In 2012 Billy Connolly was diagnosed with prostate cancer, deafness and Parkinson’s disease in the same week. Successful surgery cured the cancer and he now wears a small hearing aid, but the slow moving Parkinson’s will always be with him. ‘It’s like having a wee mugger following you around,” he said in a recent interview. But the Scotsman, considered by many polls to be the greatest standup ever, refuses to let his battle with the debilitating disease stop him as he embarked on his latest HIGH HORSE Tour, which saw him just finish an 11-night run at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Protracted applause greeted him every night and he responded with, “You’re only doing that coz I’m sick…I can tell the f ***in’ sympathy vote.” The Guardian’s review headline read. ‘Older, frailer but the Big Yin is still the Maestro.”
“When I was a boy I was a Catholic. I paid the fine and got out.” He once said, but he thanked theChurch in his acceptance speech at the National Television Awards last month when he received a special award for his 50 years in the business. “I’d like to thank the Catholic Church for the rhythm method of birth control without which I wouldn’t be here.”
Hopefully it’s not the last time we see him live on stage in London. His health condition may have stopped him playing his beloved banjo, but hasn’t diminished his generosity with fans and ability to sign, which he kindly did so on my sketch after I left it for him at the venue.
Billy Connolly has made numerous trips to New Zealand, with sell out stand up shows, recorded a TV series entitled A World Tour of New Zealand and roles in films such as The Last Samurai, and a dwarf in The Hobbit series. In spite of recent cancer surgery and being treated for the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, Billy plans to undertake an extensive theatrical tour of the country next year.
I drew this caricature in the early 90’s which he signed after one of his shows. See my previous Billy Connolly post here.
In February 2004 “The Big Yin” Billy Connolly played a gig in my home town of Invercargill, New Zealand. I was involved in Koru Care, which was an organisation established by Air New Zealand staff to provide holidays for terminally ill children. One of my pet projects, incorporating my ‘graph-ic vice’ was asking well known people to produce a doodle using a circle. The intention was to produce a book, entitle Celebrity Circles to assist our fundraising.
Anyway, back to Billy. He’s staying at the Ascot Park Hotel. On the day of his show, The Southland Times published this toon:
I thought I would drop a copy of it to Billy to sign for me, along with a blank circle and an invitation to participate in the Koru Care project. The show was brill, and a couple of days later I received a package with my signed cartoon, and a drawing for Koru Care.
Buoyed by this success, I was spurred to try again and to ask him to write the book’s intro as well. Soon enough, this arrived in the mail, which made my day: Continue reading