Sir Billy Connolly has admitted his medical situation is “getting worse” but says he looks at everything as a new challenge to keep things fun.
The 78-year-old legendary stand up comedian, TV star and actor was in great spirits as he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Edinburgh TV Festival today.
And in a rare interview conducted by his wife Dr Pamela Stephenson Connolly at their Florida home, he gave an update on how he is coping with Parkinson’s disease.
Asked if filming TV presented any new challenges at this stage in his life, Connolly said: “Not really, but the way I think everything is a new challenge. I hardly prepare, so I turn up unprepared and everything is a new challenge. It keeps your eyes open, it is good fun.”
But referring to the physical challenges from Parkinson’s, he added: “Well, the challenges lately have been medical, aye, they’re getting worse. Have you noticed I’ve been holding my left hand as we have been going on, it is starting to jump around.
“So I will have to weigh it up and see how bad it gets, I don’t know, we will play it by ear.
“It happens when I least expect it. I’ll be talking to you and I think ‘ah my hand is shaking’ and I will grab it. But it is not much of a problem.”
The pair went on to discuss and reflect on his extensive body of work and successes within the TV industry.
Billy was nicknamed The Big Yin on stage and was originally a Glasgow welder who went on to play folk music on stage, before becoming a huge star in comedy after an appearance on BBC’s Parkinson in 1975 which he credits with “changing his life”.
For many years then he toured as a stand up but also made TV series whilst he performed including
World Tour of Scotland, Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Australia and more recently Billy Connolly’s Route 66 where he travels along the famous United States highway for ITV in 2011.
An ITV documentary in December last year called Billy Connolly: It’s Been A Pleasure showed him in upbeat mood living in Florida where he made artwork and enjoyed fishing as the sunset.
Speaking from his Florida home, he looked back at his last tour when he was already battling Parkinsons, which he was diagnosed with in 2013.
He says: “It was obvious from my movement, that I wasn’t who I used to be. And so I had to explain it to them just to say that I am not defined by it.
“It’s got me and it will get me and it will end me, but that’s OK with me.
“I started low and I ended high. Just staying up there, until it is time to stop, seems a natural and good thing to do. It is a good thing to be proud of, I wanted to be a funnyman and I got it.”
The programme features lots of clips of his best on-stage gags and appears much more upbeat than another sombre show he made for the BBC called Made In Scotland that aired in January 2019.
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In that programme he said on screen: “My life, it’s slipping away and I can feel it and I should. I’m 75, I’m near the end. I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning. But it doesn’t frighten me, it’s an adventure and it is quite interesting to see myself slipping away.”
After the 2019 show went out he posted a video online to make it clear he was not as close to death as it may have looked to anyone reading those comments.
Playing his banjo, he responded by saying: “Not dying, not dead, not slipping away. Sorry if I depressed you. Maybe I should have phrased it better.”
Connolly was interviewed as part of the Edinburgh TV Festival which is taking place online from Monday 23rd to Thursday 26h August for more info visit www.thetvfestival.com.