Billy Connolly

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Billy Connolly
Billy Connolly Festival Cine Sidney.jpg
Connolly in June 2012
Birth name William Connolly
Born (1942-11-24) 24 November 1942 (age 72)
Anderston, Glasgow, Scotland
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Nationality Scottish[1]
Years active 1965–present
Genres Observational comedy, musical comedy, blue comedy
Influences Chic Murray, Dave Turner[2] Steven Wright
Influenced Eddie Izzard, Ross Noble, Michael McIntyre, Jason Manford, Bill Bailey, Tim Vine, Jimmy Carr, Ronnie Golden, Russell Howard, Craig Ferguson, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Jason Byrne, Chris Addison, Kevin Bridges, Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay
Spouse Iris Pressagh (1969–1985; divorced), 2 children
Pamela Stephenson (1989–present), 3 children
BAFTA Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award

BAFTA Scotland Outstanding Contribution to Television and Film Award

William "Billy" Connolly, CBE (born 24 November 1942) is a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is sometimes known, especially in his native Scotland, by the nickname "The Big Yin" ("The Big One").[3] His first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer in The Humblebums and subsequently as a soloist. In the early 1970s, he made the transition from folk-singer with a comedic persona to full-fledged comedian.

Connolly is also an actor and has appeared in such films as Water (1985); Indecent Proposal (1993); Muppet Treasure Island (1996); Mrs. Brown (1997), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA; The Boondock Saints (1999); The Man Who Sued God (2001); The Last Samurai (2003); Timeline (2003); Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004); Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006); Open Season (2006); The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008); and Open Season 2 (2008). Connolly reprised his role as Noah "Il Duce" MacManus in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Connolly appears as the King of Lilliput in the 2010 film adaption of Gulliver's Travels. Connolly provides the voice for King Fergus in Pixar's Brave (2012).

Early life[edit]

Connolly was born on 24 November 1942[4] at 69 Dover Street[5] ("on the linoleum, three floors up"[6] "at six o'clock in the evening")[5] in Anderston, Glasgow, to William Connolly and Mary "Mamie" Connolly (née McLean), a hospital cafeteria worker. Connolly's grandfather was an Irish immigrant.[4][7][8] This section of Dover Street, between Breadalbane and Claremont Streets, was demolished in the 1970s.[5] Connolly refers to this in his 1983 song "I Wish I Was in Glasgow", with the lines "I would take you there and show you, but they've pulled the building down" and "They bulldozed it all to make a road".

The flat had only two rooms: a kitchen-living room, with a niche where the children slept, and another room for their parents. The family bathed in the kitchen sink and there was no hot water.[7]

His maternal great-great-great-grandfather, John O'Brien, fought at the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was wounded during the long siege. He married a local 13-year-old Indian girl called Matilda and settled in India after his military service.[9]

In 1946, when he was barely four years old, Connolly's mother abandoned her children when his father was serving as an engineer in the Royal Air Force in Burma.[7] Connolly and his older sister, Florence (named after their maternal grandmother and eighteen months his senior),[7][10] were cared for by two aunts, Margaret and Mona Connolly, his father's sisters, in their cramped tenement in Stewartville Street, Partick. Connolly Sr. returned from the war, a stranger to his children, shortly after the move. He never spoke to them about their mother's departure.[7]

The aunts resented the children for the fact that they had to sacrifice their young lives to look after them. His biography, written by wife Pamela Stephenson, documented years of physical and sexual abuse by his father, which began when he was ten and lasted until he was about fifteen.[11] "Sometimes, when father hit me, I flew over the settee backwards, in a sitting position. It was fabulous. Just like real flying, except you didn't get a cup of tea or a safety belt or anything."[7]

In 1949, Mona gave birth to a child, Michael, by a "local man".[7] He was presented as a brother to Billy and Flo, and nobody questioned it.[7]

Connolly attended St. Peter's Primary School in Partick (located across the street from the family's tenement) and the now-defunct St. Gerard's Secondary School in Govan.[8]

At age 12, Connolly decided he wanted to become a comedian but did not think that he fit the mould, feeling he needed to become more "windswept and interesting".

Between the ages of fourteen and twenty, Connolly was brought up in the Drumchapel district of Glasgow.[6]

At 15, he left school with two engineering qualifications, one collected by mistake which belonged to a boy named Connell.[12]

Connolly was a year too young to work in the shipyards. He became a bread-delivery boy, with Bilslands, until he was sixteen, when he was deemed overqualified (due to his J1 and J2 certificates) to become an engineer.[12] Instead, he worked as a boilermaker[13] at Alexander Stephen and Sons Shipyard in Linthouse.[12]

Connolly also joined the Territorial Army Reserve unit 15th (Scottish) Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (15 PARA). He later commemorated his experiences in the song "Weekend Soldier".[12]


Origin of "The Big Yin"[edit]

Connolly's The Big Yin nickname was first used during his adolescent years to differentiate between himself and his father.[3] "My father was a very strong man. Broad and strong. He had an 18½-inch neck collar. Huge, like a bull. He was "Big Billy" and I was "Wee Billy". And then I got bigger than him, and the whole thing got out of control. And then I became The Big Yin in Scotland. So, we'd go into the pub and someone would say, 'Billy Connolly was in.' 'Oh? Big Billy or Wee Billy?' 'The Big Yin.' 'Oh, Wee Billy.' If you were a stranger, you'd think, 'What are these people talking about?'"[13]


In 1966, after he had completed a five-year apprenticeship as a boilermaker, Connolly accepted a ten-week job building an oil platform in Nigeria. Upon his return to Scotland, he worked at John Brown & Company, but focused increasingly on being a folk singer.

After buying his first banjo at the Barrowland market,[7] Connolly's career as a folk singer led to him forming a folk-pop duo called The Humblebums with Tam Harvey. After recording one album, Harvey left the partnership and was replaced by future rock star Gerry Rafferty. Connolly's time with Rafferty possibly influenced his future comedy as years later he would recall how Rafferty's expert prank telephone calls, made while waiting to go on stage, used to make him "scream" with laughter. The Connolly-Rafferty version of The Humblebums recorded two more albums for independent record label Transatlantic Records. The albums were not big commercial successes but enjoyed cult status and critical acclaim. Connolly's contributions were primarily straightforward pop-folk with quirky and whimsical lyrics, but he had not especially focused on comedy at this point.

In 1968, Connolly's mother went to meet him backstage after a Humblebums gig in Dunoon, the second and final meeting between them since she abandoned him.[7] She had been living in the town with her partner, Willie Adams, with whom she had three daughters and a son.[14] She was still a cafeteria worker, this time at Dunoon General Hospital.

In 1971, the Humblebums broke up, with Rafferty going on to record a solo album: Can I Have My Money Back (1971). Connolly returned to being a folk singer. His live performances featured folk songs with humorous introductions that became increasingly long in duration.

The head of Transatlantic Records, Nat Joseph, who had signed The Humblebums and had nurtured their career, was concerned that Connolly find a way to develop a distinctive solo career just as his former bandmate, Gerry Rafferty, was doing. Joseph saw several of Connolly's performances and noted his comedic skills. Joseph had successfully nurtured the recording career of another Scottish folk entertainer, Hamish Imlach, and saw potential in Connolly following a similar path. He suggested to Connolly that he drop the folk-singing and focus primarily on becoming a comedian. It was a life-changing suggestion.


In 1972, Joseph produced Connolly's first solo album, Billy Connolly Live!, a mixture of comedic songs and short monologues that hinted at what was to follow. In late 1973, Joseph produced the breakthrough album that propelled Connolly to British stardom. Recorded at a small venue, The Tudor Hotel in Airdrie, the record was a double album titled Solo Concert. Releasing a live double-album by a comedian who was virtually unknown (except to a cult audience in Glasgow) was an unusual gambit by Joseph but his faith in Connolly's talent was justified. Joseph and his marketing team, which included publicist Martin Lewis, successfully promoted the album to chart success on its release in 1974. It featured one of Connolly's most famous comedy routines: "The Crucifixion", in which he likens Christ's Last Supper to a drunken night out in Glasgow. The recording was banned by many radio stations at the time. Building on his cult Scottish following, they broke Connolly throughout the UK – an unusual development for a regional comedian.

Two yellow bananas tailor-made in cloth with the tops peeled and the cloth skin hanging down.
Connolly's banana boots, a regular in his act during the 1970s, are now on display in the People's Palace in Glasgow.

In 1975, the rapidity and extent of Connolly's breakthrough was used to secure him a booking on Britain's premier TV talk show, the BBC's Parkinson. Connolly made the most of the opportunity and told a bawdy joke about a man who had murdered his wife and buried her bottom-up so he'd have somewhere to park his bike. This ribald humour was unusually forthright on a primetime Saturday night on British television in the mid-1970s, and his appearance made a great impact. He became a good friend of the host, Michael Parkinson, and now holds the record for appearances on the programme, having been a guest on fifteen occasions.[15] Referring to that debut appearance, he later said: "That programme changed my entire life." Parkinson, in the documentary Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, stated that people still remember Connolly telling the punchline to the 'bike joke' three decades after that TV appearance. When asked about the material, Connolly stated, "Yes, it was incredibly edgy for its time. My manager, on the way over, warned me not to do it, but it was a great joke and the interview was going so well, I thought, 'Oh, fuck that!!' I don't know where I got the courage in those days, but Michael did put confidence in me."[15] Connolly's UK success spread to other English-speaking countries: Australia, New Zealand and Canada. However, his broad Scottish accent and British cultural references made success in the US improbable.

His increased profile led to contact with other individuals, including musicians such as Elton John. John at that time was trying to assist British performers whom he personally liked to achieve success in the US (he had released records in the US by veteran British pop singer Cliff Richard on his own Rocket label). John tried to give Connolly a boost in America by using him as the opening act on his 1976 US tour. But the well-intentioned gesture was a failure. Elton John's American fans had no interest in being warmed-up by an unknown comedic performer – especially a Scotsman whose accent they found incomprehensible. "In Washington, some guy threw a pipe and it hit me right between my eyes", he told Michael Parkinson two years later. "It wasn't my audience. They made me feel about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit."

Connolly continued to grow in popularity in the UK. In 1975 he signed with Polydor Records. Connolly continued to release live albums and he also recorded several comedic songs that enjoyed commercial success as novelty singles including parodies of Tammy Wynette's song "D.I.V.O.R.C.E." (which he performed on Top of the Pops in December 1975) and the Village People's "In the Navy" (titled "In the Brownies").

In 1979, Connolly was invited by producer Martin Lewis to join the cast of The Secret Policeman's Ball, the third in the series of the Secret Policeman's Ball fundraising shows for Amnesty International. Connolly was the first comedic performer in the series who was not an alumnus of the Oxbridge school of middle-class university-educated entertainers and he made the most of his appearance. His performance was considered to be one of the highlights of the show's comedy album (released by Island Records in December 1979) and feature film (released by ITC Films in 1980). Appearing in the company of long-established talents such as John Cleese and Peter Cook helped elevate the perception of Connolly as one of Britain's leading comedic talents. Lewis also teamed Connolly with Cleese and Cook to appear in the television commercial for the album.


In 1981, John Cleese and Martin Lewis invited Connolly to appear in that year's Amnesty show, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. Connolly's performance was again reported as one of the highlights of the show and he was prominently featured in the subsequent comedy album (Springtime!/Island Records 1981) and UK film (UIP 1982). The commercial success of the special US version of The Secret Policeman's Other Ball film (Miramax Films 1982) introduced Connolly to a wider American audience, who were attracted to the film because of the presence of Monty Python members. His on-screen presence alongside these performers – who were already familiar to Anglophile comedy buffs – helped lay down a marker for Connolly's eventual return to the US in his own right eight years later.

In 1985, he divorced Iris Pressagh, his wife of sixteen years (they had separated four years earlier after living together in Drymen).[16] He was awarded custody of their two children. That same year, he performed An Audience with..., which was videotaped at the South Bank Television Centre in front of a celebrity audience for ITV. The uncut, uncensored version was subsequently released on video. In July 1985 he performed at the Wembley leg of Live Aid, immediately preceding Elton John.

On New Year's Eve 1985, Connolly became tee-total, having been an alcoholic. He credits Michael Caine with kickstarting the drive to sobriety after the pair worked together in Water.[17]

In 1986, he visited Mozambique to appear in a documentary for Comic Relief. He also featured in the charity's inaugural live stage show, both as a stand-up and portraying a willing 'victim' in his partner Pamela Stephenson's act of sawing a man in half to create two dwarfs.

Connolly completed his first world tour in 1987, including six nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was documented in the Billy and Albert video.

When the Fox Network aired Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Celebration in 1988, Connolly was still virtually unknown in the States, but his performance drew attention, particularly from producers, and interest in him grew.

In March 1989, Connolly's father died after a stroke, the eighth of his life.[6][18] His mother died four years later, in 1993, of motor neurone disease.

In October 1989, Connolly shaved off his trademark shaggy beard for a film role and he remained clean-shaven for several years.

On 20 December 1989, in Fiji, Connolly married Pamela Stephenson, the New Zealand-born comedy actress he had met when making a cameo appearance on the BBC sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News, in which she was one of four regular performers. He had been living with her since 1981. "Marriage to Pam didn't change me; it saved me," he later said. "I was going to die. I was on a downwards spiral and enjoying every second of it. Not only was I dying, but I was looking forward to it."


Although Connolly had performed in North America as early as the 1970s, and had appeared in several movies that played in American theatres, he nonetheless remained relatively unknown until 1990 when he was featured in the HBO special Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance, produced by New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music. Goldberg introduced Connolly, and his performance has been cited as the moment that officially launched his career in the States. Soon after, Connolly succeeded Howard Hesseman as the star of the sitcom Head of the Class for the 1990–1991 season, but the series was cancelled during his tenure.

Connolly joined Frank Bruno and Ozzy Osbourne when singing "The War Song of the Urpneys" in The Dreamstone.

The following year, Connolly and Stephenson moved to Los Angeles, and the family won green cards in the Morrison visa lottery. In 1991, Connolly received his first (and, to date, only) leading television role as the star of Billy, another sitcom and a spin-off of Head of the Class. It lasted only a half-season.

On 4 June 1992, Connolly performed his 25th-anniversary concert in Glasgow. Parts of the show, and its build-up, were documented in The South Bank Show, which aired later in the year.[19]

Connolly was dealt a blow in 1993 when his close friend and fishing partner, Jimmy Kent, died.[20] This year also saw him contribute vocals to Mike Oldfield's single "The Bell" as the "Master of Ceremonies".

In early January 1994, Connolly began a 40-date World Tour of Scotland, which would be broadcast by the BBC later in the year as a six-part series. It was so well received that the BBC signed him up to do a similar tour two years later, this time in Australia. The eight-part series followed Connolly on his custom-made Harley Davidson trike.

Also in 1995, Connolly recorded a BBC special, entitled A Scot in the Arctic, in which he spends a week by himself in the Arctic Circle. He voiced Captain John Smith's shipmate, Ben, in Disney's animated film, Pocahontas.

A year later, he appeared in Muppet Treasure Island as Billy Bones.

In 1997, Connolly starred with Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown, in which he played John Brown, the favoured Scottish servant of Queen Victoria. He was nominated for a BAFTA Award and a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.

In 1998, Connolly's best friend, Danny Kyle, died. "He was my dearest, dearest, oldest friend," Connolly explained to an Australian audience on his Greatest Hits compilation, released in 2001. It was Kyle who helped Connolly overcome his recoiling nature at being touched by others, a remnant of the abuse he endured as a child. "Every time it happened, Danny would just collapse with hysterics," said Pamela Stephenson.[7] "'That's not normal, Billy,' Danny tried to be patient with him. 'You'll have to relax. It's touchy-feely, you know, the way we live. We like to touch each other and we kiss: we're different. You'll have to calm down or you'll always be fighting.'"[7]

He performed a cover version of the Beatles' song, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite", on George Martin's 1998 album, In My Life.

In November 1998, Connolly was the subject of a two-hour retrospective entitled Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, which included tributes from Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Izzard. The special was released on DVD in North America in 2004.

In 1999, after forming Tickety-Boo management company with Malcolm Kingsnorth, his tour manager and sound engineer of 25 years, Connolly undertook a four-month, 59-date sellout tour of Australia and New Zealand. Later in the year, he completed a five-week, 25-date sellout run at London's Hammersmith Apollo. In 2000 he travelled to Canada for two weeks on a 13-date tour.


In 2000, Connolly starred in Beautiful Joe alongside Sharon Stone. The following year he completed the third in his "World Tour" BBC series, this time of England, Ireland and Wales, which began in Dublin and ended in Plymouth. It was broadcast the following year.

Also in 2001, Pamela Stephenson's first biography of her husband, Billy, was published. It outlines his career and life, including the sexual abuse by his father that lasted from his tenth to his fourteenth years. Much of the book is about Connolly the celebrity but the account of his early years provides a context for his humour and point of view. A follow-up, Bravemouth, was published in 2003.

Connolly has also written several books, including Billy Connolly (late 1970s) and Gullible's Travels (early 1980s), both based upon his stage act, as well as books based upon some of his "World Tour" television series. He has stated that his comedy does not work on the printed page.

A fourth BBC series, World Tour of New Zealand, was filmed in 2004 and aired that winter. Also in his 63rd year, Connolly performed two sold-out benefit concerts at the Oxford New Theatre in memory of Malcolm Kingsnorth.

He has continued to be a much in demand character actor, appearing in several films such as White Oleander (2002), The Last Samurai (2003) and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004). He has also played an eclectic collection of leading roles in recent years, including a lawyer who undertakes a legal case of Biblical proportions in The Man Who Sued God (2001), and a young boy's pet zombie in Fido (2006).

In January 2005, Connolly came 8th in The Comedian's Comedian, a poll voted for by fellow comedians and comedy insider and embarked on a major UK tour with 15 sold-out nights in Glasgow.

Also in 2005, Connolly and Stephenson announced, after fourteen years of living in Hollywood, they were returning to live in the former's native land. They purchased a 120-foot (37 m) yacht with the profits from their house-sale, and split the year between Malta and the 12-bedroom Candacraig House in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, which they had purchased in 2008 from Anita Roddick.[21][22]

Later in the year, Connolly topped an unscientific poll of "Britain's Favourite Comedian" conducted by TV network Five, placing him ahead of performers such as John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, Dawn French, and Peter Cook.

In 2006, Connolly revealed that he also has a house on the island of Gozo.[23] He and his wife also have an apartment in New York City, near Union Square.[24]

On 30 December 2007, Connolly escaped uninjured from a single-car accident on the A939 near the Scottish town of Ballater, Aberdeenshire.[25]

In late February it was announced that Connolly would play ten shows in early April at the Post Street Theatre in San Francisco.

On 10 March 2008, tickets went on sale for Connolly's Irish tour, set to take place in May, June and July. He performed three shows in University Concert Hall, Limerick, ten shows at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, five shows at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and three shows at the Cork Opera House. They all sold out in a matter of hours. The tour also travelled to Kerry (two shows) and Mayo (two shows).

In October 2009, he played a tour of his homeland, and sold out everywhere, despite adding extra dates. He stated he was proud to have broken the computer system for Glasgow and Edinburgh, as they could not handle the rush for tickets. His Glasgow concerts were held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, which was built near the site where his family had lived when he was a child.


In 2011, Connolly and his wife were living full-time in New York City, while still retaining their Candacraig residence.[26]

In May 2011, Connolly suffered a broken rib and a gashed knee when his motor trike rolled on top of him while filming for the ITV travel documentary Billy Connolly's Route 66. He returned to filming a week later.[27]

The Connollys decided to sell Candacraig House in September 2013, with a price tag of £2.75 million.[21]

Connolly appeared as Wilf in Quartet, a 2012 British comedy-drama film based on the play Quartet by Ronald Harwood directed by Dustin Hoffman. In 2014, Connolly appeared in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies as Dain Ironfoot, a great dwarf warrior and cousin of Thorin Oakenshield. Sir Peter Jackson stated that "We could not think of a more fitting actor to play Dain Ironfoot, the staunchest and toughest of dwarves, than Billy Connolly, the Big Yin himself. With Billy stepping into this role, the cast of The Hobbit is now complete. We can't wait to see him on the battlefield."[28]

Personal life[edit]

Connolly has been married to his second wife, comedian and psychologist Pamela Stephenson, since 1989. In the book Billy, and in a December 2008 online interview, Connolly states that he was sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. He believes this was a result of the Catholic Church not allowing his father to divorce after his mother left the family. Because of this, Connolly has a "deep distrust and dislike of the Catholic church and any other organization that brainwashes people".[29] On his religious views, Connolly called himself an atheist.[30]

Connolly is father to five children: two from his first marriage and three from his second.

Connolly is a fan of Glasgow-based Celtic F.C. and has a seat for life at the club's Celtic Park stadium.[31]

In September 2013 an announcement was made that Connolly had undergone minor surgery for early stage prostate cancer.[32] The announcement also stated that he is being treated for the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease.[33] Connolly admitted earlier in 2013 that he had started to forget his lines during performances.[34][35]

He appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? on 2 October 2014, when his family's Indian ancestry was revealed.[36][37]

Political views[edit]

Connolly has stated in the past that he disapproves of Scottish independence, although he also disapproves of entertainers telling people how to vote, but admitted that 2012 had been "a very interesting time for Scotland".

He questions the expense of independence, and whether average Scots would benefit from another level of government. "But Scots are very capable of making up their mind without my tuppence worth."[38]

In April 2014, despite previously vowing not to step into the 'morass' of the debate over the break up of the Union, Connolly gave the clearest indication yet of his opposition to Scottish independence. In an interview with the Radio Times, he stated, "I think it's time for people to get together, not split apart. The more people stay together, the happier they'll be." He also wrote, referring to the Darien scheme, "You must remember that the Union saved Scotland. Scotland was bankrupt and the English opened us up to their American and Canadian markets, from which we just flowered."[39]


In October 2004, during an 18-night stint at London's Hammersmith Apollo, Connolly was criticised for making jokes about the hostage Kenneth Bigley.[40] Shortly after Connolly joked about the future killing of the hostage and touched on the subject of Bigley's young Thai wife, Bigley was beheaded in Iraq. Connolly claims he was misquoted. He has declined to clarify what he actually said, claiming that the context was as important as the precise words used.[41]

Support for charity[edit]

Connolly is a patron of the National Association for Bikers with a Disability.[42] He is also a patron of Celtic F.C.'s The Celtic Foundation.[43]

Folk music[edit]

In 1965 together with Tam Harvey, Connolly started a group called the Humblebums. At their first gig, Connolly reportedly introduced them both to the audience by saying, "My name's Billy Connolly, and I'm humble. This is Tam Harvey, he's a bum." The band would later include Gerry Rafferty. After Harvey left the group, Connolly and Rafferty continued as a duo and the latter two of their three albums featured just that duo. Connolly sang, played five-string banjo, guitar and autoharp, and at live shows entertained the audience with his humorous introductions to the songs.

Frank Bruno and Billy Connolly provided lead vocals on "The War Song of the Urpneys" from The Dreamstone, although the version heard in the series was largely sung by composer Mike Batt.

In his World Tour of Scotland, Connolly reveals that at a trailer show during the Edinburgh Festival, the Humblebums took to the stage just before the late Yehudi Menuhin.

The Humblebums broke up in 1971 and both Connolly and Rafferty went solo. Connolly's first solo album in 1972, Billy Connolly Live! on Transatlantic Records, featured him as a singer/songwriter.

His early albums were a mixture of comedy performances with comedic and serious musical interludes. Among his best-known musical performances were "The Welly Boot Song", a parody of the Scottish folk song "The Wark O' The Weavers," which became his theme song for several years; "In the Brownies", a parody of the hit Village People song "In the Navy" (for which Connolly filmed a music video); "Two Little Boys in Blue", a tongue-in-cheek indictment of police brutality done to the tune of Rolf Harris' "Two Little Boys"; and the ballad "I Wish I Was in Glasgow," which Connolly would later perform in duet with Malcolm McDowell on a guest appearance on the 1990s American sitcom Pearl (which starred Rhea Perlman). He also performed the occasional Humblebums-era song such as "Oh, No!" as well as straightforward covers such as a version of Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," which was included on his Get Right Intae Him! album.

In November 1975, his spoof of the Tammy Wynette song "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" was a UK No. 1 single for one week. Wynette's original was about parents spelling out words of an impending marital split to avoid traumatising their young child. Connolly's spoof of the song played on the fact that many dog owners use the same tactic when they do not wish their pet to become upset about an impending trip to the vet. Connolly's song is about a couple whose marriage is ruined by a bad vet visit (spelling out "W-O-R-M" or "Q-U-A-R-A-N-T-I-N-E", for example.) His song "No Chance" was a parody of J. J. Barrie's cover of the song "No Charge".

In 1985, he sang the theme song to Super Gran, which was released as a single and in 1996 he performed a cover of Ralph McTell's "'In the Dreamtime" as the theme to his World Tour of Australia. By the late 1980s, Connolly had all but dropped the music from his act, though he still records the occasional musical performance, such as a 1980s recording of his composition "Sergeant, Where's Mine?" with The Dubliners. In 1998 he covered The Beatles' "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" on the George Martin tribute album, In My Life. He sang a song during the film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. And in 1995 and 2005, he released two albums of instrumental performances Musical Tour of Scotland and Billy Connolly's Musical Tour of New Zealand, respectively.

Connolly is among the artists featured on Banjoman, a tribute to American folk musician Derroll Adams, released in 2002. He plays one song, "The Rock".

Stand-up comedy[edit]

It is as a stand-up comedian that Connolly is best known. His observational comedy is idiosyncratic and often off-the-cuff. He has offended certain sectors of audiences, critics and the media with his free use of the word "fuck" and he has made jokes relating to masturbation, blasphemy, defecation, flatulence, haemorrhoids, sex, his father's illness, his aunts' cruelty and, in the latter stages of his career, old age (specifically his experiences of growing old). In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups. He once again topped the list on Channel 5's Greatest Stand-Up Comedians, broadcast on New Year's Eve 2013.

Since the 1980s, Connolly has worn a custom-made black T-shirt with a shirt-tail as part of his on-stage attire. The first one was by English designer Steven King. From around the same time, his manager has been Steve Brown.


A partial list of musical and comedic recordings:

  • 1972 – Billy Connolly Live
  • 1974 – Cop Yer Whack for This
  • 1974 – Solo Concert
  • 1975 – Get Right Intae Him!
  • 1975 – Words and Music
  • 1975 – The Big Yin
  • 1976 – Atlantic Bridge
  • 1977 – Billy Connolly
  • 1977 – Raw Meat for the Balcony!
  • 1978 – Anthology
  • 1979 – Riotous Assembly
  • 1981 – The Pick of Billy Connolly (compilation)
  • 1983 – A Change is Good as Arrest
  • 1983 – In Concert
  • 1984 – Big Yin Double Helping (compilation)
  • 1985 – An Audience With Billy Connolly
  • 1985 – Wreck on Tour
  • 1987 – Billy & Albert
  • 1991 – Live at the Odeon Hammersmith London
  • 1995 – Musical Tour of Scotland
  • 1995 – Billy Connolly – Live Down Under 1995
  • 1996 – World Tour of Australia
  • 1997 – Two Night Stand
  • 1999 – Comedy and Songs (compilation)
  • 1999 – One Night Stand Down Under
  • 2002 – Live in Dublin 2002
  • 2002 – The Big Yin – Billy Connolly in Concert (compilation)
  • 2003 – Transatlantic Years (compilation of material recorded between 1969 and 1974)
  • 2005 – Billy Connolly's Musical Tour of New Zealand
  • 2007 – Live in Concert
  • 2010 – The Man Live in London, recorded January 2010
  • 2011 – Billy Connolly's Route 66

The above list does not include at least two albums recorded with the Humblebums prior to 1972, and only includes a sampling of the many reissues and compilations released over the years.

DVD releases[edit]

Title Released Notes
1. Live at the Odeon Hammersmith and Live 1994 2000 Double feature. Hammersmith Odeon 1991 and Hammersmith Apollo 1994
6. Live 2002 2002 Has "Live in Dublin 2002" on the cover, but it features excerpts from additional shows in Killarney, Newcastle, London, Manchester and Sheffield
2. Bites Yer Bum! 2003 Live from The Victoria Apollo Theatre 1980
3. One Night Stand Down Under and The Best of the Rest 11 October 2004 Live in Brisbane, Australia 1999 and clips from earlier shows
4. Two Night Stand 11 October 2004 1997 tour. London and Glasgow shows
5. Erect for 30 Years 11 October 2004 Documentary
7. Billy and Albert 22 November 2004 Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1987
8. An Audience with Billy Connolly 2005 1985 London Weekend Television special. Available in both broadcast and uncut versions
9. Live in New York 14 November 2005 Live at New York Town Hall
10. Was It Something I Said? 19 November 2007 Live in Adelaide
11. Live in London 2010 15 November 2010 Live at London's HMV Hammersmith Apollo
12. You Asked For It 14 November 2011 Billy's Most Requested Clips and his unreleased first television special from 1976

The following boxed sets are available:

  • Billy Connolly: The Essential Boxset Collection (2006) (Live in New York, World Tour of Scotland, Bites Yer Bum/Hand Picked, Billy and Albert and Billy Connolly Live)
  • Billy Connolly: Live 2007 Boxset (2007) (Was It Something I Said?, Live in Dublin 2002 and Billy and Albert)
  • Billy Connolly 2009 (2009) (Live in New York and Was It Something I Said?)
  • Billy Connolly: The Ultimate Boxset (2009) (Billy and Albert, Live at Hammersmith 1994, Live in Dublin 2002, Bites Yer Bum/Hand Picked, Live in New York, Was It Something I Said?, World Tour of Scotland, World Tour of Australia, World Tour of England, Ireland & Wales, World Tour of New Zealand and Journey to the Edge of the World)
  • Billy Connolly: Scotland, Australia, England/Ireland/Wales and New Zealand (2010) (all of his World Tours)
  • Billy Connolly Triple Pack (2010) (Live in London 2010, Bites Yer Bum/Hand Picked, Live in Dublin 2002
  • Billy Connolly: The Live Collection (2010)
  • Billy Connolly Live (2011) (You Asked For It and Live in London 2010)


Connolly has written three plays:

Film actor[edit]

Connolly has often joked about the regularity of the deaths of the characters he portrays in movies. "If you want to see me in a movie, you have to hurry to the theatre, because I usually die in the first fifteen minutes. I'm never in the sequel."[44] Connolly also claims to be the only man to ever die in a Muppet movie.[45] Notable film appearances include Absolution (1978) with Richard Burton, and Mrs Brown (1997) with Judi Dench.


Year Title

Television Movies

  • Connolly as Himself

Television Movies

  • The Elephants' Graveyard as Jody


  • Big Banana Feet as Himself
  • Absolution as Blakey
  • Billy Connolly in Concert as Himself



Television Movies

  • Blue Money as Des


Television Movies

  • Weekend in Wallop as Himself
  • Water as Delgado
  • An Audience with Billy Connolly as Himself


  • Supergran composer/singer of the theme song

Television Special

  • To the North of Katmandu


  • Whoopi Goldberg Presents Billy Connolly (HBO Standup Performance) as Himself
  • Crossing the Line (known in the UK as The Big Man) as Frankie (for which he shaved off his trademark goatee)


Television Movies

  • Dreaming
  • 25 B.C.: The Best of 25 Years of Billy Connolly as Himself


  • Billy as Billy MacGregor

Television Movies

  • Down Among the Big Boys as Jo Jo Donnelly
  • Billy Connolly Live 1994 as Himself


  • Pocahontas as Ben (voice)
  • Two Bites of Billy Connolly as Himself


  • A Scot in the Arctic as Himself


Video Games

  • Muppet Treasure Island as Billy Bones (voice)

Television Movies


  • Sean Connery, an Intimate Portrait as Himself
  • Sean Connery Close Up as Himself
  • Whatever Happened to... Clement and La Frenais? as Himself

Television Movies


Television Movies


  • Comic Relief: Say Pants to Poverty as Himself
  • Comic Relief Short Pants as Himself


  • Ultimate Fights from the Movies as Frankie from Crossing the Line
  • Billy Connolly: A BAFTA Tribute as Himself
  • Judi Dench: A BAFTA Tribute as Himself
  • The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch


  • Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years as Himself
  • Julie Walters: A BAFTA Tribute as Himself
  • The Importance of Being Famous as Himself
  • Overnight as Himself
  • Comic Relief 2003: The Big Hair Do as Himself



  • Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time as #73








  • Billy Connolly Live: Was it Something I Said? as Himself




  • Good Sharma as Reverend Webster






Television guest appearances[edit]


Connolly was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Glasgow on 11 July 2001.[46]

In 2003, the BAFTA presented him with a Lifetime Achievement award.[47] Also in 2003, he received a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.[48]

On 4 July 2006, Connolly was awarded an honorary doctorate by Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) for his service to performing arts.[49]

On 18 March 2007 and again on 11 April 2010, Connolly was named Number One in Channel 4's "100 Greatest Stand Ups".[50]

On 22 July 2010, Connolly was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by Nottingham Trent University.[51]

On 20 August 2010, Connolly was made a Freeman of Glasgow with the award of the Freedom of the City of Glasgow.[52]

On 10 December 2012, Connolly picked up his BAFTA Scotland Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television and Film at his BAFTA A Life in Pictures interview in the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow.[53]



  1. ^ Gardham, Magnus. "Labour leadership contender Tom Harris calls on Big Yin Billy Connolly to lead campaign to keep Scotland in Britain". Daily Record (Glasgow). Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Dave Turner : Obituary". This is Nottingham. Northcliffe Media Ltd. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Stephenson, Pamela. Billy, HarperCollins, 2001
  4. ^ a b "Billy Connolly Biography (1942-)". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c William Connolly on CNN's ''Revealed''. 00:56. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 1 September 2011. I was born at 69 Dover Street.... and I was born apparently on the kitchen floor at 6 o'clock in the evening. 
  6. ^ a b c World Tour of Scotland (1994), Connolly, Billy
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Stevenson, Pamela (23 September 2001). "Billy Connolly: The early years". The Observer (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Biographical Notes". Retrieved 20 January 2007. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Live in New York DVD
  11. ^ "Billy Connolly reveals childhood abuse" – BBC website, 23 September 2001
  12. ^ a b c d Transatlantic Years liner notes
  13. ^ a b Billy Connolly's World Tour of Australia, 1996
  14. ^ Tim Adams, "Billy Connolly: The interview – Connolly on the couch", The Observer, 23 September 2001
  15. ^ a b Radio Times 15–21 December 2007: Goodnight... and Thank You
  16. ^ "Billy Connolly: The Glory Years", The Guardian, 7 October 2001
  17. ^ Parkinson (2003)
  18. ^ "Elderly should be cared for by their children, Billy Connolly says", Daily Telegraph 14 December 2012
  19. ^ "''The South Bank Show'' episode guide at". 4 October 1992. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Episode 3, Billy Connolly's World Tour of Scotland
  21. ^ a b "Billy Connolly selling his £3m Scottish house", The Scotsman, 2 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Connolly sells Hollywood home to live the good life in Scotland", The Scotsman, 6 October 2005.
  23. ^ The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, 28 September 2006
  24. ^ The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, 2 November 2009
  25. ^ ""Billy Connolly in car accident, unhurt" – United Press International". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  26. ^ John Walsh, "Yin and Yang: How Billy Connolly calmed down (just don’t mention Piers Morgan!)" The Independent, 16 December 2012
  27. ^ "Billy Connolly breaks rib in bike smash", Daily Mirror, 25 August 2011.
  28. ^ "Connolly to play Hobbit great dwarf ", 2 February 2012
  29. ^ "UK | Scots 'anti-English' – survey". BBC News. 28 June 1999. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  30. ^ "Connolly has tackled drama before, notably in the film Mrs Brown, with Dame Judi Dench, but he's never portrayed anyone like Father Joe, who is psychic and possibly deranged. "I was brought up as a Catholic," Connolly says. "Aye, I have a cousin who is a nun and another cousin who is a missionary priest in Pakistan." He pauses and smiles. "And I am an atheist." " Elaine Lipworth interviewing Connolly, 'No laughing matter', Independent (Dublin), 1 August 2008 (accessed 1 August 2008).
  31. ^ "My ashes will be scattered at Celtic Park when I die, says Rod Stewart". 27 December 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  32. ^ "Billy Connolly has cancer surgery". 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  33. ^ Crawley, Jennifer (28 February 2014). "Launceston surgeon Gary Fettke diagnoses Billy Connolly's Parkinson's in hotel lobby encounter". The Mercury. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  34. ^ "Billy Connolly Diagnosed With Parkinson's". 16 September 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  35. ^ Adam Sherwin (16 September 2013). "Billy Connolly undergoes prostate cancer surgery and is diagnosed with Parkinson's – but will keep working – News – Comedy". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  36. ^ Jake Wallis Simons, "Who Do You Think You Are? Billy Connolly, review: 'life-affirming'", The Telegraph, 2 October 2014.
  37. ^ "TV review: Billy Connolly traces his exotic family tree", Herald Scotland, 2 October 2014.
  38. ^ Brown, Craig (12 December 2012). "Billy Connolly: My mouth’s shut on Scottish independence – Celebrity". Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  39. ^ Cramb, Auslan (29 April 2014). "Billy Connolly risks wrath of pro-independence activists as he admits he 'dislikes patriots'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  40. ^ "Connolly blasted over Bigley joke". BBC News. 5 October 2004. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  41. ^ "Why do people tell sick jokes about tragedies? Billy Connolly: Joked about the death of British hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq". 18 March 2011. 
  42. ^ "NABD Patrons". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  43. ^ "The Celtic Foundation Overview". Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  44. ^ Billy Connolly: Live in New York, 2005
  45. ^ Billy Connolly Live 2002, 2002
  46. ^ "Billy Connolly receives arts honour" – BBC News, 11 July 2001
  47. ^ "'30 Years of Billy Connolly'". BAFTA. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  48. ^ "Commanders of the British Empire in the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honour". BBC News. 13 June 2003. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  49. ^ "Big Yin awarded honorary degree". BBC News. 4 July 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  50. ^ "100 Greatest Stand-Ups". Channel Retrieved 1 September 2011. [dead link]
  51. ^ "Stars of stage and screen among honorary graduates of Nottingham Trent University". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  52. ^ “Connolly stays away from patterns”, The Calgary Sun, 20 August 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  53. ^ "Billy Connolly: A Life In Pictures". BAFTA. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 

External links[edit]