that he always seems to be enjoying life. He makes standing up and making an audience roar with laughter look easy. He may be the most naturally funny man alive and this after having come through a childhood that nowadays would result in a ‘Child called It’ type memoir. He has filmed several TV series based around his travels while on tour ( ‘World Tour of Scotland/ Australia/ The UK) and they are always good because it’s enjoyable to be in his company, whatever it is he’s doing.
I’ll leave with a clip from his standup that cracks me up every time. (There’s something irresistibly funny about a lion called Agnes)
Feel free to discuss your personal favourites below. I feel confident you will have some.